First implemented in 2019 and expanded again at the end of August this year, the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (known as ULEZ for short) is a clean air zone operating across all London boroughs.

Introduced to tackle areas with high levels of pollution, the aim of the ULEZ scheme is to reduce the number of high-emission vehicles travelling within it, by deterring those that don’t meet the ULEZ emissions standards via a daily charge.

Transport For London state that if your vehicle doesn’t meet the standards and isn’t exempt, you need to pay a £12.50 daily charge to drive within the zone. This applies to cars, motorcycles, vans and specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes).

Lorries, vans or specialist heavy vehicles (all over 3.5 tonnes) and buses, minibuses and coaches (all over 5 tonnes) do not need to pay the ULEZ charge. However, they need to pay the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) charge if they do not meet the emissions standards.

While ULEZ is limited to London, there are also a number of Clean Air Zones across the UK. A full listed can be found here.

What are the environmental implications of ULEZ?

According to a report published in February 2023, since the introduction of ULEZ, harmful pollution levels in central London have reduced by nearly half compared to what they would have been without it.

Th report shows that pollution levels in inner London are 21% lower than they would have been without the ULEZ, and 74,000 fewer polluting vehicles are seen driving in the zone each day – a reduction of 60% since its last expansion in October 2021.

It is hoped that these figures will continue to show improvements as the expansion is rolled out.

What is the impact of ULEZ on the logistics industry?

While there have been some concerns from the wider logistics industry, there are a number of solutions available enabling businesses to avoid charges. Support such as The Mayor of London’s Scrappage Scheme for vans and minibuses, is aimed to help businesses who may be affected. Eligible organisations can apply for grants of £5,000 to £9,500 to scrap, or in some cases retrofit, their older, more polluting vans and minibuses.

Many logistics businesses have also opted to switch to fully electric fleets. Although a big investment, it may prove to be the most economical solution in the long run. Deals have been made available to other types of organisations, such as van hire and financing, car and van clubs, and cargo bike purchases – whether they are eligible for a scrappage grant or not.

However, according to a survey conducted by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and published in July 2023, a third of London businesses were worried about ULEZ having a negative impact on their employees. These businesses include micro companies, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), and large businesses, across both inner and outer London.

The main concerns for many businesses have been caused by delays in ULEZ compliant vehicle production, due to the recent global microchip shortages. Some businesses and their employees who ordered ULEZ compliant vehicles have not received them in time for the expansion.

However, charities and businesses which have booked to have their vehicles retrofitted under the ULEZ Scrappage Scheme – or ordered a new one – before 29 November 29, 2023 are exempt from the ULEZ charge until May 29, 2024 (or earlier if the new/retrofitted vehicle arrives before then).

For more information on the ULEZ scheme and the options available to support businesses, head to TFL.

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