Fleets must get in gear for arrival of London Ultra-Low Emission Zone in April 2019

Fleet decision-makers in charge of vehicles entering central London must review their replacement programmes to ensure compliance with the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which will be introduced on April 8, 2019, or pay the price.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has confirmed the long-awaited start date of the ULEZ and diesel vehicles that do not meet Euro6/VI emission standards and petrol vehicles that fail to meet Euro4 standard will have pay to enter the area covered by the ULEZ, which mirrors that of the London Congestion Charge.

The ULEZ will replace the recently introduced T-Charge. But – unlike the T-Charge and Congestion Charge, which are only in place on weekdays – the ULEZ will operate 24-hours a days, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

There are two ULEZ charge levels: £12.50 a day for cars, vans and motorbikes and £100 a day for lorries, buses and coaches. Those charges are in addition to the Congestion Charge, so the more polluting cars and vans would pay £24 per day and lorries would pay £111.50 during Congestion Charge hours (discounted for Congestion Charge Fleet Auto Pay registered vehicles).

However, by the time the ULEZ is introduced it is anticipated that very few fleets will be operating pre-Euro6 diesel or pre-Euro4 petrol cars or vans. That’s because Euro6 emission standards came into effect for those vehicles from September 2015 and so even if a fleet is operating a four-year replacement cycle, the majority of vehicles that could potentially be affected may well have been replaced by April 2019.
What’s more, van fleets operating on longer cycles may potentially be able to manage their operations – and avoid paying for non-qualifying vehicles to enter the ULEZ – by swapping vehicles into other areas.
But with trucks operated on much longer replacement cycles than vans it is forecast that there will be many lorries in operation that do not meet ULEZ entry emission standards in April 2019.

The fine for non-payment of the charge if a vehicle does not meet the ULEZ standard is £130 reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days for cars, vans and motorbikes and £1,000 reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days for lorries, buses and coaches.

The area covered by the ULEZ is planned to be extended up to the North/South Circular roads in 2021 subject to a consultation later this year. Additionally, the Mayor is developing proposals for a London-wide Euro6/VI standard for buses, coaches and lorries for introduction in 2020.

John Pryor, chairman of fleet operators’ association ACFO, said: “Firm measures must be taken to tackle poor air quality as there is a link with premature deaths – it’s a really serious public health issue and fleets have a role to play.

“Plans for the ULEZ have been known for a long time – they were originally announced in February 2013 for introduction in September 2020 – and in May 2016 the Mayor first said he was looking at introducing the measure earlier than the originally proposed date. In April this year, the Mayor announced that, subject to a consultation, the ULEZ would be introduced in April 2019.

“Therefore, the fact that the Mayor has confirmed April 8, 2019 as the date of the introduction of the ULEZ should come as no surprise.

“Fleets invariably lead the way in operating the ‘cleanest’ vehicles on the UK’s roads and whilst this timescale may well present some operational and cost challenges for some businesses, we have to move forward and play our part in tackling this very serious public health issue.

“Fleets still have time to make vehicle replacement decisions if necessary and it may also be the case that some vehicles, particularly vans, are reassigned if possible so they operate on routes outside the ULEZ if they do not meet the qualification criteria.”

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