Trading conditions on British high streets could become increasingly difficult for businesses following today’s government plan on air quality, says the Freight Transport Association (FTA). The plan fails to give any clarity or certainty over what will happen, but it could result in diesel vehicles being restricted in 38 towns and cities across the UK. FTA, the UK’s largest membership organisation for the freight and logistics sector, says these kind of restrictions on movement of diesel vehicles and the increased cost of making deliveries into Clean Air Zones would directly penalise operators providing vital goods and services to businesses and consumers. Higher high street prices could also occur as a result.
“At a time when British businesses, particularly sole traders and SMEs, are under intense financial pressure, a clean air plan that will penalise vital logistics operators and prevent them from reaching customers in our towns and cities would be a massive blow,” says Christopher Snelling, Head of National and Regional Policy of the Freight Transport Association.
“With hardworking families already feeling the strain caused by rising inflation and continued economic uncertainty about Brexit, the announcement will increase the pressure on small businesses and the high street, the backbone of the UK’s trading environment.
“Truck and van users will be furious when they see how the Government is targeting commercial vehicles in its proposals. The latest generation of HGVs are the cleanest vehicles on the road but also the most expensive. The real problem is 12 million diesel cars yet there is nothing in the Consultation to support commercial vehicle users through these changes. This is another example of politics getting in the way of progress.”
Under the plan announced today, vans older than just two-and-a-half years, as well as lorries older than five years, will be charged a fee every day for entering a Clean Air Zone. According the FTA’s Van Excellence Report 2016, there are currently more than four million vans on Britain’s roads. And as Snelling continues, this could be a prohibitive step in terms of enabling small businesses to grow and develop:
“These Zones are not transformative for air quality, they are only bringing forward by a few years the change that was coming anyway. However, they do pose a serious risk to the viability of many small businesses based in these Zones, and a real risk to jobs and local prosperity.
“A scrappage scheme open to vans might have its uses, but there may be better forms of support – and the consultation offers nothing for HGV operators. We fear that industry may be forced to pay again for the costs of any car scrappage scheme, through increased diesel taxation following the current review.
“Uncertainty will also hurt industry – FTA understands we will not now know where lorries and vans will be restricted until next year, giving so little time for businesses to adapt and leaving many with potentially large bills on top of rising operating costs in a difficult trading environment.
“The Government’s current approach is unfair and unbalanced. It throws all immediate responsibility for upgrading and scrapping lorries and vans back onto local businesses to cope with, at a time when they need and deserve Government support.”