The will to improve air quality unites us all, but commercial operators need more support to move to low-emission vehicles, writes Andrea Davies, communications manager, British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVLRA)
The decarbonisation of road transport, the road to zero, the future of mobility, Clean Air Zones (CAZ), Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), Low Emission Zones (LEZ), Zero-Emission Zones (ZEZ)â€¦ the terminology and acronyms continue to grow and it is becoming an increasingly complex landscape to navigate.
At the BVRLA, the UK trade body representing the vehicle rental, leasing and fleet sectors, these terms are fast becoming part of our daily vocabulary as environmental issues are a priority for our members.
Delivering Future Mobility is one of our strategic priorities at the BVRLA. Not surprising when you consider that our 1,000+ member organisations are responsible for over 5 million vehicles on UK roads and purchase around half of all new vehicles sold in the UK every year.
Add to that the fact that they sell 1.4 million vehicles annually, making them the largest single supplier of nearly new vehicles in the second hand market, and it is evident why our industry has a lot of skin in the game and can be a key driver to delivering the UKâ€™s zero-emission ambitions.
Improving the quality of the air that we breathe is a common goal that unites us all; industry and individuals alike. It attracts cross-party support in the corridors of Whitehall and remains at the top of the Government agenda with Future Mobility and Clean Growth sitting at the heart of the UK Industrial Strategy.
As government and local authorities ramp up activity to develop policies and plans to tackle pollution, the range of different proposals emerging across UK towns and cities makes is difficult for even the most vehement air quality commentator to keep a track of.
The BVRLA continues to call for a consistent approach, clear communication and clarity of rules and charges to avoid confusion as drivers and fleet operators move between regional boundaries.
At the time of writing this article, Bath, Cardiff and Nottingham are amongst the latest to announce proposals and all are different. Local authorities need to get their heads together as well as their acts together when it comes to introducing air quality measures, as lessons can be learnt, and knowledge shared from those further ahead with trials and experience of air quality measures that are in place.
Only this week, a year after their van scrappage scheme was launched, Transport for London announced its decision to increase its financial support for local companies preparing for the tightening of the London-wide LEZ standards and upcoming expansion of the ULEZ, doubling the size of an incentive for small businesses to Â£7,000 to scrap polluting vans.
The scheme, previously restricted to micro businesses with up to 10 employees, will also be widened to include firms with up to 50 employees and the amount available to firms switching to electric will increase from Â£6,000 to Â£9,500.
This acknowledgement that businesses need more support is welcomed by the BVRLA. Commercial vehicle operators, many of whom are small businesses, cannot afford the cost of upgrading to CAZ-compliant vehicles and they need more time to upgrade their fleets.
The lack of availability of suitable electric vehicles, inadequate charging infrastructure and significant up-front cost differential are all factors affecting the uptake of electric in the commercial vehicle sector. The BVRLA continues to urge local and national policymakers to take all of these factors into account when introducing local clean air or congestion measures.
As local authorities roll out their CAZâ€™s, LEZâ€™s, ULEZâ€™s, ZEZâ€™s and other schemes to tackle air pollution, an increasing number of individuals and businesses will look for cleaner vehicles to avoid incurring additional costs.
Vehicle rental and leasing can provide the most cost-effective solution for drivers and fleet operators looking for cleaner CAZ-compliant vehicles.
The BVRLAâ€™s recently published Sustainability Credentials revealed that members have the cleanest vehicle fleet on the road with 100% of rental cars and 96% of lease cars being Clean Air Zone compliant, compared to 62% of the total UK car fleet. Whilst the van rental fleet is 88% compliant and lease van fleet 67% compliant, compared to 21% of the total UK van fleet.
Societal changes, where a subscription-based culture is becoming the norm and environmental considerations are but two of the reasons why the vehicle rental and leasing industry remains strong. We will no doubt continue to see drivers moving away from vehicle ownership to usership as they look for cleaner, affordable vehicles.
To help navigate the complex landscape, the BVRLA has developed a CAZmap providing an overview of the latest Clean Air Zone developments across the UK. Visit www.bvrla.co.uk/CAZmap