Energy Saving Trust Says Clean Air Zones a “Political Time Bomb”

Energy Saving Trust’s (EST) group director of transport, Andrew Benfield, has said fleets need to understand the implications of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) sooner rather than later to minimise cost implications and disruption.

CAZs will be introduced in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020 and in various other locations later. They will see older buses, taxis, coaches and lorries discouraged from entering the zone through charges.

Benfield was speaking at a Fleet News Fleet 200 event when he said that a series of roundtable events around the country had highlighted to him the very difficult position local cities and councils have found themselves in.

“They are really being put in a hotspot here,” says Benfield. “They have got a political issue that is about local lives, but they have also got to maintain thriving economies to support their constituencies.

“Local authorities and city councils know the critical role that fleet movement and transport plays in the local communities, but they have been handed a bit of a political time bomb in terms of the impact this is having on lives.

“They are trying their best in a difficult situation. Leeds is one of the best examples because it has been in clean air zone consultation for some time now, but they have got to think about issues like displacement.

“If they put a CAZ in, what happens to the vehicles? Can they just go round it, so they are just shifting the vehicle round to somewhere else? Just the issue of drawing a line around the area is a charged one.”

There are still debates like this going on around the country, with the details for many zones still yet to be published, despite pressure from the government to do so. Bath for example published its potential plans just this week.

While there are still a lot of details yet to be outlined, the good news is, Microlise Transport Conference delegates will get the opportunity to learn more about the proposals, the likely impact for fleet operators and actions that can be taken to mitigate their effects.

As part of the main agenda at the conference, RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett is set to address delegates on Clean Air Zones, to deliver an overview of what they are and how they are being phased in across the UK.

The RHA, alongside other industry bodies, has been lobbying government on the issue for some time to ensure operators of commercial fleets are considered in the proposals. There are concerns, for example, that the additional costs of operating older vehicles in UK cities may damage the ability for some fleets to continue to carry out some work.

While the CAZ landscape is still not clear you can get the latest at the Microlise Transport Conference in Coventry on 16 May.

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