Wednesday 13 December 2017

Clean air zones may trigger stampede for new trucks

National fleet operators had taken the introduction of London’s low emission zone (LEZ) in their stride by putting their newest trucks into service in the capital and cascading older vehicles out to other areas of the country, Freight Transport Association (FTA) director for UK policy, Elizabeth de Jong (pictured, right), told the organisation’s transport managers’ conference in Sparkford, Somerset.

But air quality was now a concern in other UK cities, so this strategy might no longer be viable.

Ian Gallagher, FTA head of policy for the west and south-west (below), said that in two years’ time there would be clean air zones (CAZs) in a handful of provincial cities, with seven more to come the following year.

He pointed out that the transport industry had been working on air quality since the 1980s, but that the government had had its hand forced over urban air quality generally by court actions.

CAZs could be entered free-of-charge by Euro 6 vehicles, but everything else could have to pay.

The first CAZs would be in Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton. All would include trucks, vans and buses. Similar schemes would follow in Sheffield, Middlesbrough, Bath and Greater Manchester.

Buses and trucks would be in the scope of CAZs in Bristol, Coventry and Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside. The zones might be imposed across wide areas, or just on particular pollution hot-spots, such as London Road in Bath.

There were a further five CAZs planned for Rotherham, New Forest, Fareham (Hampshire), Farnborough, Aldershot, Camberley and Guildford, and Basildon and Rochford. It was hoped that the earlier introduction of large CAZs close to each of the last five might mean that the air quality within them was cleaned up to the extent that charges might not be needed.

In Scotland, four LEZs were proposed, starting in 2018. It appeared that these might only restrict PCVs. Cardiff might have a CAZ by 2021, and Northern Ireland was devising its own Clean Air Plan.

Mr Gallagher urged operators to look at the phasing of vehicle leases and acquisition times.

“Plan ahead to ensure compliance, or be prepared to pay the charge or sub-contract to a compliant operator.

“You will probably need to start spending in 2018, so you must prepare now,” he warned.

Speaking on behalf of FTA conference sponsors Iveco, consultant Peter Symons (below) said that the phrase that operators should remember was: “Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring!”

“Euro 6 trucks will be able to enter CAZs without payment,” he said.

“Euro 6 has been standard since 2014 on trucks and on vans from 2016. The problem is very manageable providing people manage their fleet replacement programmes between now and 2020.

“But the vehicle manufacturers are concerned about their ability to supply sufficient volume before 2020, as they need to be able to plan ahead to cope with fluctuating demand.

“Twenty-eight per cent of today’s truck fleet is Euro 6, and if replacement continues at current levels then 61 per cent will be Euro 6 for 2020. That means that 39 per cent of trucks won’t be able to enter CAZs without penalty, which equates to 175,000 trucks… or about three-and-a-half years of normal truck production for the UK market.

“Fees are likely to be about £20 per van/day and £100 per truck/day.”

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