The UK government has been accused of ‘passing the buck’ over clean air policies and ignoring practical solutions to reduce emissions.

Addressing the inaugural Pro Tect Solutions conference on compliance at the Haynes Motor Museum in Somerset, Howard Cox, a founder of FairFuelUK (FFUK), said the government’s refusal to own and lead on poor air quality will result in hauliers paying the price for draconian clean air zones (CAZs) set up ad hoc by local authorities.

He blasted transport secretary Chris Grayling and environment secretary Michael Gove for passing all decision-making to the regions rather than taking control of clean air policies or even considering alternative methods to reduce emission levels.

“Both, as the respective secretary of state for government departments, should hang their heads in shame,” he said.


Cox told delegates that neither Gove or Grayling would not even agree to meet FFUK to discuss potential alternatives.

Potential CAZ proposals in cities around the UK have been met with incredulity, with hefty penalties for operators using older vehicles and who cannot afford to replace the vehicles quickly.

“Clean air zones are simply a tool to raise revenue. The heinous and unfair chronic demonisation of drivers continues to be ignored by DEFRA,” Cox said.

“Passing the buck to local authorities shows this to be the case. Southampton, pleasingly, announced they will not be introducing its proposed CAZ as their existing policies are already improving air quality. So, there may be some hope,” he added.

Introducing CAZs hasn’t proved to be so simple. Bath’s CAZ looks set to be delayed so the council can deal with the responses from its original six-week consultation, and Birmingham city council has watered down its measures with time-limited exemptions and funding for hauliers based within the CAZ and entering it to comply by retrofitting emission-reducing technology.

Motor Transport is holding a free half-day roadshow on 6 March to enable operators to engage with Bath & North East Somerset Council about plans for a proposed charging clean air zone (CAZ) in central Bath.


To establish cheaper, practical ways to improve emissions in older vehicles FFUK has set up trials of four products; Opti-Diesel, an additive designed to improve the combustion efficiency and power output of engines; Sustainable Flow magnets, attached to the air intake, cooling system and fuel line to ‘energise’ fuel; BioFriendly's Green Plus, which lowers the amount of energy needed for fuel to burn; and CGON’s eZero, to help create a more efficient combustion cycle.

Cox wants more operators to join the trial and, if successful, help push the technology to be part of any future clean air strategy. He said: “FairFuelUK has interrogated the firms behind lowering vehicle emissions solutions. We looked at their empirical evidence and seen tests in action.

“The FairFuelUK campaign with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fair Fuel for UK Hauliers and Motorists have investigated alternative, practical and proven ways to lower emissions through an inquiry, and its report will be published in February 2019.”

A spokesperson for DEFRA said: “While we have given local authorities technical support in developing their plans and nearly £500m in funding for air quality improvements, local leaders are best placed to determine the optimum approach to rapidly meet the needs of their communities.

“There is extensive guidance available for local authorities in deciding whether a CAZ is suitable for their needs, with the CAZ framework setting out standard requirements to ensure consistency.”

DEFRA also highlighted the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme that provides independent evidence that a vehicle retrofit technology will deliver the expected emissions reductions and air quality benefits. For new retrofit technologies to be funded through government, they would need to be accredited through this scheme.

Action and compliance

Liz Highams, a solicitor specialising in road transport at law firm DAC Beachcroft, based in Bristol, asked delegates to take the role of Traffic Commissioner to predict the outcome of several recent cases.

Each case showed that nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to TC’s decisions. However, she recommended that should any vehicle be stopped by the DVSA, operators should act quickly to solve any roadworthiness issues, administrative shortcomings and driving offences.

“TCs want to see operators understand the seriousness of the situation and make efforts to rectify it. You can build trust by taking action early,” she explained.

She highlighted three levels where an operator might act; between the initial report and reply; wait for the letter to be called in to see the TC; or wait until you go in front of the TC.

Highams said: “Most operators wait for the letter to be called in or until they are in front of the TC before they do anything”, which can be too little too late and impact negatively on any potential outcome.

Roller brake testing

Barry Hood, founder and compliance and membership services manager at consultancy Pro Tect Solutions which organised the conference, tackled the new guidance surrounding roller brake testing (RBT) for semi-trailers.

Roller brake tester

“Operator licence holders have been seeking clarification following criticism from the TCs aimed at operators’ understanding of the rules for brake testing, lack of understanding of brake test results, lack of knowledge of the codes on the reports and lack of action when reports record braking inefficiencies but no recorded action has been taken,” he said.

“However, ‘The Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness’ and the best practice guide are both at best vague in terms of the specifics of brake testing.

“For example, there is no specific reference (even in the testers’ guide) to what weight is considered fully laden nor whether operators need to exceed the minimum RBT efficiencies or just meet them.

"The best practice guide doesn’t state if an operator’s maintenance provider is also able to apply the two concessions – front wheel allowance or passes on wheel locks – the DVSA are allowed to apply at a MoT test.”

Hood advised operators to set up written contractual service level agreements for RBTs with maintenance providers, compare all results completed over the previous 12 months, look for anomalies and sudden reductions in efficiency results, take heed from drivers who report issues with braking systems, always investigate defect reports and follow up on advice from the maintenance provider.