High Court air quality ruling demands government support03 November 2016

New, but sensitive, incentives are urgently required to encourage commercial fleet operators to renew their HGVs and/or switch to alternative fuels if the government is to improve air quality, says the FTA (Freight Transport Association).

The organisation’s advice follows yesterday’s (2 November 2016) ruling by the High Court that its clean air strategy does not meet legal requirements.

Environmental campaign group ClientEarth took the government to the Supreme Court in April 2015, when ministers were instructed to come up with new proposals to comply with EU laws on limits for NOx.

ClientEarth argued that the government’s new air quality plan didn’t go far enough – and yesterday the High Court agreed.

The government now has just one week to draw up an alternative air quality improvement plan before returning to the High Court, where a judge could impose a timetable if its revised new proposals are not deemed adequate.

“No-one questions the need for better air quality to improve people’s health, but placing an unfair burden on the freight industry isn’t the answer,” insists FTA head of national and regional policy Christopher Snelling.

“The current Defra plan already sets in place targets in cities across the UK that will cost [the freight] industry millions and could force small businesses out of their markets,” he continues.

“This is especially true for those relying on vans because there simply won’t be enough compliant vehicles to satisfy the need.”

FTA believes that the government’s current, now discredited, air quality proposals already push beyond what many businesses can handle.

If UK cities are to make faster progress on meeting legally binding air quality targets, it says, “wider approaches and more meaningful support” are needed from government.

“If faster progress in commercial vehicle fleet renewal and a switch to alternative fuel is to be made, it will have to be on the basis of support from the government,” insists Snelling.

“But we can’t just consider commercial vehicles: the regulations Defra is looking at may have to take a broader approach, not shying away from issues such as the contribution of cars just because it is unpopular with voters.”

Snelling makes the point that, unlike cars, Euro 6 HGVs already meet designated emissions limits.

So, as newer vehicles populate the fleet, the contribution from trucks will automatically massively reduce. And hence the FTA’s proposal for what amounts to another scrappage scheme.

“Further regulation of HGVs will only produce a very short blip of emissions reduction, at a massive cost to industry, especially small businesses,” states Snelling.

Brian Tinham

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