SME operators will go out of business unless the government reforms its clean air zone (CAZ) policy and introduces ‘intelligent phasing’, the RHA has warned.

Responding to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for road haulage’s inquiry into CAZ, the trade association said the current approach was expensive, inflexible and ineffective.

Chief executive Richard Burnett said CAZs had wiped as much as £1.2bn off the value of the Euro-5 fleet and that it was “a grievous body blow for hauliers”.

“If this wasn’t bad enough, we see the policy as being counterproductive as more vans transport the freight otherwise carried by non-compliant lorries,” Burnett added.

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The RHA said it had a smarter solution and called on the government to introduce intelligent phasing, which would negate the stranded asset effect.

It warned that a failure to do so would push hauliers out of business and lead to price rises for consumers.

It added that in the medium term, a more proportionate response was needed, seeing as HGVs and buses account for just 5% of total NOx emissions.

Last month, Coventry City Council abandoned its plans to improve air quality with a CAZ after accepting it would damage the local economy.

A deadline for written submissions to the APPG’s inquiry ended this week.