Operators and manufacturers give thumbs up to DfT driving licence proposal to aid alternative fuel vans

Operators and manufacturers have given strong support for a DfT proposal, currently under consultation, to allow category B (car) licence holders to operate heavier vans if they are fitted with alternative fuel systems.

It has been welcomed by those firms wishing to increase their use of low-emission delivery vehicles without losing out on payload or needing to acquire a category C licence.

The DfT proposes that standard licence holders be allowed to drive vans weighing up to 4.25 tonnes if they are powered by electricity, natural gas, LPG or hydrogen.

It says this will help level the playing field by addressing the payload penalty that puts operators of cleaner vans at a commercial disadvantage compared with conventional vehicles.

Launching the consultation, transport minister Jesse Norman said: “We want to make it easier for businesses to opt for cleaner vehicles, and these proposals are designed to do just that.”

Road traffic estimates show there has been a rapid rise in HGV traffic over the past 20 years. In 2016 vans clocked up 49.1 billion miles – an increase of 23% when compared with 2006.

Ocado head of fleet Stuart Skingsley said: “At Ocado, we are keen to incorporate the latest low-emission technologies in our vehicle fleet, but we have been unable to do so due to the extra weight of the technology and category B licence restrictions.

“This vital derogation would allow us to field the latest alternatively fuelled vans, reducing harmful emissions and improving the UK’s air quality.”

Payload is paramount

Iveco alternative fuels director Martin Flach told Freightinthecity.com that customers are increasingly looking at low-emission vans. However, for those operating 3.5-tonne vehicles, payload remains paramount, and this has resulted in a lower take-up of alternatively fuelled vehicles.

“As a key alternative fuels vehicle manufacturer that believes in sustainable transport, Iveco has been campaigning on this for several years, so we’re delighted with the proposal that has been made,” he added.

“If the plan is accepted, we believe it would boost the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles and improve air quality. The vehicles are available, we just need the government to ensure businesses are being given the opportunity to make the most of them.”

His view was echoed by Chris Jones, head of sales at electric vehicle manufacturer BD Auto (vehicle pictured), who told Freightinthecity.com he was pleased the UK was considering a proposal already in place across other European countries.

“In the UK, we are lagging behind our European counterparts, and if we are to address the issues of air quality in our cities then action must be taken to remove any barriers to adopting electric commercial vehicles.”

He added: “Many of our customers welcome the proposal and several 
have already lobbied the government on these reforms in order to place electric commercial vehicles on to their fleets.”

Phil Eaves, director of supply chain at organic food delivery specialist Farmdrop, said: “Under these proposed changes, more businesses will be able to satisfy the demand for home deliveries without dirtying the air.

“As the only online grocery company to operate an electric-only fleet, access to larger vehicles would be beneficial to Farmdrop as we can make more deliveries with fewer vehicles,” he added.

Feeling the weight

Gas supply firm Gasrec has also been lobbying for the government to allow extra weight to accommodate alternative fuel technology, and welcomes the proposal.

CEO Rob Wood said: “The driving licensing regime reduces the driver pool available for alternative-fuelled HGVs as they often marginally exceed the 3.5-tonne licence limit for category B licence holders. This places a cost and operational burden on the adoption of new technology despite the wide availability of suitable vehicles.

He added: “These vehicles have the potential to make a significant contribution to improving air quality in urban areas and we support the introduction of an appropriate licence derogation to remove this adoption hurdle.”

Peter Harris, director of sustainability, Europe, UPS, admitted that it 
had been “a challenge” to deploy alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles for the range and payload that it required in the N1 vehicle and B driver licence category, because “alternative fuel systems, such as electric, affect the overall vehicle weight more negatively compared to liquid fuels such as diesel”.

He added: “Allowing operators to maintain payload at the same level as with diesel will encourage the wider adoption of alternative fuel solutions.”

Questions

FTA head of licensing, policy and compliance James Firth said that members were being consulted on the proposals.

He said some would like to invest in alternatively fuelled vans, but as a heavier vehicle is needed to move the same payload as a traditional vehicle, it pushes them over the 3.5-tonne threshold and brings with it “a raft of regulation”.

“However, many have said that compared to the cost of the vehicles, the increased regulatory burdens are not the barrier to uptake.”

Firth added: “It is also argued that, if the case can be made that vehicles up to 4.25 tonnes are safe and do not require an increased regulatory framework, then what propels that vehicle should make no difference, and let’s have that deregulation applied to all vehicles.”

