Published Monday 11th November 2019

Beyond Brexit, sustainability is one of the biggest concerns for logistics providers. A growing push from governments and consumers to fast-track the UK towards zero emissions could present many sudden expenses for businesses in an increasingly competitive business landscape. One such example of this is the growing number of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) coming into force in cities across the UK.

On Tuesday 5th November, Bristol became the first city set to ban all privately-owned diesel cars from its city centre, in an attempt to rectify the city’s poor air quality, from 2021. Similar plans have been tabled in other cities, including London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. These broad proposals, however, risk causing more harm than good according to those in the logistics sector, particularly for providers that share the same ambitions as the wider public.

The Problem with Clean Air Zones

The Freight Transport Association (FTA), representing logistics providers across the UK, has been particularly vocal against the government’s Clean Air Zones. On the same day Bristol City Council announced their plans, they released a statement asking for more clarity on how it will work in practice. Many people have been outspoken regarding Bristol’s arrangement, with fines and exemptions yet to be clarified with just over a year until its adoption.

As mentioned previously, Bristol is just one of many cities to introduce such a scheme, albeit with a larger catchment than most. A similar plan is coming into force in Newcastle, also in 2021, which will charge all business vehicles that don’t meet emissions standards – expected to be Euro 6 for diesel and Euro 4 for petrol. The FTA has commented that this plan “would not provide any lasting benefit to air quality” and instead “place this [environmental] burden solely on the shoulders of local businesses and vehicle operators”.

One of the main reasons the FTA and logistics providers believe CAZs are not the answer is the natural vehicle replacement cycle that most companies follow. According to the FTA, “CAZs do not provide any lasting benefit to air quality, as the Euro VI/6 required […] will come into fleets of their own accord”. The FTA argue that companies will naturally move towards eco-friendly vehicles over the next few years, meaning these proposals are only short-term fixes. The FTA says that the money and time put into enacting CAZs would be better spent on incentivising the uptake of low-emission vehicles in the wider public.

The Need for Cleaner Air

On the face of it, councils may be entitled to expect a positive reception regarding their CAZ plans. However, the reality in almost every city has been the majority of residents being against them. In Newcastle, their initial plans had to be reduced in scope after over half of 19,000 respondents objected to their initial programme. Similar criticisms have already been labelled against Bristol’s CAZ ambitions.

In response, both Bristol and Newcastle have cited the UK Government, which has instructed many cities to become compliant with their air quality levels by 2021 or face legal action. The FTA has repeatedly stated that they share the same ambitions. Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy, said in September that “FTA and its members are committed to reducing harmful emissions” but that CAZs are not the most efficient way for authorities and businesses. However, with a general election taking place at the end of the year and sustainability high on the agenda, these proposals are more likely to become stronger, not weaker.

Sustainability remains a pressing issue that could transform the logistics sector long-term. Here at Expense Reduction Analysts, we’ve been working with major providers across the UK to help unlock capital for much-needed investment. Our fleet cost management service can reduce your expenses in a range of cost areas, including procurement and whole life cost analysis. If you’re interested in saving money and upgrading your fleet, why not get in contact with our specialist team and see what we could do for your business?