Bristol ‘pay-to-pollute’ charges attack business, say hauliers

Charging hauliers to enter a clean air zone (CAZ) in Bristol will put firms at risk, the Road Haulage Association has warned.

All lorries face bans from a number of main roads and pre-Euro VI trucks will face £100 daily charges in plans Bristol City Council is submitting to the Government.

But the Association warned that the charging scheme will force firms with lorries registered as late as 2013 to choose between prematurely replacing their fleets, paying the crippling charges or going out of business.

The RHA’s policy advocate for environment and regulation, Chris Ashley dubbed Bristol’s plans as punitive and said a phased approach to CAZ charging which focuses on the oldest, most polluting vehicles would more likely improve air quality whilst safeguarding local businesses.

“We all want to breathe clean air but hitting firms with punitive, pay-to-pollute charges isn’t a credible way to get us there.

“Given that it takes 12 large vans to carry the same load as a single 44-tonne lorry it stands to reason that pricing trucks out of Bristol could spark an increase in congestion and poor air quality.”

He slammed council chiefs’ plans to impose the 24/7 lorry ban – misleadingly called a “weight restriction” – in key city centre streets as impractical and inappropriate.

In response to the lack of clarity regarding the proposals, Chris Yarsley, FTA’s Policy Manager for the South West of England, said:

“FTA is calling for Bristol City Council to clarify its proposals on the new hybrid Clean Air Zone in 2021. Local businesses deserve to be given consistent and accurate information; the messages surrounding the plans from the Council are confused and misleading. While the official documentation states the diesel ban plan will only include diesel cars, media reports have referred to it as a blanket diesel vehicle ban. 

“A ban on all diesel vehicles would have a massive impact on local businesses; they must be given clear direction and adequate time to prepare. While FTA and its members fully support the Council’s aim to improve air quality, we expect clarity on matters of such importance as a bare minimum. The confusion leaves local businesses in the dark on how to proceed with business planning.”

Howard Cox, Founder of the FairFuelUK Campaign, said the Bristol ban on diesels is just the “sharp end of the wedge”. 

“Clueless ignorant local politicos keen to be seen as climate change evangelists are being suckered into draconian decisions based on flawed emissions health data. Vehicle emissions are falling in all our urban roads due to rapid improvements in vehicle fuel burning technology. The persistent demonisation of the UK’s motorists, bikers and truckers continues to be flawed and ill-informed. Politicians across all parties must recognise the way their driver constituents are unfairly and repeatedly exploited by environmental emotive spin – leaving road users being ill-treated as pariahs and used as pure cash cows.

“Air quality alarmism is being used to attack motorised transport via regressive taxes and now bans that hit the less well-off hardest. A recent DEFRA report shows that since 1970 particulate emissions have been reduced by 79% and NOx by 72%. In fact, the primary generators of NOx are gas appliances, not road vehicles. As for particulate matter, even if all transport in Bristol were to be removed from the streets of the city, between 70% and 80% of the particulate matter for example, would still be present in urban air - the primary sources of this being weather phenomena and agriculture. 

“Bristol’s tragic mismanagement of the transport agenda, desperate to be the first to ban diesels in the UK, is making the city unfit for business and tourist journeys, due to their ill-judged dogmatic campaign against powered vehicles.

“And haulage companies are the backbone of the UK economy. The HGV sector has done more than any other to reduce NOx emissions. Down by more than 50% since 2013. It is important to change to a low emission future in a managed way that supports investment. It is unacceptable to have counter-productive punishment taxes targeted at the wrong people as a result of a disjointed national and local government approach.

“The irony is that none of these myopic regressive policies are helping the environment in any significant way that exceed the local and economic cost - and none are reducing thousands of deaths incorrectly attributed to ambient air pollution. Cleaning our air is an absolute priority but it won’t happen through aimless virtue signalling by politicians. Government and local councils need to apply evidence-based science to the sources and causes of pollution to clean up our urban air.”