The impact of Clean Air Zones on businesses

4 Min Read
#Alternative Fuels, #Fleet Management
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Clean air zone sign

With the effects of Global Warming increasing at an alarming rate, our government have been looking at ways to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing air pollution. In 2015, plans to introduce clean air zones (CAZ) into cities with the most persistent, poor air quality issues. Bath was selected as the first city to have these rules implemented in March of 2021.

Here are the areas that currently have active clean air zones:

  • Bath
  • Birmingham
  • Bradford
  • Bristol
  • Portsmouth
  • Sheffield
  • Tyneside (Newcastle and Gateshead)
  • London (Ultra Low Emission Zone)

Greater Manchester could be next on the list with their plans currently under review.

What are clean air zones?

The CAZ system encourages only vehicles that meet the emission standards to operate within the CAZ boundaries. If your vehicle does not meet the specified standard, you will be required to pay a daily fee. These fees can range from £7-£100 per day depending on the location and vehicle type. Discounts and exemptions can be offered for special vehicles.

An ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) is currently running in Central London instead of a CAZ. In a ULEZ, most vehicles must meet the emissions standards or they will be charged the £12.50 fee compared to a CAZ where different vehicles are eligible in different zones according to what class it is and what the local authority has deemed suitable.

The ULEZ, which was implemented in 2019 and charges £12.50 a day for all vehicles that do not meet the required ULEZ standards. The ULEZ covers mostly inner London, however, in August 2023, the zone will expand to cover all of Greater London.

By restricting the most polluting vehicles from driving in these tariffed zones, the schemes aim to reduce N02 (nitrogen dioxide) by 18% in key cities. But what does this controversial system mean for businesses that operate vehicles in clean-air zones?

How does CAZ affect businesses?

If you’re currently dealing with clean air zones, then you’ll already know the answer to this. But for those businesses facing future restrictions under CAZ, you must prepare for the implementation and ensure all company vehicles meet the minimum emission standards or you will be paying daily fees for these vehicles.

If you plan on driving within these zones, you can visit this page to check if fees are payable or if your vehicle is exempt. You will need to input the registration number of the vehicle in question to find out.

How do I pay the fee?

Paying your fee can be done via the online portal and must be paid up to 6 days after driving through a zone.  Don’t forget that failing to pay will result in a fine. You can also pre-pay, so plan ahead as you can pay up to 6 days before travelling.

Businesses with a fleet of vehicles can use the online portal by uploading a spreadsheet with all the vehicle's number plates, or they can be added manually one by one.

Once your account is up and running, you will then have access to the portal in which you can:

  • View what each vehicle will be charged in each CAZ.
  • Manage your vehicles – add and remove them.
  • Add up to 10 team members who can manage the account.
  • Set up an agreement to pay by bank account, ready for when charging starts.
  • View maps of the clean air zones, see when they are live and find out about exemptions.

CAZ breakdown

Clean air zones are broken down into classes, each with its own rules on which vehicles are to be charged.  Here is a list of classes and which vehicles are affected:

  • Class A - Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles
  • Class B - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and HGVs
  • Class C - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and LGVs
  • Class D - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs LGVs, and cars with the local authority have the option to include motorcycles.

The government set out a target to achieve a near “net zero” emissions rate by 2050, with the clean air zones project planning to significantly support us in reaching that target. But as time goes on and the possibility of us straying further and further away from this target, could the Government end up introducing a new CAZ? So, keep your eyes peeled as a clean air zone could be coming to a city near you!

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Matt Dodds
Head of Strategic Sales and Partnerships

With over 14 years of experience across two of the leading fuel card companies in the UK, Matt Dodds joined RFC Edenred to help lead the development of products to support our customer's move to EV and other alternative fuels, a transition he feels passionately about.