Saturday 27 February 2021

Fleets gear up for new London charges

Heavier vehicles operating in Greater London from 1 March will need to comply with Transport for London’s (TfL) Direct Vision Standard (DVS) requirements or face significant charges, trade associations and technology providers have warned.

The date will also mark the beginning of tougher standards for the capital’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ), which will see pre-Euro VI commercial vehicles face charges to drive within Greater London.

The DVS scheme and associated safety permit scheme, which are designed to drive up safety for vulnerable road users in London, require HGVs over 12 tonnes gvw to obtain a permit in order to enter the capital, with penalties of up to £550 payable once enforcement begins next month.

Permits are available for vehicles meeting direct vision requirements according to TfL’s star rating system, or for zero-star-rated vehicles if the necessary Safe System equipment has been installed.

With some operators reporting difficulty in sourcing and installing the required technology due in part to Covid-19 and Brexit concerns, TfL has introduced a 90-day grace period (or ‘allow list’) to support fleets that have ordered the technology, but are experiencing delays in its fitment.

But TfL warned: “You must take action before 1 March 2021. Operators informing us of a delay after this date will not be eligible for the grace period.”

Those wishing to take advantage of the grace period should submit evidence from the relevant fitter/garage on branded documentation, with details of their appointment and vehicle registration number, before 1 March, via email to TfL. Details are available here.

TfL will then review the request and provide written confirmation of the outcome. Once the equipment is fitted, the permit application must then be followed.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) welcomed the ‘allow list’ scheme, which followed intensive lobbying by the organisaton.

“The RHA is totally committed to road safety, but hauliers have faced multiple and significant challenges to ensure compliance with the DVS,” said chief executive Richard Burnett.

“The supply chain disruption caused by Brexit meant that operators have faced difficulties sourcing the required safety equipment.

“In addition, Covid-19 has meant that the technicians needed to install the equipment are either furloughed or complying with Covid-19 travel restrictions…

“We are pleased that TfL has listened to us and put in place an initial grace period of 90 days to allow hauliers more time to comply.”

Brigade Electronics, which provides technology allowing HGVs to comply with the new rules, urged drivers and managers to act quickly to avoid being penalised.

“We fully support TfL in applying some flexibility with applications,” said Emily Hardy, Brigade’s UK marketing manager.

“Operators were gearing up for all Brexit scenarios after the Christmas break and the recent lockdown added even more pressure.

“On top of this, many operators have delayed fitting equipment which has caused a surge in demand and fitter resource.”

She added: “Our market intelligence shows many operators were ahead of the game with regards to fitting DVS.

“However, the last three months have been our busiest on record and we anticipate the next few months will be even busier.

“Intelligence from our sales teams strongly suggests there is a huge amount of people still unaware of requirements, despite tremendous PR and marketing on the topic.

“We believe that many operators were focused on a no-deal Brexit and delayed decisions with regards to DVS and any capital outlay, especially companies based in Europe.

“Many have not given themselves enough time and, with the recent lockdown, will undoubtedly struggle to meet the deadline.

“The consequences of failing to do so are stark. If you have not received confirmation of your permit by March 1 your vehicles will not be recognised by the Automatic Number Plate recognition cameras – and you will receive a penalty charge notice.”

Meanwhile, video telematics firm SmartWitness reported a ‘huge installation bottleneck’, suggesting that fewer than 20 per cent of HGVs were ready for the DVS deadline.

The company said it had been ‘inundated’ with requests for installation dates and documentation, as a result of fleets taking advantage of the grace period.

Fearghal MacGowan, SmartWitness’ MD for EMEA, said: “Most fleets have done too little too late, and are only now getting round to preparing for DVS and so there is a massive bottleneck on installations.

“There is simply no way we will fit in the orders by the 1 March deadline.”

He added: “We are sending TfL the proof of install date before the end of May so that it falls inside the 90 day Grace Period on letterheaded paper, as will our partners and resellers.

“SmartWitness are getting in touch with TfL immediately after the booking is made so that they are registered on for the grace period in advance because there are bound to be delays in the admin during the lockdown.”

Full details on the Direct Vision Standard and Safe System requirements can be found on the TfL website.

Fleets can also find full information on the changes to the LEZ emissions standards, which also take effect from 1 March, on this page.

HGVs, heavy vans and other specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5t gvw, and buses, minibuses and coaches over 5t gvw, that do not meet Euro VI standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) will face daily charges of £100 for entering the zone, or £300 if they do not meet Euro IV PM standards.

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