Quartet of Industry Interests Speak Out
UK – After DEFRA and the Department of Transport (DoT) recently released their supplement to the UK plan for tackling roadside NOx, adding a further 33 local authorities to the 27 already tasked to clean up their air, and now making a total of 60 towns and cities that have to take some action to tackle the air quality in their areas, there has been a concerted set of objections from the road haulage and freight lobby. At the time the additions were made Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett said:
”It’s inevitable that each authority will place its own restrictions, timelines and of course cost. There must be balance in terms of phasing in these schemes. Hauliers simply can’t afford extra costs and manufacturers, retailers and ultimately the consumer will inevitably end up footing the bill. If the UK is to see tangible benefits from these schemes it’s essential that there’s clarity about what’s needed and uniformity in approach.”
Now a coalition of road transport trade bodies says that Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are unfairly targeting hauliers and that pricing trucks off the road is not the way to reduce emissions. The RHA has been joined by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) as well as the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) and the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) to express concern that the plans are being hurried through without the rule makers fully understanding the consequences.
The quartet point out that the haulage industry has nearly halved its NOx emissions in four years and have met with Transport Minister Jesse Norman and Environment Minister Therese Coffey, to discuss a joint six-point plan for Clean Air Zones. The four trade bodies believe their plan ‘The Way Forward’ can help improve air quality whilst protecting haulage from punitive charges and bureaucracy. The plan calls for consistent CAZ operating standards, smarter use of road space, and a phased approach supporting the transition to cleaner vehicles that doesn’t put operators out of business. FTA chief executive, David Wells said:
“Placing all the burden on local areas to accelerate air quality improvements risks the livelihoods of many small business around the country. Government must help local authorities avoid the most damaging effects on the local businesses that use trucks or vans.”
The position of her organisation was emphasised by Sue Robinson, Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) commercial Vehicle Division when she set out the stall, saying:
“It is essential that we encourage operators and logistics companies to move to trucks with cleaner engines. Progressive action is needed to ensure that operators can improve their vehicle fleets, not just by purchasing new Euro 6 commercials, but also by upgrading to cleaner Euro 5 used trucks to replace old and dirty diesel HGV’s. This is why it is important that a graduated CAZ levy charge is introduced in order to encourage all hauliers to do their bit in improving air quality.”
The essential role in the supply chain played by urban hauliers was illustrated by the comments of the BVRLA chief executive, Gerry Keaney, who said:
“The fleet industry can help Government to meet its air quality ambitions but we need more support for HGV operators who face particular cost and operational challenges in upgrading their fleets. We rely on commercial vehicles accessing towns and cities for deliveries and any Clean Air Zone policy that deters trucks is likely to increase the usage of vans. 99% of our members’ LCV fleet is diesel so any initiative that increases the number of vans on our roads will not tackle pollution levels. Commercial operators need time and incentives to upgrade their fleets.”
RHA boss Burnett reinforced the position adopted by his members, many of whom operate in that narrow space between profit and loss which is the life of a small to medium operator charged with supplying essential HGV services in the city. He concluded:
“We welcome government’s commitment to improve air quality but local authorities pricing lorries off the road is not the way to go about it. Ministers confirmed in our meeting earlier that local authorities should consider all options and that charging should be a last resort. They also highlighted that it is up to local authorities to decide which vehicles would be charged, when charges should apply and the level of charge. If Clean Air Zones are not handled properly we will have more vans making deliveries, congestion will increase and so will pollution. Clean Air Zones will only reduce emissions if they target polluters proportionately.”
Photo: The Great London Smog of 1952/3 was held responsible for 12,000 extra deaths in the city that winter and precipitated the Clean Air Act which, whilst drastically cutting household emissions from coal fires and the like, never foresaw the immense growth in vehicles of all types powered by internal combustion engines.