The Road Haulage Association has published its annual NOx (nitrogen oxides) Emission Assessment, which shows that the HGV sector has reduced its NOx output by at least 59 per cent since 2013.
In the report, the RHA quotes Department for Transport figures demonstrating a continual year-on-year decline in NOx emissions since 2013, citing the industry’s £1.9bn investment in Euro VI-compliant vehicles as the key driver.
The association predicts that the industry will have reduced output by at least 80 percent by 2025, even if no further policy action is taken at all. This is based on RHA estimates of fleet composition change by Euro emission class over the next five years.
The report acknowledges, however, that Covid-19 will have an impact on estimates of future emissions.
“It will be another 12 months before the impact of the pandemic on fleet composition will be known,” it said.
“It is already appearing likely that lorry vehicle numbers will fall, and that emissions from lorries will fall faster than the estimates in this assessment.”
The report also called for a change to the government’s existing approach to clean air zones, to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and to take account of continued improvements in emission levels from the sector.
The RHA is advocating the delay of all clean air zone implementation until at least 2022, and that no charges should be levied on any lorry less than 12 years old once enforcement begins.
The association also wants local authorities to be obliged to reduce congestion in identified ‘hotspots’, through targeted traffic management initiatives. Where charges are introduced, it wants automatic payment systems for operators alongside proposed automatic fines.
Chris Ashley, the RHA’s head of environment policy, welcomed the report, saying the figures demonstrate what can be achieved when well-designed standards, in this case Euro VI, are phased in sustainably.
“As the Government’s ‘green recovery’ agenda gathers pace we believe this positive experience can be applied to the decarbonisation agenda, but a repeat of DEFRA’s flawed clean air zone policy must be avoided,” he insisted.
“Hauliers are willing to invest in the technology needed for a clean environment but they must have confidence that the regulatory framework will not retrospectively undermine that investment.”
Ashley warned that imposing significant charges on technology deemed to be ‘obsolete’ without ensuring supply of the preferred technology is sufficient was “a recipe for disaster”, leading to “stranded assets, market distortion and waste”.
With the economy officially in recession, he added that the government must adopt a sustainable approach to goods movement which recognises that environmental and social wellbeing depends on economic wellbeing.