It all goes back to 26 July 2017. That's when the Government published its plan for improving air quality on and around Britain's roads – and particularly for reducing emissions of harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
This plan identified a number of local authorities that are breaching NO2 limits, and ordered them to do something about it. They were given this year, 2018, to assess how they could get back within the limits in the shortest possible timeframe. After that, the assessment phase will become an implementation phase, with the introduction of actual policies to reduce air pollution.
What could those policies be? The Government said that it's up to the local authorities themselves – although they did also publish a Clean Air Zone Framework for councillors to follow. A Clean Air Zone, or CAZ, is an area where steps are taken to improve air quality and to encourage cleaner motoring.
There are, broadly speaking, two types of CAZ. The first is a charging CAZ, where motorists are required to pay a charge if their vehicle doesn't meet the required emissions standards. The second is a non-charging CAZ, where alternative measures – such as cycling schemes, improved road layouts and cleaner public transport – hold sway. The Government is eager for local authorities to go down the non-charging route, so long as that route will 'deliver compliance' with NO2 limits as quickly as charging would.
As most local residents know, Bristol City Council was one of the authorities mentioned in the Government's original Air Quality Plan – and so, through its Congestion Task Group and a special Mayoral Working Group on Air Pollution, it is currently designing a Clean Air Plan for the city and its environs. This plan could end up with the introduction of a CAZ in 2020.
The extent of this CAZ is yet to be determined. When work started on the Clean Air Plan last year, three sizes of zone were put forward for consideration. The largest would span almost all of the Bristol urban area within the M4 and M5. The smallest would be restricted to the inner ring road. And the medium would be somewhere between the two.
However, by the time a draft plan was submitted to the Council in March, it had been decided that the large size wasn't feasible – it would take too long to set up the infrastructure required for managing the zone. This means that, currently, just the small and the medium zones are being considered, with a final decision yet to me made.
Also yet to be decided: which vehicles would be charged within any potential CAZ. For the time being, the Council appears to have settled on two possibilities. The first is what's known as a 'Class C' CAZ, which would impose a fee on any buses, coaches, HGVs, large vans, small vans, minibuses, taxis and private hire cars that do not meet minimum emission standards. The second is a 'Class D' CAZ, which includes all the same vehicles – but also, crucially, adds private cars to the list. As the Clean Air for Bristol website helpfully points out, 'Whichever class is chosen, Euro 4 petrol (approx. 2006) vehicles or a Euro 6 diesel (approx. 2015) vehicles would not be charged, nor would electric or hydrogen powered vehicles.' This means that four options for a charging CAZ are currently on the shortlist: a small Class C; a small Class D; a medium Class C; and a medium Class D. All of these options are supplemented by non-charging measures. And there is also a fifth option composed entirely of non-charging measures.
What happens next? The Council is assessing each of the five options, in conversation with local people and organisations, so that it can identify a 'preferred scheme' before the end of this year. It will then bid for funding for this scheme from the Government, before consulting on it more widely. Once all that is done, the final package will be decided upon and implemented. As a vehicle leasing operation with its head offices in Bristol, ALD Automotive is acutely aware of how these changes could affect local businesses. Even though most cars, vans and trucks in most fleets now satisfy the city's proposed minimum emissions standards, there are still some that will face extra costs if a charging CAZ is introduced – and not just in terms of money, but also in terms of administration.
Our general advice to businesses is that they should work to future-proof their fleets, including by considering alternatives to traditional fossil-fuelled vehicles. We recently tested a range of Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs) to see whether they could meet the demands of modern fleets – and, as our subsequent white paper showed, the answer is largely positive.
We've partnered with the University of the West of England (UWE) to demonstrate their impact to business fleets, and alleviate the uncertainty. Using our telematics data, we analysed over 300,000 trips in and out of the UK's proposed CAZs. What we found will give you the tools to plan ahead and get your business Future Ready.
Sign up here to register our full, free White Paper: http://ow.ly/pK4n30nghcB
This isn't just about Bristol. Whether it's the forthcoming reforms to Company Car Tax, or the Clean Air Zones that are being established elsewhere in the country, there are more and more incentives for fleets to go green. And that's without mentioning the greatest incentive of all: the protection of our environment and our collective health. Low-emission motoring might be good for our bank accounts. It's certainly good for our lungs.
Matt Dale, Head of Consultancy at ALD Automotive Discover more at www.aldautomotive.com https://www.linkedin.com/company/ald-automotive-uk/