Clean Air Zones - will your business be compliant?

 Published 20th September 2022
Driver Guides  General Guides 

A number of cities across the UK either have a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in force, or are planning on bringing one in. The moves come in an effort to reduce air pollution from urban centres, but they could put costs up for businesses without compliant vehicles.

What is a CAZ and why do we have them?

Established by central government in 2017, the Clean Air Zone Framework allows towns and cities with troubling levels of air pollution to bring about measures that will help them tackle this. Primarily, this involves reducing or penalising the most polluting models on our roads from entering city centres.

Local authorities are required to meet air quality targets, and there are various approaches they can take, with CAZ one of them. Very few areas are planning on an outright ban of non-compliant models from the zones, with most planning on charging fees to enter, though there are some plans in place that will stop polluting vehicles from entering the city centre altogether.

There are four levels of CAZ available for a local authority

These allow local authorities to charge different vehicles to enter the zone as follows:

  • Class A: Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles

  • Class B: Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles

  • Class C: Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses

  • Class D: Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars. The local authority has the option to include motorcycles.

  • The longest established zone is London's Ultra Low Emission Zone, which is a CAZ in all but name. This is a Class D CAZ, while Bath is currently operating a Class C model, not charging cars to enter the city centre. Birmingham's CAZ is Class D, and Portsmouth Class B.

Scotland has a similar approach to reducing urban air pollution, thigh a slightly different name and approach. These are called Low Emission Zones, and are in place in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.

    There are plans in place for Bradford, Bristol, and Newcastle, Gateshead, & North Tyneside to start CAZ measures before the end of 2022. Sheffield is planning on its own CAZ in 2023, while Greater Manchester was due to have one in force already, but has put its implementation on hold until an as yet unknown date.

    Oxford is the only city to go beyond the existing classes and only allows zero-emission vehicles to enter its Zero Emission Zone without charge.

    How are you affected by Clean Air Zones?

    The general restrictions across Clean Air Zones and their equivalents, both in the capital and north of the border, are based on Euro Emission Standards. These see charges put in place for vehicles that don't meet certain Euro standards to enter the zone.

    For diesel vehicles, the minimum level required for free access is Euro 6, while for petrol powered models it is Euro 4. Motorcycles - if charged, which is rare and unexpected - is Euro 3. Hybrid models are required to meet Euro 4, but all meet the limits, and the same goes for plug-in hybrids. Pure-electric models have no emissions to be tested, and will be the last vehicle type to be charged - if at all.

    Fees vary from city to city, and are typically around £10 for cars and vans, or £50-£100 for buses and lorries.

    Scotland's Low Emission Zones differ in that they are a penalty charge notice, rather than a fee to enter. This starts at £60 for non-compliant vehicles, but halved if paid within 14 days. Crucially, the charge doubles each time the same vehicle enters the zone, capped at a maximum of £480 for cars and vans, and £980 for minibuses, coaches, and HGVs. This resets if there is no repeat entry within 90 days of the last visit.

    The simplest way to avoid paying a charge is to ensure that the vehicles that you operate meet the latest Euro 6 emissions standards.

    “All new cars, vans and pickups leased from Gateway2Lease are compliant with all current Clean Air Zones as well as those under consideration,” says Gateway2Lease Operations Director Rob Marshall.

    “We offer an extensive range of electric, hybrid, petrol and diesel models that would ensure you avoid paying any charges either for the London ULEZ or any CAZ.

    “It might also be the appropriate time to consider electrifying your fleet policy - and we can help there, too, with our experts on hand to help advise with policy and the electrification of your fleet.”

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