How to Beat Congestion and Clean-Air Charges
Big UK cities implementing congestion and clean-air charges.
More fees, fewer exemptions and bigger charging zones on the way.
Costs can be significant – up to £145 a week in London.
Beat the costs by avoiding rides inside the zones.
Upgrade to an exempt petrol or diesel-powered car.
Go all-electric or plug-in hybrid to get a 100% fee discount.
How to Limit the Impact of Congestion and Clean-Air Charges
A recent BBC report revealed that the Clean Air Zones intended for introduction across Birmingham and Leeds city centre roads have been delayed until 2020. The new implementation dates are a change from the planned October 2019 starts and are due to a failure by the UK Government’s Joint
Air Quality Unit (JAQU) to deliver necessary software on time. Once in operation, both Clean Air Zones will levy a charge on certain vehicles that enter the designated Clean-Air areas, much like the London Congestion and ULEZ programmes do today. Vehicles with high emissions will be hit with a daily fee of £12.50 in Leeds and £8 in Birmingham.
PHV have no special status and fall into the same category as private cars – where petrol engine vehicles built before 2006 and diesel engine cars built before 2015 will be subject to the fees. Along with London’s current £11.50 Monday to Friday congestion zone charge and it’s 24/7 £12.50 fee for failing to comply with its Ultra Low Emission Zone rules, (an anti-air pollution scheme), driving PHV in big cities is getting expensive. London will be expanding its current ULEZ boundaries to cover virtually the whole capital in October 2021, so trying to avoid the zone will then become almost impossible for London-based professional drivers.
Clearly, this is the start of a big change for PHV. Where London, Birmingham and Leeds lead, you can be sure other cities will soon follow. Rules will expand, exemptions will become fewer, boundaries will grow, and fees will rise. All in all, the cost burden on professional drivers will be significant. That’s the bad news. Fortunately, you can take some action to limit the scope of these new laws:
Go Zone Free
Depending on where they’re based and what kind of passenger they are picking up, some drivers may be able to avoid the city centre charging zones most of the time. PHV operators will have to be selective in the riders they accept and calculate if a reduction in business offsets the savings of not paying the daily fees. Drivers who pick up in city suburbs to take passengers to the airport or, to out of town train stations, shopping malls and industrial hubs should be fine. Ask yourself if less city and more motorway and country lane driving would work for you.
Upgrade to a newer vehicle
This is a no-brainer, but obviously expensive option. However, a newer vehicle – petrol or diesel – that was built after the current cut-off dates pf 2006 and 2015 – would pay you back with zero Clean-Air charges, a better ride, probably better mpg and lower maintenance
costs. That must soften the impact of buying a new car. However, bear in mind that the cut-off dates will be a moving target. What is a 2015 rule for diesel engine cars today, could easily become a 2018 cut-off date a few years down the road. Is constantly buying a newer vehicle cost-effective? It depends on how many days a week you enter the zones, and how much the fees will rise. (For example – the London congestion charge was only £5 in 2003, now it’s £11.50).
Go electric or plug-in hybrid
Currently, all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles have a 100% exemption from London’s congestion and ULEZ charges. It seems likely that other cities will copy this model. Swapping your vehicle to an electric or plug-in hybrid is not a cheap choice, and then there’s the issue of range and shortage of electric charging points. However, compared to a 2014 diesel car being driven into central London for a total of £24 a day, the costs and hassle associated with going electric do not seem so bad. The simple math says an electric car could save as much as £145 a week over the 2014 diesel from 2021. That’s a big chunk of change towards the cost of a newer battery- powered car.
Finally, be aware that the RAC says the number of vehicles on UK roads has expanded every year since World War Two and now stands at over 38 million. Congestion, clean-air, usage and parking charges are here to stay. How you combat their costs will be critical to the success of your business.
LINKS and SOURCES:
RAC : https://www.racfoundation.org/motoring-faqs/mobility#a1