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No need to panic over clean air and ultra low emission zones

By / 11 months ago / Comment, Opinions / No Comments

David Watts, fleet consultant at Arval, says that only businesses with vehicles that routinely work in London or operate buses or trucks in other CAZ cities will really need to take immediate action on clean air and ultra low emission zones.

David Watts, fleet consultant at Arval

The London Ultra Low Emissions Zone and Clean Air Zones being introduced in five UK cities will have a limited impact on most fleet operations – and the tone of debate across the industry is sometimes out of proportion to their likely effects.

Some of the more dramatic statements being made across the fleet industry regarding the London ULEZ and potential CAZs in the Government’s original five mandated cities of Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, Leeds and Southampton are not reflective of their likely effects which, for most fleets, will be minimal.

In some respects, the whole ULEZ/CAZ debate has become a little overheated in a way that is unnecessary. As a company, we are keen to dispel some of the myths.

It’s important to draw a distinction between charging and non-charging Clean Air Zones.

Derby, Nottingham and Southampton have all declared that they will not introduce a charging zone, leaving only Birmingham and Leeds. While Birmingham is proposing to introduce a Class D zone, the same as London’s, Leeds is expected to operate a Class B which just impacts on buses, trucks and taxis or private hire vehicles.

The impact of these measures on the vast majority of fleets will, therefore, be limited.

It should also be remembered that charging zones do not prohibit vehicles from entering. They simply levy a charge for non-compliant vehicles.

The facts are that ULEZ/CAZ charges will not apply to cars and vans that meet Euro 6 diesel and Euro 4 petrol standards and timing is key. Although the London Ultra Low Emission Zone comes into effect in April, Birmingham’s doesn’t happen until 2020. Given typical replacement cycles, most fleet cars will meet these criteria by the time they come into effect.

However, because their emissions legislation came later and their replacement cycles can be longer, there is a possibility that some vans might be affected in the short term in London and Birmingham but, even so, this should only form a small minority of fleet vehicles in operation. These should soon be de-fleeted or could be swapped with a compliant vehicle from elsewhere in the fleet.

The new charging zones in Birmingham and Leeds will probably operate on a similar basis to the existing London Congestion Charging Zone.

This has been in operation for many years and does not impact on fleet operations in a major fashion. Businesses that need to enter the CCZ just pay the cost. This is an established part of fleet management and, while one of the new CAZs may present an additional cost burden, it requires no special strategy or thinking.

Many other cities are investigating the possibility of Clean Air Zones but, again, the measures being discussed should not unduly worry most fleets.

Bath and Bristol are seriously considering Class D Zones while Manchester and Sheffield are likely to introduce a Class C zone. However, it is unlikely that these will be introduced until late 2020/21.

For the vast majority of car and van operators, there is very little to be concerned about. Any fleets that feel they may be affected or have any concerns can contact Arval for advice and clarification but the overriding message is not to panic.

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