The FTA now plans to consult with all its members in the coming weeks.

Van leasing provider Arval questioned whether extra permissible weight would place more responsibility on van drivers and operators.

“The question facing fleets is whether they feel it is responsible to place drivers with standard car licences into a vehicle with a mass that has previously been seen as requiring specialised training, and into something that is 750kg heavier and twice as heavy as the largest cars,” said Arval LCV consultant Eddie Parker.

“Across the fleet sector, in recent years the discussion has tended to be about whether the driving standards for larger CVs should be applied to smaller vehicles. This proposal moves things in the opposite direction.”

In order to relax driver licensing 
rules, the UK would need to seek a temporary derogation from the EU Third Driving Licence Directive. Some EU states have already done this to allow category B licence holders to drive heavier vans.

The consultation on vehicle weights also proposes to remove a current exemption for electric vehicles to undergo MoT testing. It will run until 18 October.

Scotland to phase out diesel and petrol vans by 2032

Scotland plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, eight years ahead of the UK government’s target.

Announcing the Scottish Government’s legislative programme for the coming year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon laid out plans to take the lead in promoting the use of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), with a target to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032.

The programme also announced plans to “massively expand” electric charging, accelerate procurement of ULEVs in the public and private sectors and make the A9 Scotland’s first fully electric-enabled road.

The legislative programme also revealed plans to create a Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) “in one of Scotland’s cities” by the end of next year as well as creating  low emissions zones in Scotland’s four biggest cities by 2020 and in all Air Quality Management Areas by 2023.

Plans also include a new climate change bill next year, setting out “even more ambitious” targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Sturgeon said.

A £60m innovation fund will also be set up to encourage climate change solutions such as electricity battery storage, sustainable heating systems and electric vehicles charging.

Sturgeon said the measures would “send a clear signal that Scotland is the place for innovation in digital and low carbon technology.”

TfL confirms strong compliance with London Safer Lorry Scheme

TfL figures obtained by Freightinthecity show that compliance with the London Safer Lorry Scheme (SLS) have remained consistently high since its launch in autumn 2015.

In the period where data is available – from September 2015 to March 2017 – out of 25,325 HGVs stopped, only 2.1% (531) were found to be in breach of the SLS requirements.

The SLS requires all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes to be fitted with sideguards and close-proximity mirrors (Class V and Class IV) in a bid to improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians on the capital’s busy roads.

It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across the entire London Low Emission Zone and is enforced by the police, the DVSA and the Industrial HGV Taskforce through intelligence-led, predominantly targeted checks.

Those operators found flouting the rules face £50 fixed penalties or up to £1,000 at a magistrates’ court. They will also be flagged up to their regional traffic commissioner for investigation.

Steve Burton, director of enforcement and on-street operations at TfL, said: “We worked closely with the freight industry before we launched the Safer Lorry Scheme and as a result the vast majority of operators made sure they complied before it began.

“We will continue to use our targeted enforcement approach against the industry’s irresponsible minority to reduce road danger on London’s roads for all.”

In March last year, the government’s Transport Committee recommended that the impact of the SLS was explored with a view to rolling such a scheme out across the whole of the UK.

The industry is also awaiting a decision from TfL’s consultation into the introduction of a Direct Vision Standard in the capital, which would rate lorries from zero to five on the basis of how much a driver can see from their cab.

Zero-rate trucks are expected to be banned from London by 2020.

Industry reacts to driving licence reform plans for clean van technology

A proposal to allow category B (car) driving licence holders to drive heavier vans, provided they run on an alternative fuel, has been welcomed by Gasrec.

The fuel supplier last year pushed the DfT to consider an additional 1-tonne allowance on the category B driving licence for drivers of low-emission vans, after the DfT revealed plans to allow an additional tonne of weight to accommodate alternative fuel technology.

Alternative fuel equipment is sometimes heavier than conventional diesel vehicle technology, and the plans will allow such vehicles to carry the same payload as a diesel van.

Gasrec CEO Rob Wood said: “Gasrec is pleased that the government is planning to remove barriers that are preventing the wider use of alternative-fuelled vehicles.

“The current driving licensing regime reduces the driver pool available for alternative-fuelled light goods vehicles as they often marginally exceed the 3.5 tonne licence limit for Category B licence holders. This places a cost and operational burden on the adoption of new technology despite the wide availability of suitable vehicles.

