Clean Air Zones, Low Emission Zones, Ultra Low Emission Zones, Air Pollution, Charging Zones; these are all phrases that you may usually associate with London, and if you do not travel in and around London then you may think you do not need to be aware of them. This is changing. Upwards of 70 cities and towns outside of London are looking to introduce Clean Air Zones in the next 2-3 years, you can view an interactive map of the plans here. We all need to be aware of where they are and understand the costs and charges that may be incurred.

A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is an area where the government has had to take targeted action to improve air quality by attempting to reduce the amount and type of traffic in one place. CAZ’s are part of the broader air quality plan, with the sole aim of improving air quality and addressing the sources of pollution. The zone could be applied to a single street or an area of a city. Vehicles that do not comply with the emissions standard are identified using number plate recognition technology.

CAZs can be ‘charging’ or ‘non-charging.’ Whether a vehicle is charged when entering or moving through a CAZ depends on the type of vehicle and the euro standard of the vehicle. In a non-charging CAZ, the focus is on improving air quality, without charging money for vehicles entering the zone. Measures can include traffic flow management to reduce vehicle emissions, where evidence suggests this approach would be effective on the road in question, retrofitting certain vehicles, rerouting some traffic or other local solutions. In a charging zone, drivers will be charged a fee to enter the area if their vehicle fails to meet the required environmental standards; this will most likely be based on the vehicle’s euro emissions standard.

Adam Davies, FleetCheck states that:

“Clean Air Zones are proving to us once again that operating an older fleet can be costly, in more ways than one and these costs usually fit into 5 key areas.”

He has summed up the 5 key areas for us.

  1. Firstly, there are Environmental issues; older vehicles not only produce more emissions but are also less fuel-efficient.
  2. Poor reliability of older vehicles is the second key area, older vehicles result in more frequent and unexpected downtime. Many are shocked to discover that the cost of a vehicle not in use when it is needed can exceed £800 a day.
  3. This ties in well to the third key area, an increase in maintenance spend on vehicles. An older fleet results in costs far more than a modern and efficient fleet. Older vehicles can be 2 to 3 times more expensive, at least.
  4. The fourth key area and one of the most important key areas is the potential legality of the vehicle and how this relates to the company’s duty of care. As a Fleet Manager, you do have a duty of care. Running a vehicle that could easily have reportable defects and the increased risk of putting staff in these vehicles could be very dangerous.
  5. Finally, is reputational damage. Maintaining an older, higher polluting fleet can be damaging to your business’s reputation in terms of environmental priorities, but also place you in a bad light regarding your moral stance and your thoughts of the wellbeing towards the driver.

The points covered here are all very important and should be able to help you make an informed decision as to whether a fleet upgrade is what you need. Not only to fulfil the requirements needed to enter and drive freely around CAZs but also in terms of a fleet that will save you time, money and reputation.

However, with CAZs now planned across the whole of the UK, every fleet manager needs to revaluate their fleet and look to see if they need to invest in new vehicles to be more efficient and save money over a longer period. Charges from driving in a CAZ can range from £8, with fines up to £1,000, if your business is regularly incurring these costs, it could end up being very damaging to your profit margins.

Annual costs of some businesses that have had to drive through CAZ have reached over £5,000. However, it is not all bad, with the government announcing the new super deduction tax relief, this may be a great time to look at updating your fleet. You can read more about super deduction here and how it can help you in modernizing your fleet and saving you money in the long term.