Leeds City Council has outlined its final clean air zone (CAZ) plans, to be submitted to government following board approval later this month.
There are no notable vehicle type exemptions for HGV operators, however the council has put in place measures it hopes will support the industry as it prepares for the CAZ.
It is to ask the government for a £27m fund to support local businesses in upgrading their fleets.
If approved, this money will come from the government’s £220m Clean Air Fund available to eligible councils. A decision is expected on this by the end of the year.
Leeds confirmed to MT that around £13m of the funding pot would be allocated to the HGV sector in the form of grants worth up to £16,000 that operators can bid for to upgrade non-compliant vehicles.
Such funding was initially earmarked for HGV retrofit systems, but following industry concerns that technology would not be ready in time for CAZ compliance, the council has extended the scheme.
It stated in its CAZ report: “Although the council will continue to work with retrofit providers and the government to speed up the development of retrofit, the proposed support packages have been amended to allow companies to bid for up to £16,000 per non-compliant vehicle to be used as support towards the purchase of a new or second hand vehicle or to pay off the balance of a lease early to allow an earlier upgrade as well as for retrofit.
Leeds added that the support would be particularly focused towards businesses that are located within the CAZ and which will be “most financially impacted by the proposals”.
Lack of available vehicles
Addressing concerns over the late development of HGV retrofit solutions and over-demand of the Euro-6 market, Leeds has introduced a 'Lack of Market Capacity' exemption.
This would allow operators that have placed an order (by a pre-defined date) of a compliant vehicle or retrofit system to benefit from a sunset period until it arrives.
Evidence will be needed of the order being placed and the vehicle/system being available within a reasonable time.
The council states: “This is considered appropriately reasonable in these circumstances as the CAZ proposals are not intended to be a revenue raising mechanism, but are intended as a means of securing compliance with the legal limit value for nitrogen dioxide in the shortest possible time.”
The proposed “go live” date for the Leeds CAZ is 6 January 2020.
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Responding to industry
Leeds rejected calls from industry to push back the implementation date or use a staged approach to charging based on vehicle age.
It said its legal obligation was to put in place measures as soon as possible to improve air quality.
Its own commissioned research had shown the difference in emissions reduction between Euro-3 and Euro-5 vehicles was not sufficient to warrant charging different amounts.
“A tapered or phased in approach would therefore impact on the effectiveness of the Clean Air Charging Zone (CAZ) to reduce air pollution levels in Leeds to within legal limits in the shortest possible timescale,” it said.
Councillor James Lewis, executive member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment, said: “The plans we’re putting forward have been carefully developed following months of consultation with thousands of residents and local businesses to ensure they are the best plans for Leeds. They will improve air quality within the shortest possible time, tackling air pollution and protecting the health of everyone in the city.
“A key element of these proposals is the support we’re proposing to help affected local businesses transition to cleaner vehicles which avoid charges. We believe that it is important to help local businesses in order for the zone to most successfully reduce pollution.”
However, Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, said: “Our members will be on hand to rent or lease compliant HGVs to many local fleets that are struggling to find compliant vehicles, but it is doubtful whether there will be enough Euro-6 truck capacity to meet every need.
“The decision to charge hauliers is short sighted and very frustrating. It is an extra burden on operators who will have to pass costs on to the consumer.
“Unlike cars and vans, HGV operators have no option to go electric. Operators will face huge costs in replacing non-compliant vehicles with the latest trucks that meet Euro-6 emission standards – there are no retrofit solutions available at present.
“We are particularly concerned about smaller businesses, many of whom operate on extremely tight margins and will not be able to upgrade their fleet in time. According to traffic commissioner data, 54,800 SMEs were involved in road haulage last year and 52% of lorries operate in fleets of less than 20. These are exactly the type of businesses we need to support with incentives, not penalise with unavoidable charges.”
Leeds CAZ final proposals will be formally submitted to the government on 23 October, with approval expected eight weeks after this date.
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