The FTA is urging local authorities to look beyond the “short-lived” benefits of clean air zones (CAZ) and divert funds into helping operators upgrade their fleets rather than penalising them.

The call, made in a briefing document dubbed Cleaning the Air, argues that CAZ will only bring short term benefits since the fleet replacement cycle will see Euro 6 vehicles replace polluting vehicles “as a matter of course”.

It argues that instead of spending on CAZ implementation costs, councils should fund schemes to help operators upgrade their fleets to Euro 6 rather than imposing CAZ fines on “those with the least means to buy replacement vehicles.”

Other alternatives to a CAZ suggested by the document include schemes to encourage the uptake of electric commercial vehicles, altering road layouts and traffic signals to cut congestion, retiming deliveries, supporting consolidation centres and encouraging city centre businesses to jointly procure deliveries.

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Whilst the FTA acknowledges that some councils are mandated by government to introduce CAZ, it advises other measures also be introduced to mitigate the impact of a CAZ on operators’ businesses. These include:

• keeping the zone as small as possible to exclude key logistics locations, as in the case of the Leeds and Birmingham CAZ

• creating a single national charge across councils of no more than £50 a day for non-compliant vehicles to cut the cost of administration to both operators and councils

• giving operators within the zone a “sunset” period in which they can upgrade their fleet without being forced to break expensive lease agreements

• offering grants to pay lease exit fees or to put towards the cost of a new vehicle

FTA head of urban policy and the south east region Natalie Chapman told “Our starting point is that clean air is hugely important but the question is how far and how quickly should local authorities go to achieve this. They also have to protect jobs and the local economy, so it is important that they get the right balance.

"We hope this document will support local authorities in achieving that.”