31st May 2021

Clean-Air Zones 2021: Everything you need to know

Everything you need to know about changes to CAZ/ULEZ in Birmingham and London

In June 2021, The Birmingham Clean Air Zone (CAZ) will be finally introduced, following in the footsteps of London’s ULEZ which began in 2019 and is itself set to expand further this year. It is just one of multiple UK city centres that are introducing or increasing their clean air zones. Bath began in March, and by the end of 2021 Bradford, Bristol, Leicester and Portsmouth are expected to implement their measures, with Greater Manchester to follow in early 2022.

While the reduction of emissions and other environmental reasons behind the zones are incredibly important, they also create significant challenges for the haulage industry that rely on the use of HGVs and are experiencing a dramatic rise in the use of online shopping services across the UK and Europe.

With so many new regulations being implemented over a relatively short space of time, fleet operators must understand these changes and are actively preparing to adapt their strategies and policies to avoid being hit with additional charges and fines.

Birmingham 

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone has been planned as far back as 2019 when London’s ULEZ was first implemented. Following multiple delays in 2020 due to the pandemic, the new zone is now set to be implemented from 1st June 2021 and will initially cover all the roads within the A4540 Ring Road.

When will the Birmingham CAZ apply?
  • The Birmingham CAZ will apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including bank holidays
  • Charges will be issued daily, meaning that non-compliant vehicles will pay once before being able to use the zone for the rest of the day.
How much will it cost?
  • £8 per day for non-compliant vehicles in the following groups:
    • Cars
    • Taxis
    • LGVs and minibuses (up to and including 3.5 tonnes)
  • £50 per day for buses, coaches and heavier vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes).

Currently, those who fail to pay the charge face a fine of £120 which will be halved if paid within two weeks.


London

The London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has been in operation since 2019 but is set for a significant expansion in October 2021, following the re-election of Mayor Sadiq Kahn. The expanded ULEZ will be 18 times larger than the existing zone, covering as far as the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205) – although these roads will not be in the zone.

Petrol vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight will have to meet Euro 4 standards, while similar-sized diesel vehicles will need to meet Euro 6. Larger vehicles travelling within the ULEZ, including buses and lorries, will also need to meet Euro 6 standards, which will be enforced based on manufacturer declarations rather than vehicle age.

When will the London ULEZ apply?

The ULEZ will continue to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except Christmas Day.

Despite its expansion, the London ULEZ will maintain the same charging windows and rates. The charge covers from midnight to midnight, so drivers working into the early hours of the morning would be charged for two days.

How much will it cost?

The daily ULEZ charge will remain at £100 for larger vehicles (£12.50 per day for smaller vehicles), with a penalty charge of £1,000 that is reduced to £500 if paid within two weeks. 

These charges are in addition to Congestion Charge and Greater London Low Emission Zone for heavy diesel vehicles.


Will I be charged? 

Both London and Birmingham have online vehicle checker tools, allowing people to enter their registration number to see which vehicles will incur a charge.

What does this mean for fleets?

For many fleets in the short term, changes to clean air zones will make additional charges an unwelcome reality. With 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries expected to be affected in London alone, Fleetpoint estimated that a company with just five non-compliant vans operating in London for 250 days per year may find themselves with £15,000 of additional costs over a year – a major concern for those in an industry already grappling with the dual challenges of Brexit and Covid-19.

While many large-scale fleet operators will be aware of these changes and be in the process of making the required adjustments, many smaller fleets, such as those with fewer than 50 vehicles, may not be as aware of the imminent changes. This is especially true for overseas drivers, who are most likely to be unaware and adversely affected by the changes. 


“Several European cities have introduced their own Low Emission Zones, but a large number of European drivers are likely to be at risk of receiving fines from UK low emission zones – particularly in the newly restricted areas.  We will do everything we can inform our customers about the restrictions, but we are conscious that a lot of EU fleets will not be aware of the regulations and will be faced with penalty charges.” Mark Garner, Managing Director, SNAP. 

Aside from additional costs, there is another major concern for the industry. The localisation of clean air zone schemes creates a logistical challenge for those operating in the UK. As different charges and payment methods will be in place in each city, payment of charges becomes a complicated and time-consuming issue to manage. Many in the industry are calling for charges to be standardised nationwide and for auto-payment options to simplify and streamline the process.

Over time, fleets will become more environmentally friendly, negating the need for charging zones. But that is a long-term project. For the next few years, those in the haulage industry who operate in major UK cities will need to adapt their strategies, finances and routes accordingly. This is especially true for smaller fleets who may not have the finances required to update their vehicles.

Similarly, with the comparatively low number of environmentally-friendly larger HGV options on the market compared to smaller vehicles, these fleets are likely to suffer more than most – with higher charges despite a lack of options for upgrading.

Making it work

While there is no doubt that reducing emissions is a vital and necessary change, the increased reliance on the UK’s logistics network over the past year makes it important to help hauliers to continue to operate effectively – and finding a balance that supports the industry.

Without additional government support, some methods to avoid additional costs could include replanning routes to avoid clean air zones, adjusting fleets so that compliant vehicles are only used in CAZ cities and moving those that could incur a charge to areas without clean air regulations.

“SNAP fully supports the Government’s mission to reduce emissions levels, and we hope that the haulage industry is able to operate effectively within the new restrictions. We are sure that hauliers will find effective solutions to function efficiently and we have an array of parking and washing locations on the outskirts of the emissions zones for drivers to use to avoid fines.” Mark Garner, Managing Director, SNAP

Advice on how to help fleets meet emissions standards can be found here.

Utilising truck stops that are close to cities, but sit outside clean air zones, could also help drivers to avoid overnight charges. Find the truck parks that accept SNAP’s payments near you using our interactive map.

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