He added: “These vehicles have the potential to make a significant contribution to improving air quality in our urban areas and we fully support the introduction of an appropriate licence derogation to remove this adoption hurdle.”

However, van leasing provider Arval questioned whether it would place more responsibility on van drivers and operators.

“The question facing fleets is whether they feel it is responsible to place drivers with standard car licences into a vehicle with a mass that has previously been seen as requiring specialised training, and into something that is three-quarters of a tonne heavier, and twice as heavy as the largest cars,” said Arval LCV consultant Eddie Parker.

“Across the fleet sector, in recent years, the discussion has tended to be about whether the driving standards for larger CVs should be applied to smaller vehicles. This new proposal moves things in the opposite direction.”

In order to relax driver licensing rules, the UK would need to seek a temporary derogation from the EU Third Driving Licence Directive. Some EU states have already done this to allow category B licence holders to drive heavier vans.

DfT proposes extra weight for clean van technology in driving licence reform

Drivers would be permitted to operate heavier, low-emission vans on a standard category B (car) driving licence under new DfT proposals.

The plans have been developed to encourage adoption of non-diesel vans by operators as part of the government’s drive to improve air quality in urban areas.

Currently, a motorist with an ordinary category B licence for a car can drive a van weighing up to 3,500kg.

However alternative fuel technology, especially making use of battery technology, is generally heavier than conventional diesel systems.

This reduces the amount of goods vehicles can carry or means van drivers have to apply for a category C licence with the associated costs and medical report requirements.

In a consultation launched today, the DfT wants to allow motorists to drive vans weighing up to 4,250kg if they are powered by electricity, natural gas, LPG or hydrogen.

It says this will help level the playing field by addressing the payload penalty that currently puts operators of cleaner vans at a commercial disadvantage compared to conventional vehicles.

Transport minister Jesse Norman said: “Vans have become essential to our economy and are vital for our builders, small businesses and delivery drivers.

“We have more of them on our roads than ever before. That’s a good sign for the economy, but our challenge is to try to tackle their impact on air quality.

“We want to make it easier for businesses to opt for cleaner vehicles, and these proposals are designed to do just that.”

Road traffic estimates show there has been a rapid rise in light goods vehicle traffic over the last 20 years.

In 2016, vans clocked up 49.1 billion vehicle miles – an increase of 23% when compared with 2006.

Ocado head of fleet Stuart Skingsley said: “At Ocado, we are very keen to incorporate the latest low-emission technologies in our vehicle fleet, but we have been unable to do so, due to the extra weight of the technology and category B licence restrictions.

“This vital derogation would allow us to field the latest alternatively fuelled vans, reducing harmful emissions and improving the UK’s air quality,” he added.

The consultation will run until 18 October.

 

FTA cautious over road tolling proposals for London

The FTA has given a guarded welcome to proposals from London mayor Sadiq Khan to consider road charging based on elements such as distance and vehicle emissions to replace measures such as the congestion charge.

Contained in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, the FTA said such a move could be positive for freight operators as long as it didn’t add cost.

Natalie Chapman, FTA’s head of policy for London, said: “The congestion charge has played a role in suppressing traffic demand in central London, but the FTA has always argued it is a blunt tool that fails to recognise the essential role freight plays in serving London’s businesses, residents and visitors.

“New and emerging technology could play a pivotal part in providing a more sophisticated system that accounts for the essential role of the vehicle and the time of day and incentivises cleaner vehicles.”

Chapman added: “We need to ensure any changes to road charging promote more efficient use of the transport network, and are not simply taxes by another name adding cost to operating and living in London.”

The newly published Mayor’s Transport Strategy covers a wide range of issues including the controversial goal to reduce road freight volume by 10% by 2026.

“No silver bullet” for alternative fuels, say truck manufacturers

London at dawn

Electric vehicles could be the future in European cities, although there is no “silver bullet” solution to alternative fuels, according to leading truck manufacturers.

Speaking to Freight in the City at the Microlise Transport Conference last month, MAN Truck and Bus UK MD Thomas Hemmerich said: “The politicians will set some new laws and regulations, and we will be pretty fast with the e-mobility” (fully electric vehicles).

“London is one example, in 2019/2020 we will have zero emissions in London, and other cities in Europe like Paris are heading the same way,” he added. “E-mobility is the future.”

But Martin Flach, product director at Iveco, argued the suitability of a diesel alternative rested on the type of vehicle and the job it’s required for.

He said: “On a daily basis, there is yet another anti-diesel argument from the media. So operators are now seriously looking into the alternatives.

“The two viable ones are electric vehicles on the smaller vehicles – and then on the medium, heavy and even light we use natural gas and biomethane to reduce CO2 and NOX and particulates.

“It depends on the vehicle and the job. So they will work but it’s not one size fits all.”

Scania (GB)’s aftersales director Mark Grant added with Euro-6 technology, there are parts of London where the air coming out of HGVs is cleaner than the air that went in.

He said: “We are being badly represented at the moment on the issue of diesel engines. The SMMT and other people need to start shouting about the good the transport industry does for vehicle emissions.

“There isn’t a genuine alternative to diesel at the moment, there’s lots of new technologies coming, but the you can’t just say diesel is bad.”

He added: “The technology takes years to build and we’re in the very early stages. So let’s not kill off the diesel vehicle yet. Let’s continue to work with newer technology to keep clean vehicles, and we will move to gas and electric and hybrid, but there isn’t a silver bullet.”

Local legislation is creating a minefield for the transport industry

Local legislation, when it comes to logistics movements in the UK, is a “minefield” and TfL’s proposed Direct Vision Standard for HGVs in the capital is “not the answer”.

Speaking at the Truck to The Future debate at last week’s Microlise Transport Conference, Laurence Drake, business planning director at Daf Trucks, called on local governments throughout the UK to end the “minefield” of differing local legislation and standards.

He also called for clarity on where HGV manufacturers needed be in five years’ time.

“If we know, then we can get there,” Drake said. “When you look at TfL’s requirments, the danger is they almost become laws because you cannot quote for a tender [without meeting them].”

Martin Flach, product director at Iveco, said he did not see the Direct Vision Standard in London –which assesses and rates how much an HGV driver can see directly from their cab – “as being the real answer” to improving vulnerable road user safety.

The standard, which remains under development, rates a vehicle against a five-star scoring system based on the driver’s direct vision from the cab (as opposed to indirect vision via aids such as mirrors and cameras).

Flach thinks technology is a more cost-effective way to save lives. “There is nothing quite like an advanced emergency braking system for forward-facing collisions – So, can you do that for potential collisions at the side of a truck? [This would relieve] the driver of the decision.”

Mark Grant, UK aftersales director at Scania (GB), called on local governments throughout the UK to give the industry clear guidelines.

“What do councils want? They need to agree it across all metropolitan boroughs and in London. Manufacturers are good at coming up with great designs once we know what we have got to design for. I am a great believer in devolved power but there has to be co-ordination,” he said.

“We need a single view on what we are going to build to. And we will meet it because that is what we do.

“It is the operator that will pay if we have to do different designs. Margins are thin enough in logistics,” Grant added.

DHL Supply Chain has also recently called on devolved cities to apply a consistent approach to transport requirements.

Diesel’s twilight zone

With the demonisation of diesel, the haulage industry is being pulled into a low-emission future faster than many can cope with.

Evidence that diesel fumes are causing a health crisis in UK towns and cities has led to a pipeline of emissions-busting measures that could result in significant costs to hauliers.

These include the launch of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) in April 2019, one year earlier than planned, and Defra’s roll-out of as many as 35 clean air zones in cities across the country by 2019/20.

Both measures will require diesel vehicles entering these zones to meet Euro-6 standards or face a penalty charge.

These moves have left hauliers scrambling to upgrade their fleets to Euro-6 standards but now further government plans for the widespread adoption of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) by 2024 are raising industry concerns that those recently upgraded Euro-6 fleets could become obsolete within a decade.

FTA national policy director Christopher Snelling said these policies are uncoordinated, with unrealistic timescales and could place an unsustainable burden on some firms.

“It’s clear that at some point diesel emissions are going to be unacceptable in urban areas. The question is how far away are we from that reality? The industry needs to know so it can plan that transition,” he said.

Snelling argued that on current timescales, smaller firms relying on the second-hand market will struggle to bring their fleet to Euro-6 standard by the end of this decade.

“Small- and medium-sized operators will be the most badly affected by the introduction of clean air zones and there’s a danger they will be priced out of all sorts of work. And when the next iteration of clean air zones arrives, demanding ULEVs, they won’t be able to afford them and there will be a delay of years before these vehicles reach the second-hand market,” he said.

Greater guidance is needed so firms can plan for the long term, said Snelling. “The DfT needs to define what an ULEV is.

“Then there needs to be a gradual introduction of these vehicles, for example through government and local authority procurement, so industry has time to invest in production and purchase.”

On the ground

Firms are striving to upgrade their fleets to Euro-6 to meet the demands of clean air zones.

Liam Quinn, owner of York-based Quinns Transport, is selling a Euro-3 truck to part-fund the cost of buying a Euro-6 Scania to add to his fleet of four from the Swedish manufacturer.

He told Freightinthecity: “I can’t upgrade my fleet overnight. At £120,000 per truck, it’s a massive investment. I plan to change one truck a year, so by 2020 all my fleet will be Euro-6. But what if the government then tells me they’re rubbish? You can’t run a business like this.

“We need timescales, we should be rewarded for cutting our emissions and we need to know the government isn’t going to change the regulations overnight.”

Archer Transport (West Midlands), which runs 20 loads a day into London, is in the process of switching its 50-plus fleet to Euro-6 but is struggling to meet the April 2019 deadline set by London mayor Sadiq Khan.

MD Paul Archer said: “So far half the fleet is Euro-6 and that cost us £1.5m. We are buying six new trucks a year, but we still won’t have a fully compliant fleet by 2019. And that’s on top of the cost of all the cameras and sensors we need to meet safety regulations.

“There’s a chance they might specify high-visibility low cabs for London so I might be buying the wrong vehicle,” he said.

RHA national policy director Jack Semple underlined Archer’s concerns that Euro-6 trucks may not meet TfL’s proposed Direct Vision Standard in the capital.

He criticised TfL’s consultation documents on air quality and the Direct Vision Standard, which he said “appear to have been drafted in isolation from each other”.

However, TfL has refuted this.

Semple added: “It is a disgrace that expensive Euro-6 trucks could be obsolete in a few years’ time because of communication problems at TfL. We know of companies that have put their plans to buy Euro-6 vehicles on ice because of this.”

Archer also predicted the introduction of clean air zones will skew the second-hand market. “This is going to cause a glut of non-Euro-6 trucks. The price of second-hand trucks will hit the floor, making it more expensive to upgrade your fleet to Euro-6,” he warned.

Howard Cox, FairFuelUK founder, wants a fairer deal for hauliers. “They need financial help to retrofit vehicles and tax incentives to move to cleaner units.

“Rather than blame hardworking hauliers we need a debate about where the problem lies and government needs to pressure manufacturers to produce cleaner car engines.”

Are the facts correct?

Semple accused policy makers of failing to recognise the haulage industry’s progress in cutting emissions in recent years. He also claimed the DfT and TfL are using outdated emissions data for HGVs.

“We estimate between 35% and 40% of all HGV miles in the UK are done in Euro-6 trucks and by 2020 that will be more like 90%; so the NOx output from road haulage is tumbling.

“HGVs are way ahead of other vehicles in performing to their emissions standards, so what problem are they trying to solve?”

Pointing to the government’s former support for diesel and last November’s judicial review, which found government plans to cut emissions “woefully inadequate”, Semple argued the government has to bear some responsibility for the current level of emissions and offer scrappage schemes or tax relief to hauliers rather than pass the blame onto the haulage industry.

“To impose these costs on well-run firms and devalue their stock because government got it wrong is unacceptable, and if hauliers are not given more help we will see small firms going out of business,” he warned.

Green-Zones app helps freight operators navigate European environmental zones

A new app has been designed to help operators navigate the growing number of environmental zones across European cities to avoid paying hefty fines for non-compliance.

The Green-Zones app provides drivers with real-time information about emissions restrictions at national, regional and local level. This is displayed on a map to show the geographical reach of each zone.

It tells drivers which time of day they are permitted entry to, or banned from, designated zones, as well as detailing any badges or stickers that must be displayed.

For example, France now requires drivers to display up to six different classes of badge on vehicles to enter environmental zones, which permit entry depending on the day and colour of the vignette.

From 8pm each day, Green-Zones will also provides drivers with the conditions expected for the following day’s route.

It is available on both Android and iOS phones.

More information can be found on the Green-Zones website, which also provides latest information on countries’ environmental zones and enables ordering of required badges and stickers for driving in Europe.