What effect will a low emission zone in Glasgow have on hauliers?


First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in October last year that Glasgow would become the first city in Scotland to establish an LEZ in a bid to eliminate air pollution hotspots.

Transport Scotland has said it intends to have the Euro-6-level LEZ in place by the end of this year, and that Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh would follow by 2020.

However, hauliers running into Glasgow will not have to comply immediately, as the city council plans to target only buses initially; HGVs, taxis, vans, cars and motorbikes will be included at a later date.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “Our position is that local authorities should be ambitious and that all vehicles, including private cars, should be included in a LEZ in a phased manner.

“Equally, low emission buses are at the heart of improving air quality and the bus sector has a key role
to play.”

Blunt instrument

But the use of an LEZ to tackle air quality has been described by freight groups as a blunt instrument that might not solve the problem.

Chris MacRae, FTA head of policy for Scotland, said: “Our stance on Glasgow, or for any other city in the UK, is that we think LEZs are the wrong tool if the objective is improving air quality. It’s seen as the solution to a problem. It is a potential solution. They are just a tool in a toolbox; they need to be considered as part of a total solution.”

Quite how Glasgow’s LEZ will affect operators is difficult to predict.

Plans are at an early stage, with so far only the Euro-6 requirement known. Transport Scotland has spent the past few years developing a national strategy, and only now is this being fed down to local councils so they can wrestle with the practicalities of implementation.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said it was for individual local authorities to decide the size and
scope of each LEZ, and that responses to a consultation that ended in November last year have yet to be published.

But MacRae said the retail distribution sector involved in local haulage could be hit hardest, as they tend to rely on older vehicles undertaking lower mileages. “And then there are other commercial vehicles, in utilities and specialist contractors,” he said. “The vehicles could be ancient because they don’t do very high mileages. It’s difficult to generalise for freight.”

Practical problems

Asked what concerns the FTA has about the LEZ, MacRae said: “Basic, practical ones. Details of what is included and when, and the exemptions for different categories of vehicle. If this goes wrong, and
this includes buses as well, there can be unintended consequences.

“For example, buses can’t serve parts of the city, or freight becomes too expensive to service some parts of the city. That is extreme, but the feeling from operators – certainly our members – are the classic issues from a budgetary and operational point of view; what they need to do and when.

“Is it this year? 2019? 2020? They need to know the basics. They have said 2018, but it’s not for lorries. So when is it for lorries? These are questions operators are asking.”

The RHA described the LEZ as a blanket ban that fails to take into account the needs of Glaswegians and Glasgow businesses. RHA Scotland director Martin Reid said: “We have asked the council to look at different delivery schedules away from peak times as an alternative. What we are saying is consider all options rather than coming in with punitive measures.

“There are a lot of Euro-5 trucks running around and a lot of companies using them. The majority of fleets are taking on Euro-6 because they want the greater efficiencies and so they tend to be used on longer runs; motorways rather than local deliveries. So for the shorter journeys they use Euro-5.”

For now, the RHA believes that many hauliers are sitting tight and waiting for confirmation about who will be affected, when and where.

“There is an entire industry out there that underpins the Scottish economy and the government seems to be altering the curve of natural proceedings,” Reid added.

“With that comes a cost. It’s about £100,000-plus per truck. That’s a lot for an operator of any size. There’s little doubt it will have an effect.”