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A fresh start for air quality: FTA positive about future progress
A fresh start for air quality: FTA positive about future progress

A fresh start for air quality: FTA positive about future progress

By Rebecca Kite, Environment Policy Manager, Freight Transport Association (FTA)

With the government making a firm commitment to improving air quality nationwide, much of the burden to do so will now fall on those operating vehicles on the nation’s road network.  FTA, the only business group representing all of logistics, is positive there will be significant progress in this area in the coming years, since much has already been done to clean up the air which we breathe.

2018 has seen the introduction or expansion of several schemes – most notably Clean Air Zones (CAZ) and Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) – and these will continue to grow as the UK seeks ways to reduce its pollution levels. Rebecca Kite, FTA’s Environment Policy Manager, shares the most important developments and offers a peek into our greener future.

CAZs impose a charge on any vehicle entering an applicable city which does not meet the emissions standards set by the European Union, which are Euro VI for diesel and Euro V for petrol vehicles. All new vehicles produced in the UK must now meet these standards, which include a range of environmentally-friendly features. Five cities have already been mandated by the government to reduce their emissions with a suggested CAZ – Nottingham, Birmingham, Southampton, Derby and Leeds – and it is expected many others will follow in the coming years. However, Derby is currently pursuing an alternative to a charging zone, and instead hoping traffic management and rerouting will be enough to bring them into compliant levels.

FTA and its members recognise the importance of clean air schemes, but it is crucial they are planned and executed in a way that does not unnecessarily hinder local businesses and the wider logistics industry, which could find themselves without stock if excessive prohibitions prevent delivery vehicles from entering the relevant zones.

For example, an estimated 7,400 businesses will fall into the Southampton CAZ. By bringing thousands of companies and operations into its scope unnecessarily, the planned zone may force businesses out of city centre locations into areas away from the highest business traffic. Most alarmingly, the bustling port of Southampton will also be included in the Zone, once again posing a serious threat to the city’s economic vibrancy and future growth potential. And in Birmingham, the CAZ charge is expected to apply to 60% of all vehicles driving through the city centre, so its impact on local businesses, private users and freight operators alike must not be underestimated.  This is a charge which will fall either on the logistics business itself, at a time when margins are already stretched and economic pressures are making trading difficult, or have to be passed on to the customer.

This challenge is exacerbated when we consider the speed at which these zones may be implemented – the first is due in just over a year – and the fragmented and inconsistent approach to their roll out across regions. FTA speaks on behalf of the logistics industry and, after consultation with its freight council members, has voiced its recommendation that all zones are consistent with schemes in other cities; harmonisation and uniformity are key in ensuring their smooth adoption. FTA has also proposed that the start dates for implementation are delayed to October 2020 to coincide with the introduction of ULEZs in London and the Direct Vision Standard.

FTA applauds the government’s commitment to and leadership in reducing carbon emissions, but it is important for vehicle operators to take the initiative in further reducing their emissions wherever possible. The Logistics Emission Reduction Scheme (LERS), an industry led initiative is being offered to industry as a tool to help reduce emissions. The scheme has adopted the government’s voluntary 15% carbon reduction target, building on its existing achievement of a 7% reduction in its members’ emissions by 2015 compared to 2010. The scheme aggregates its members’ fuel usage and business activity data to establish a carbon footprint and has been successfully demonstrating industries ability to improve emissions on its own without further government regulation. LERS supports its members by providing guidance on carbon reducing measures, regular policy updates and valuable information on reducing fuel costs.

Membership is free and open to all companies with at least one commercial vehicle. For more information, or to join the scheme, please visit http://lers.org.uk

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

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