Driving To Deliver Your Business

Are Road Haulage Operators Unfairly Treated as London Emission Charges Hit Freight Carriers?

Just How Accurate are the Standards Being Used to Judge Who Pollutes?Shipping News Feature UK – With the inception in London today of the first stage of the toxicity or T-Charge[1] there is evidence that the scheme may not be as balanced a measure as one might hope for. With the scheme graduating over the next few years to encompass a growing number of private cars and road haulage vehicles, from delivery vans to the largest freight trucks, how accurate are the standards which are being used as a measure of compliance and are the manufacturers being honest in their appraisal of new equipment or are we going to witness another Volkswagen emission scandal?

Most readers will be familiar with the ‘dieselgate’ affair in which the German manufacturer deliberately reprogrammed its cars to only operate emission control systems during testing, as opposed to in real driving conditions, thus bypassing the regulations of the US Clean Air Act. Now however research undertaken privately in the UK has revealed the inconsistencies in the measurement of emissions when older vehicles are compared to new models.

A BBC report ‘How Toxic is Your Car Exhaust[2]‘ was undertaken by Tom de Castella to compare his ‘old banger’, a 20+ year old VW Golf petrol powered car, against his father’s relatively new Euro IV diesel Skoda Octavia. The findings are somewhat surprising, and definitely worth a read, however the findings regarding the difficulties of obtaining truly independent testing, and the comparison of the final results against new models definitely give cause for concern about what is on offer. Nobody can possibly think that London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s policy on emission control is wrong.

Overall he has taken action which should be fully supported by both private motorists and the road freight community. One can debate facets of the policy, the areas covered by the T-Charge, the cost, the penalties for non-compliance and the timing but, in the great scheme of things these are mere niggles. The City’s air is polluted – it needs a clean up.

Tom de Castella’s investigation almost hit the rocks on the first attempt when he located seemingly the two bodies in the UK recognised as able to test exhaust gases. Not only did both decline to test for the journalist but their only clients appear to be the vehicle manufacturers whom they rely on for their income. In these circumstances one is hard pushed not to detect an element of self interest in keeping the customer happy!

When the two cars were compared by a small company engaged in such research, Emissions Analytics[3], the particulate results were not forthcoming but the stunning statistic revealed by the tests showed the eight year old Skoda diesel only produced an amount of NOxequal to a fifth of that produced by a new 1600cc Nissan Qashqai (N-Connecta DCI CVT model). The Skoda turned in figures of 0.262g/km as against the allowable total of 0.08g/km for the latest EuroVI engines and a standard the Nissan, and all similar vehicles regularly pass under test conditions. When however these new cars were tested under the Equa Index[4], the scale produced by the company which tested for the BBC, many new models failed dismally, the Nissan the worst turning a figure of 1.46g/km.

The suspicion then must arise therefore in cynical circles that there may be collusion somewhere in the system over the quality of emissions testing, with other manufacturers ‘doing a VW’, but how does this affect the logistics sector and road haulage operators in particular? Firstly, on the question of vans, many of these are either models from which car based units are taken, the same engines, exhaust systems etc. Other specifically designed models carry the same power units as their passenger carrying brothers whilst the major truck manufacturers are already embroiled in a full blown cartel scandal, with the Road Haulage Association (RHA[5]) assimilating a class action legal suit[6] on behalf of thousands of operators which they claim have been swindled over the cost of vehicles.

Fines levied by the European Commission for the six manufacturers involved exceeded EUR3.8 billion[7]. What the BBC piece has done is to lead to doubts over the actual standards which will prevail as opposed to the claims of the manufacturers. What became clear when we looked at this in depth is that emissions can be a selective measure.

The mileage a truck does, the standard of servicing, the way it is driven daily, all these factors can make the difference to a vehicles performance in the tests, and with the makers already found guilty of colluding on the Euro Standards question and the transfer of costs onto customers, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT[8]) claims of ‘billions in investment’ on the matter start to look pretty thin. The RHA is unequivocal regarding the new charge, pointing out that the larger diesel vehicles registered in 2006 or earlier, which enter the central Congestion Charge zone face paying an additional ?10 T-Charge on top of the Congestion and Low Emission Zone charges. These vehicles already pay ?200 per day for driving into London’s Low Emission zone (?100 for larger vans up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight registered pre 2002) with penalty fines up to ?1,000 per offence.

The RHA calls the new charge a ‘Toxin Tax’ and RHA chief executive Richard Burnett damned the authorities with faint praise, saying: “We fully appreciate Mayor Khan’s vision for a cleaner, healthier London. It’s a City that is justifiably proud of its position as one of the world’s great business centres and tourist attractions.

However, to further penalise the industry that is responsible for keeping the shelves of its stores, restaurants and tourist attractions stocked is not the way to do it. It’s wrong to punish the lorry industry that moves the UK Economy. “The road freight industry is responsible for the movement of 98% of all the foods we eat and an overwhelming proportion of everything consumed in the UK, yet once again we are the ones getting penalised for doing a crucial and essential job; keeping the economy, especially the economy of London, moving.

“The T-Charge on lorries is a modest tax, but the coming changes the mayor plans for ULEZ in 2019 will be a massive tax burden. It will impose taxes on those operators of lorries just a few years old who simply cannot afford to replace nearly new lorries, we will see jobs lost and hauliers put out of business to achieve very modest air quality improvement. It will mean prices consumers have to pay rising at a time of uncertainty over Brexit that’s a threat to the UK economy.”

So all in all it seems that the judgement of the quality of emissions based on manufacturers figures for the latest Euro standards is a pretty arbitrary way of deciding who pays those ?1,000 fines.

Many will say that with the advent of new technology, and the fact that elements of the emissions are already calculated in annual MOT tests, a new standard, fixed in the yearly test and giving a spectrum of results would be a fairer way of assessing which vehicles are fit for the road.

Or would this lead to another round of legal cases against Nissan and the like?

Bookmark and Share


  1. ^ toxicity or T-Charge (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  2. ^ How Toxic is Your Car Exhaust (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ Emissions Analytics (emissionsanalytics.com)
  4. ^ Equa Index (emissionsanalytics.com)
  5. ^ RHA (www.rha.uk.net)
  6. ^ class action legal suit (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  7. ^ exceeded EUR3.8 billion (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  8. ^ SMMT (www.smmt.co.uk)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *