Transport trade groups have called for key caveats and derogations from the government’s recent commitment to the phasing out of non-zero-emission HGVs, which they say will be vital to the plan’s success.
In an announcement made earlier this month to coincide with the COP26 climate change summit, the Department for Transport confirmed that all new heavy goods vehicles sold in the UK would need to be zero-emission by 2040, while those weighing 26 tonnes and under would be required to be zero-emission by 2035.
While the Road Haulage Association (RHA) welcomed the government’s commitment to zero emissions, it warned that the timescale must be realistic for all users, taking into account whole vehicle life cycles.
In particular it raised concerns about the 2035 deadline, and urged ministers to ensure new diesel trucks were given a minimum use period of 15 years.
“We support the government’s aim to decarbonise but the pace may be impossibly fast,” said RHA’s managing director of policy and public affairs, Rod McKenzie.
“Care is needed to ensure that all markets are served and future disruption to the supply chains are avoided.
“We would like the deadline extended for lorries over 18 tonnes by five years with support for hauliers in making the transition.
“Proven alternatives to diesel for all uses, locations, ranges and the heaviest trucks don’t yet exist. It will require continuous review of the timeline over coming years to ensure a sustainable and successful transition to zero tailpipe lorries.”
According to a report by The Guardian, the RHA has told the government it is in favour of the ban on non-zero-emissions lorries over 32 tonnes being delayed until 2045.
The association has additionally called on the government to accelerate investment in electric and hydrogen infrastructure to ensure the viability of the drive to zero emissions – a point reiterated by Logistics UK.
“The announcement of phase-out dates for new, non-zero emission HGVs at the tailpipe, such as those run on diesel, will help provide logistics businesses and manufacturers with much-needed certainty on the industry’s path to decarbonisation,” said Michelle Gardner, head of public policy at Logistics UK.
“But these dates will only be attainable if the government provides the right support: our members need to see a nationwide network of recharging and refuelling infrastructure put in place, effective and affordable vehicles made readily available for all, and fairer charging arrangements for the necessary power upgrades to commercial premises.
“Certain specialist HGVs, or the jobs they are used for, present additional challenges in the move to zero tailpipe emission vehicles, so derogations to allow technologies longer to develop are welcome.
“With this exception, only zero tailpipe emission HGVs can be sold beyond these dates; we are disappointed that low carbon fuelled vehicles will not be available for sale after 2040.
“These fuels can act as effective, interim solutions while the technology for zero tailpipe emission HGVs matures; many of our members are keen to utilise these low-carbon alternatives.
“Logistics UK is therefore urging the government to give confidence to operators looking to invest in low carbon fuels through tax incentives and a clear policy framework.”
British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) chief executive, Gerry Keaney, said: “Today’s announcement is a welcome update and will support the industry in its drive towards decarbonisation. BVRLA members are already leading the way in making positive changes and it’s vital that regulations acknowledge the different challenges experienced from one vehicle type to another.
“Use cases of HGVs vary significantly, so we welcome the government’s intention to consult on derogations that will enable a fair and achievable transition.
“The BVRLA looks forward to working with the government on the delivery plan that will be essential in ensuring the UK road transport network can be decarbonised successfully.
“The approach must be comprehensive, particularly around HGVs where the barriers remain huge. The recent funding that was announced to support trials of zero emission technology for the sector is a very positive step, and we eagerly await the clarity this will bring to help meet the phase-out dates.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) warned that there was “no single technological solution for every service HGVs perform” and that “there may still be some instances – specific and limited – for which electrified technologies are not yet feasible”.
“We expect further consultation on the detail over coming months. However, the key enabler to this transition is a dedicated HGV infrastructure, of which there is still no sign.”
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes commented: “SMMT and its members do not oppose setting an end-of-sale date, but we need plans before bans.”
Olly Craughan, head of corporate social responsibility at parcel delivery giant DPDgroup UK Ltd said: “We totally support the withdrawal of the selling of new, non-zero emission HGVs in the UK by 2035, as we do the sale of new diesel/petrol final mile fleet vehicles by 2030.
“We would urge all parties involved in the supply of alternative green HGVs to press the fast forward button on their development plans so businesses like ourselves can make the transition as soon as possible.
“DPD is one of the brands leading the way on the decarbonisation of fleets but bringing down the cost of green HGVs and creating adequate supply will be essential to the UK hitting this target.”
Logistics UK later welcomed plans announced by the government that new buildings in England are to have charge points from 2022, in a bid to help incentivise the use of electric vehicles.
Up to 145,000 extra charge points are set to be installed across the country, ahead of the planned phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles.
Denise Beedell, public policy manager at Logistics UK, said: “Regulation to ensure all new buildings, including homes and workplaces, are fitted with electric vehicle charge points is a vital step forward in England’s transition to a net zero emission economy.
“However, we need to see a faster and deeper acceleration of electric charging infrastructure across all sectors of the economy to speed up the decarbonisation of the logistics industry, in particular.”
She continued: “With the government announcing a commitment to make it easier to pay for charging, Logistics UK is pressing them to introduce a centralised billing system for commercial operators which would make payment for businesses as seamless as possible.
“Logistics UK is also the urging the government to grant exemptions to the new-build rule for certain sectors that often operate in remote areas off the electricity grid, such as mining and quarrying.
“Owing to the nature of their work, these businesses are also more likely to move their site locations regularly and use heavier vehicles over vans or cars, making the expense of installing electric charge points unreasonable, especially until suitable electric HGVs are available for mass market purchase.”