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Emissions warning

80% of vans entering London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone in  April will not be compliant and will have to pay the £12.50 daily charge, according to Cox Automotive group company Manheim.

The ULEZ area will expand from the congestion charge zone to include London’s North and South Circular roads

Of the 4.3m vans on the UK’s roads, customer insight and strategy director (CV) James Davis said that less than 20% will have Euro 6 engines, with as many as 30% of vans at least 10 years old and equipped with Euro 3, 4 and 5 engines.

Transport for London (TfL) is desperate to get this message out to van operators, many of whom it appears do not know about the zone, before the ULEZ comes into force on April 8, 2019. The ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, within the current congestion charge area in central London. To comply with the 2019 ULEZ, diesel-engined vans must be Euro 6 emissions compliant, or face a daily charge of £12.50. Vans with a petrol engine must meet the Euro 4 standard.

However, in October 2021, the ULEZ area will expand, to include everything within London’s North and South Circular roads, a far bigger geographical area. In October 2020, all HGVs operating within the zone will also have to be Euro VI, or face a £100 per day charge. Vans with engines of Euro 3 or older will also be charged £100 per day to enter the zone.

The adoption of the ULEZ next April comes 17 months earlier than originally planned, reinforcing the fact that London continues to fail to meet International air standards. TfL claims that there are 9,400 premature deaths in London each year due to air pollution.

“It is accepted that we need to do something about it,” said Katharina Winbeck, head of transport, environment and infrastructure for the London Councils.

“Transport is not the only source of pollution, but it is a big source.”

Davis said that by the April 2019 deadline, Euro 6 vans will have only been available for two and half years, not long enough for many operators to have changed to newer vehicles. Indeed, Manheim claims that only 20% of vans will be Euro 6 compliant by next April, so there could be up to 56,000 daily journeys in non-compliant vehicles into the London ULEZ alone.

It is worth noting that this doesn’t just apply to private van users. Local councils and emergency services will not be exempt, so older ambulances, police vehicles and fire engines that do not comply, will all be liable to pay the charge on a daily basis.

For those van operators that think they might simply move older models to other parts of the UK, running their newest vans within London, Davis warns that there will also be new Clean Air Zones in at least eight cities across the UK. Confusingly, these cities will conform to four different operating schemes. Scheme A will only affect buses and taxis. Scheme B, adopted by Leeds and Southampton, will focus on buses, taxis and trucks. Scheme C in Sheffield will include buses, taxis, trucks and vans, while Scheme D, adopted by Brighton and Bath, will focus on buses, taxis, trucks, vans and cars.

Indeed, there are now 60 regions across the UK that are currently assessing air quality and this is not just in England. Glasgow will introduce a CAZ that will not have a daily charge, but will go straight to a penalty charge for non-conforming vehicles. Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are also expected to introduce schemes by 2020, while Wales is assessing air quality in its major cities.

“This is only going to go one way,” said Davis. “It is important for an operator to think about futureproofing themselves by buying or changing their ownership model to get themselves into a Euro 6 van.”

Manheim has some bad news for fleet managers here though. While it is predicting very strong demand for used Euro 6 vans next year, with prices reflecting that demand, it says that it will be harder to move on Euro 5 vans, as demand will almost certainly fall.

For TfL the biggest task is getting the message out to van operators. Leasing giant Northgate reports that almost a third of van operators are unaware of the ULEZ, despite its imminent launch. To that end, TfL has been installing 300 signs on approach roads to central London to warn drivers. It is also offering companies a compliance checker on its website, where companies can check their vehicle’s emission standard.

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Written by Dan Gilkes

Dan has been a commercial vehicle and construction equipment journalist for almost 30 years. An automotive engineer and former fleet manager, he has driven almost every van, pickup and truck that has been launched in Europe over that time. As editor of VFW, his aim is to keep readers up to date with the latest developments in the light commercial world.

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