If you’re doing delivery work in the London area, make sure you understand what the Low Emissions Zone is all about.
If you’re engaged in any kind of haulage or delivery work in the United Kingdom, chances are you will have to pass through London at some point. When navigating the capital, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations of London’s Low Emissions Zone - or LEZ.
What is the Low Emissions Zone?
The LEZ is a traffic pollution charge scheme that operates throughout most of Greater London. The charge scheme aims to reduce tailpipe emissions of diesel-fuelled commercial vehicles such as lorries, coaches, and larger vans. The Low Emissions Zone, which is administered by Transport for London executive agency, is in place 24 hours a day, all year round. The boundaries of the LEZ are marked by distinctive roadside signs with a green circle, which remind drivers they are about to enter the zone. Close to the boundary, some approaches to the LEZ are marked with signs that offer alternative routes for those wishing to avoid the zone.
How Does the LEZ Work?
The Low Emissions Zone is enforced with Automatic Number Plate Reading (ANPR) cameras. As vehicles enter and move around the LEZ, their licence plates are checked against a database of registered vehicles. This database allows Transport for London to pursue vehicle owners who haven’t paid the charge, so if you’re doing delivery work in London, you’ll have to make sure your vehicle is registered on this database.
Why is the LEZ in Place?
The Low Emissions Zone is in place to help London meet its EU air pollution obligations - most specifically, the EU Air Quality Directive of 2008. The LEZ began operating in February 2008, with stricter phases introduced periodically until January 2012. Currently, plans are under consideration for an “Ultra-low Emissions Zone” to be implemented in 2020.
Who is Affected by the LEZ?
The Low Emissions Zone is designed to crack down on commercial vehicles with diesel engines, which emit the most particulate matter and carbon monoxide. Cars and motorcycles are not affected by LEZ charges; however larger vans, minibuses, lorries, coaches, and other specialist vehicles are charged. The daily charge is (at time of writing) £100 for larger vans and minibuses, and £200 for lorries, buses, coaches, and other specialist vehicles. If that sounds like a rather large sum, especially if you’re a driver doing small delivery work, it’s set that high in the hopes that owners of non-compliant vehicles will take steps to improve those vehicles so that they meet emissions standards.
What Do I Do if My Vehicle Doesn’t Meet Emissions Standards?
If your vehicle is non-compliant with the emissions standards, you have several options. You can convert your vehicle to run on natural gas, but this a tricky operation that requires large investment. You can replace your vehicle with one that does conform to emissions standards (another expensive option), fit a filter on your existing vehicle’s exhaust, or, if you’re doing delivery work for a larger company, management can restructure its operation so that only compliant vehicles are used in London. Your last choice is, of course, to simply accept and pay the fee.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry in the UK and Europe. It provides services for matching delivery work and to buy and sell road transport in the domestic and international markets. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.