What are Clean Air Zones?

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The UK government have introduced Clean Air Zones (CAZ) in a bid to improve air quality across the country. The CAZ tackle air pollution in the areas where it reaches legal limits. Clean Air Zones are in place to discourage the use of older, heavily-polluting vehicles in the UK

What are Clean Air Zones?

Clean Air Zones are part of the “Road to Zero” strategy proposed by the UK government. which sets forth plans for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040. It also aims to make at least 50% of new car sales (and 40% of new van sales) being ultra-low emission by 2030.

CAZ support this ultra-low emissions strategy. They encourage local authorities in the worst-affected areas to incentivise the move to low emissions vehicles. Local authorities can put specially tailored local measures in place, as they see fit.

DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and the DfT (Department for Transport) published the Clean Air Zone Framework. The framework is in place to help guide local authorities on the implementation of CAZ. It defines Clean Air Zones as

“an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth… Within a Clean Air Zone there is also a particular focus on measures to accelerate the transition to a low emission economy”.

Where are the Clean Air Zones in the UK?

As part of the “Road to Zero” strategy, Clean Air Zones are being put in place in the most polluted areas of the UK. The first phase of the roll-out of Clean Air Zones will see them in Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham, and Southampton by 2020.

There are a further 23 local authorities where pollution is expected to grow to illegal levels before 2021. These local authorities must conduct feasibility studies to determine whether a CAZ is required

Birmingham Clean Air Zone

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, Business Breathes, will come into force in January 2020. The Birmingham CAZ covers the whole city centre A4540 Middleway ring road. Birmingham doesn’t plan to ban any vehicles but instead will impose a daily charge on the most polluting vehicles entering the CAZ. They will use vehicle number-plate recognition technology and take payment online. All vehicles (including public service, commercial vehicles and private vehicles) will pay to enter the CAZ, with some exemptions for vehicles with certain fuel types (or with retrofit compliance technology).

Derby Clean Air Zone

Derby City Council has taken a very different approach to the implementation of a CAZ. Derby has proposed instead to implement traffic management measures. They will not charge vehicles for entering the CAZ area. Derby claims that traffic management measures are “the option that is deliverable in the quickest possible time and directly addresses air quality”.

Leeds Clean Air Zone

Clean Air Leeds will be the largest Clean Air Zone in the country. It will cover approximately 35 square miles of the city centre. Leeds will use number plate recognition to put daily charges in place for some vehicles. The vehicles facing CAZ charges include “heavy goods vehicles, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles that do not meet emissions standards”. As the zone covers such a large area, LGVs and private vehicles will not be charged. The Leeds CAZ comes into place in January 2020.

Nottingham Clean Air Zone

Nottingham council have opted out of charging vehicles for entering the CAZ. They will instead use measures which, they say, will “reduce air pollution to below the legal limit”. Measures include retrofitting buses with clean exhaust technology and requiring taxis to operate low-emissions vehicles.

Southampton Clean Air Zone

Southampton has reduced nitrogen dioxide by 24% in the most polluted areas. This was achieved with around £15 million of clean air projects. They claim that this reduction in emissions negates the need for CAZ charges.

London Ultra-Low-Emissions Zone (ULEZ)

Before the launch of Clean Air Zones in cities across the UK from January 2020, London is introducing a ULEZ on the 8th April. The London ULEZ will cover the same area as the current Congestion Charge zone and will apply to all vehicles 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Learn more about ULEZ charges, and tips for fleets operating within the ULEZ from BlueDrop.

What do Clean Air Zones mean for fleet operators?

The UK wants to lead the way in emissions reduction. From these first proposals we can see that local councils plan to tackle CAZ requirements in various ways. Ultimately, CAZ measures are in place to reduce air pollution. This, in turn, leads to improvements in health and cleanliness of cities.

All this means that electric and low-emissions vehicles are here to stay.

There are some key ways fleet operators can ensure they’re prepared for Clean Air Zones across the UK:

Short Term: Budget for CAZ charges, avoid congested areas and retrofit vehicles

Reroute to avoid CAZ areas

So long as your final destination doesn’t fall within one of the Clean Air Zones, you can simply avoid the most congested areas (and therefore avoid CAZ charges). For companies who do need to access Clean Air Zones, Stream’s autoplan functionality will group nearby destinations together into a single run. This means that as few vehicles as possible are passing through the CAZ location.

Budget for CAZ charges

Where driving through Clean Air Zones is unavoidable, and vehicles are not eligible for low-emissions exemptions, businesses do unfortunately need to take CAZ charges into account when budgeting for deliveries and collections.

Retrofit vehicles to reduce emissions

Where Clean Air Zones that are proposing to charge vehicles for entry, exemptions are offered for vehicles that meet certain emissions standards. For many commercial vehicles, these standards can be achieved with the use of retrofitting technology to reduce emissions.

Long Term: Move towards operating low and zero emissions fleets

The move towards electric vehicles and other low-emissions fleet solutions is an inevitable part of the future of the logistics sector in the UK. Even besides the ‘stick’ incentive offered by CAZ charges, there are a number of reasons why operators should be looking to low-emissions vehicles for the future of their fleet. Operators running low emissions fleets can reap multiple benefits, including tax benefits, plug-in grants, lower day-to-day running and maintenance costs, and reduced overall lifecycle costs.

Discover how Stream can support your move to electric vehicles, with award-winning functionality for EV route planning.


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