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How to ensure your fleet is geared up to handle the new ULEZ

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is set to be introduced from 8 April this year, altering the way people drive in the capital. There is a nationwide effort to improve the air quality in towns and cities, and the ULEZ is part of this campaign. It is expected that other cities across the country will follow in London’s footsteps in the following years.

The ULEZ will be found inside the current Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) and vehicles entering the zone must meet strict exhaust emission standards or face daily charges. These daily costs are significant: £12.50 for motorbikes, cars and vans, and £100 for HGVs, coaches and buses.

Why do we need the ULEZ?

Air pollution in London has reached problematic levels. Those who suffer from chronic illnesses are being negatively affected with symptoms becoming worse and children are also developing respiratory issues, due to the exhaust fumes from busy roads. In fact, road traffic is the source of half of the NOx and particulate matter in London’s air.

It is clear that action, such as the introduction of the ULEZ, must be taken to improve London’s air quality, but businesses who rely on fleets of vehicles driving in the city centre could face financial difficulties because of it. For some, daily business could become too expensive to carry out.

What are the standards?

Vehicles are required to meet a certain Euro standard to pass through the ULEZ without paying the daily charge. Euro standards were introduced in 1992 and are emission controls outlined by the European Union, which set the limits for NOx and particulate matter.

The standards are split into categories depending on vehicle type. Euro 4 includes petrol cars, vans and minibuses, Euro 6, covers diesel cars, vans and minibuses, and Euro VI comprises of lorries, buses and coaches.

The impact on businesses

Phasing out older fleet vehicles gradually is not an option with the speed that the ULEZ is being introduced. This means businesses are faced with the expensive task of replacing fleets all in one go, something that many small and medium sized businesses will not be able to afford. However, the other option is daily charges, an option that also racks up costs and impacts profitability.

Are there any positives for fleet operators?

Although there may be a host of short-term issues, the ULEZ does provide an opportunity for fleet operators to reevaluate and streamline their fleet management approach.

Route optimisation will become more vital than ever, with a large amount of central London being covered by the ULEZ. Fleet management and vehicle telematics software enables drivers to avoid inefficient, or expensive, routes where possible. The chance of inadvertently entering the ULEZ is lessened and unnecessary costs are eliminated.

By being forced to reassess fleet management, businesses will improve their efficiency and, in turn, their customer service. Plus, avoiding the ULEZ where possible gives fleet operators the time to upgrade their vehicles gradually.

How can telematics help?

Vehicle trackers enable fleet managers to plan out the journeys of their drivers, helping them avoid the ULEZ, using the best route. Accurately calculating ETAs and feeding delivery data into an active roster allows operators and drivers to keep customers up-to-date on arrival times, ensuring high-levels of customer service are maintained.

As well as avoiding the ULEZ, telematics systems can help fleets improve pollution levels themselves. Heavy congestion areas can be identified, so drivers can avoid traffic that could cause excessive idling. The risk of unnecessary pollution is removed, as well as time being saved.

Excessive idling is something that drivers need to become more aware of. Vehicle trackers are able to record periods of excessive idling, making drivers rethink how they handle their vehicle in congested areas. In stationary traffic, it can be better to turn off the engine, as it saves fuel and reduces exhaust emissions.

In the long term, the ULEZ will lead to a positive change in London as air pollution levels improve. Air quality is an international issue and the levels in the UK’s cities are currently unacceptable. The financial impacts of the ULEZ may take over the thoughts of fleet operators, but it is important to view it as an opportunity to embrace new technology and invest in systems that will benefit businesses in the long run.

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