With less than 3 months to go before the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) comes into effect in central London on 8th April, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has expressed concerns about the effect the ULEZ will have on smaller businesses.

Good for the environment, but bad for businessUltra-Low Emission Zone

The FTA is concerned that the introduction of the ULEZ may damage small businesses while delivering limited air quality improvements.

They have again asked London Mayor Sadiq Khan to recognise that the ULEZ would not be a transformative measure, and that the air quality gain will be at a cost to the livelihoods of many small businesses in London.

Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at FTA, said:

“FTA recognises and supports the legal obligation to improve air quality and supports the principle of a low emission zone, but we question the effectiveness of the scheme in improving air quality as it is not a new standard.

“Instead, it is just bringing forward the fleet replacement cycle at huge cost to many small businesses and operators of specialist vehicles.”

From 8th April, the ULEZ will cover the same area as the existing congestion charging zone. Sadiq Khan has proposed to expand the zone across Greater London for heavy diesel vehicles, including buses, coaches and lorries, in 2020, and up to the North and South Circular roads for cars and vans in 2021. Mr Khan says that it’s estimated the introduction of the ULEZ in central London will result in nearly a 50% reduction in road transport NOx emissions in 2020.

Small businesses face a “double whammy”

So which vehicles will fall foul of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone?

The ULEZ will apply to all vehicle types, except black taxis. Petrol vehicles that don’t meet Euro 4 standards, diesel vehicles that do not meet Euro 6 standards and motorbikes that do not meet Euro 3 standards will have to pay a ULEZ daily fee (£12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes; £100 for buses, coaches and HGVs) to drive in the zone, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It’s likely that petrol cars more than 13 years old, diesel cars more than 4 years old and motorbikes more than 12 years old will not meet the new standards. The total cost for motorists with non-compliant cars, with the congestion charge added (during the times of day it is applicable), will be £24 a day.

Ms Chapman pointed out that small businesses need to consider carefully not just the purchase price of vehicles they buy, but how long they expect to use those vehicles for and their saleability when they’re finished with them.

“The ULEZ means that for many businesses, the timeframe in which they had planned to sweat their assets has reduced and the residual values of Euro 5 vehicles have plummeted.

“So not only have they got to stump up for new vehicles sooner than they had planned, they have the double whammy that they have also lost out financially on the vehicles they are replacing.”

Scrappage scheme welcomed

Last December, the Mayor announced a £23 million scrappage scheme to help tackle London’s air quality crisis and support micro-businesses to prepare for the ULEZ. Under the scheme, micro-businesses (those with fewer than 10 employees) can access funding to scrap vans that do not comply with the new ULEZ standards, but which are driven into the ULEZ zone regularly.

“With little more than two and a half years’ worth of compliant vans in the fleet, there is no established second-hand market for Euro 6 vans, so FTA is glad to see support for the smallest businesses through proposals for a van scrappage scheme,” said Ms Chapman.

However, this scheme only affects the very smallest of businesses and the FTA feel more needs to be done to support all small businesses.

“FTA will continue to argue for limited sunset clauses for operators based inside the expanded Zone which may need more time to meet the requirements, while not endangering positive overall progress on air quality,” Ms Chapman promised.

Are your vehicles ULEZ compliant?

A major awareness campaign is underway by Transport for London (TfL) to ensure drivers are prepared for the introduction of ULEZ. This includes contacting more than 2.5 million registered Congestion Charge users whose vehicles do not meet the ULEZ standards and contacting other drivers it identifies in central London whose vehicles are not currently ULEZ-compliant.

Both the Mayor and the FTA have urged businesses to check the compliance status of their vehicles before the ULEZ comes into effect, and 1.5m drivers have already used TFL’s online compliance checker to do so.

If you’re unsure if your vehicles meet ULEZ standards, check their ULEZ compliance today.