Disjointed regulations hit hauliers hard

Disjointed regulations hit hauliers hard

Chief Executive | Road Haulage Association

When will politicians get it? These clean air zone charges will make me pack up my business. Who will make the deliveries with no lorries servicing cities?

These are just a few of the comments from RHA members which sum up the fury and frustration over clean air zone user charging – including London’s ULEZ.

We’ve done much to water down the worst plans; successfully winning the argument for lower charging in Leeds – and winning the no-charge at all argument in cities such as Southampton and Nottingham. But much more needs to be done.

Charging clean air zones are a symptom of a wider malaise where incoherent regulation is starting to hit haulage hard. A growing trend for local authorities to dream up their own rules could make it impossible for many hauliers to continue operating.

Firms delivering into a number of cities will have to pay up to £100 each day if they don’t have a compliant truck; it’s already the case in London. All in the name of improving air quality. But how does imposing punitive charges help operators upgrade to newer, cleaner vehicles? They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Margins are already paper thin so these extra costs will wipe out profits and make new vehicle acquisition impossible for many.

Similarly London’s Direct Vision Standard will punish operators of non-compliant vehicles with yet more charges to deliver into the capital. It surely can’t be right that the Aberdonian or Glaswegian haulier who delivers goods up and down the country should have to buy new vehicles or retrofit their fleets just to satisfy stand-alone demands in London.

The emissions retrofit myth still lingers in some areas. Leeds announced that funds could be made available for non-Euro VI operators to help pay for a retrofit to make their trucks compliant and exempt from their £50 daily charges. But there aren’t any options on the market – in fact there’s not even a standard for a retrofit engine to be developed against so it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing them in the near future. Firms could be forgiven for thinking this was a smoke and mirrors exercise from a local authority justifying a stealth tax on the industry whilst ignoring greater polluters in the city.

It’s clear we need to continue to reduce emissions and improve safety on our roads but an unco-ordinated patchwork of locally devised schemes is not the right approach. We recently published figures which show that our sector has already more than halved its NOx emissions since 2013 and is set to have reduced them by 80 per cent in 2025 – all without the need for clean air zones, incidentally.

Haulage already has its house in order in setting high safety standards and reducing emissions, but incoherent regulation and a tendency for local authorities to treat this sector as an easy target only adds to the prevailing sense of uncertainty and confusion. Lorries operate nationally so should be regulated on that basis not by a hotchpotch of locally devised rules. Our industry needs and deserves cohesive regulation.

We need more evidence of the effects of these catastrophic charges for logistics firms who supply business in all these towns and cities.

Please help us by getting in touch. We need to hear from you if you think these charges threaten your business – whether you serve London or any other city. Do you think they will put you out of business?

Or will they alter your business model so you only deliver elsewhere – and not to places where there is charging?

Please email us with your business name, address and phone number and tell us in a few words how you think you’ll be affected: press@rha.uk.net