Driving down emissions in the commercial vehicle sector

Driving down emissions in the commercial vehicle sector

07 Jun 2022 Posted By RHA Policy

Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest campaign on air pollution, takes place on 16 June. The campaign aims to help the public know more about air pollution so that people can make changes that make the air cleaner for everyone.

What’s the industry doing?

Whether it’s lorries, coaches or vans, our sector is making progress to drive down emissions. Since 2013, lorry operators have invested £1.9billion, which has seen nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution fall by over 60%. By 2025, we estimate it will fall by another 25%.

Coach operators too are investing in the latest vehicles. A coach can take at least 25 cars off our roads and, when the average petrol car emits four times more CO2 per passenger on a journey from London to Glasgow than an equivalent journey by coach, can help substantially reduce emissions.

Meanwhile, sales of electric vans are increasing as new models are launched and electric vehicle charging infrastructure becomes available. Latest figures show that the number of electric vans could increase this year by 81.3% to 21,130.

As well as the investment in these vehicles, our members seek to reduce emissions by managing their operations as efficiently as possible. This includes measures such as taking the shortest viable routes, maximising loads, and training drivers to drive efficiently.

What is Government doing?

As part of Net Zero, the Government is focusing on how to introduce zero emission vehicles such as battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell-powered lorries and coaches on to our roads. Achieving this however is complex. There are many technical issues, such as range and infrastructure, to be worked through to ensure a seamless switch from diesel.

To address this, we strongly welcome the Government’s £200m “Zero Emission Road Freight Demonstrator Programme”, which will answer many practical issues and give industry the confidence it needs to invest in these vehicles.

However, we also know that we must keep reducing emissions from the existing diesel fleet. Using hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) or biomethane can help, and we welcome that the Government will produce a Low Carbon Fuels Strategy later this year to support their use.

What else is needed?

How SME businesses are involved in the transition is vital, as they lack the buying power currently needed to purchase the expensive zero emission vehicles now appearing on the market.

The Government also needs to be clear about how we manage out existing diesel vehicles. For a business, these are financial assets that must not be written-off prematurely.

Finally, we believe that contingency planning should form part of the Government’s plans. Zero emission vehicles will rely heavily on electricity to power them – but what happens if there are prolonged power cuts such as when Storm Arwen hit the UK? What is in place to ensure goods and passengers can keep moving in those circumstances? We think that HVO and biomethane may play a role here.

What is the RHA doing?

We’re leading the way on how our sector can invest for the future through our Environment campaign. Our aim is to champion the move towards zero emission vehicles, to help our members make this journey and to reduce our own carbon footprint.

We are working with national and local political leaders, industry and other trade bodies to inform them of our members’ needs and provide solutions that clear the way to allow them to invest.

To find out more and get involved with our environment campaign, click here.

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