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Defra consultation on Clean Air Zones to impact on SME van operators

The latest consultation reiterates the intention to restrict access for older vehicles to five English cities due to local pollution concerns. Nottingham, Derby and Southampton would have restrictions on HGVs, buses, and taxis, Leeds and Birmingham would see restrictions on those vehicles plus vans. Private car owners would not be affected.

In addition, drivers could be given extra incentives to switch to for ultra-low emission vehicles, including being allowed to use bus lanes and given priority at traffic lights.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “We need to tackle air pollution and creating Clean Air Zones will improve the quality of life for people who live and work in our towns and cities, both now and in the future.

“Birmingham and Leeds will discourage the most polluting diesel vans and implement other measures which may include park and ride schemes, changes in road layouts and provision of infrastructure for alternative fuels.

“The Clean Air Zone Framework under consultation will help Local Authorities across the country provide a consistent approach as they are put in place, while giving businesses and individuals a clear understanding of what a zone will deliver and the impacts and benefits for them.”

However, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) said although Defra has acknowledged the effects on small businesses of the measures, it has not offered any support.

The Impact Assessment published by Defra, alongside the consultation paper, states: “for operators of small HGV fleets, and single owner-operators, transport measures requiring them to upgrade their vehicle could pose a significant financial impact and could lead to an increase in retail prices of the goods they carry.”

On vans the document notes that under some of the scenarios proposed: “smaller businesses may struggle to absorb such costs and may exit the market.”

Christopher Snelling, FTA Head of national & Regional Policy said: “We all understand the need to continue to reduce the impact on human health of emissions, but as the proposals stand there is a real chance many small businesses will be disproportionately affected and locked out of their current work.

“The key issue for us is the timescale for implementation. If this is done in 2019 there would not yet be a sufficient market in compliant second hand vans for small businesses to be able to compete, and some small HGV operators would not have fully compliant fleets.  We are looking for more flexibility for those businesses that will have the most trouble complying, and support for them to reach these standards.  The freight industry needs more from the Government on these issues.”

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Written by Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.

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