The highly anticipated Government whitepaper on improving the UK’s air quality is almost here. Earlier this month a teaser ‘draft’ of the final product was published offering those in the logistics industry a tiny glimpse into the thinking and direction the Government hopes to go. Although there are no finite rules or regulations cited in the document, it should give cause for a sigh of relief from most self-employed drivers and smaller organisations that fund multiple courier jobs. |
Time for Action The final document outlining the Government’s action plan for improving the UK’s air quality is slated to be released on July 31st. In the interim an open consultation on these matters has been established until June 15th. Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has welcomed the draft and feel that within it are the details of the efforts that need to be taken to, “reduce the impact of diesel vehicles and accelerate the move to cleaner transport." Defra also noted the autonomy that local authorities will be given in this matter, "local authorities are already responsible for improving air quality in their area" and will "now be expected to develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible." The draft whitepaper appears to focus on the need for Clean Air Zones as a priority over diesel scrappage schemes. Self-employed drivers still using high emission vehicles will continue to feel the pain of higher fees but they are, in effect, being given time to transition to a van or truck with lower emissions. Now is definitely the time to start saving for that new vehicle before the charges and fees start to put a dent in your bottom line. As it stands the proposed charges for non-compliant vehicles are still to be set “at a later date”. However, it is safe to assume that the cost will be somewhere in the realm of £12.50 on top of the daily Congestion Charge of £11.50. As the industry knows, making a profit on courier jobs is proving harder and harder to do and many smaller companies, and especially the self-employed, are significantly feeling it in their wallets.
The Government is not proposing to only take the ‘hard-line stance’ route with this initiative. Businesses will be encouraged to participate in compliance programmes such as FORS (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme) and the Go Ultra scheme to prove and improve their environmental qualifications. Local authorities will work with SMEs and companies "to help them understand their options for adapting to a Clean Air Zone", which also includes encouraging employees to participate with ride share clubs or utilising public transportation more.
Businesses proving their commitment to reducing pollution and improving air quality could qualify for incentives such as lower business rates. Courier jobs could become easier for drivers who also show a commitment to the programme. Local authorities are offering lower parking fees and designated ULEV delivery bays for those with ultra-low emission vans.
A Work in Progress
As to be expected, not everyone is pleased by the latest proposal. Gary Rae, the director for the road safety charity Brake, has said the initiative is simply not enough. "It appears the Government has abdicated responsibility for reducing air pollution to local authorities. If any issue needs tackling on a national - and international - level, it's this one. We have a national health emergency, and the Government is kicking the issue into the long grass."
However, Mike Hawes, the Chief Executive of SMMT, can see the virtues within the draft whitepaper. "SMMT welcomes the publication of government's proposals for improving air quality across the UK, which clearly states that the new Euro 6 diesels which have been on sale for the past two years will not face any penalty charges anywhere in the UK."
For self-employed drivers juggling multiple courier jobs it is still a matter of wait-and-see. It is a worthy endeavour to commit to improving air quality for everyone and as one of the biggest contributors to the damage, drivers, hauliers and large haulage and logistics companies must all take a piece of the responsibility. It was never going be solved with a quick-fix solution but perhaps by encouraging everyone to make the move to ULEVs sooner rather than later we can all go back to seeing our profit margins go up instead of down.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day self employed courier jobs in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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