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Into the Zone

30 June 2021

Into the Zone

A blog post on the site yesterday reported on the Clean Air Zones (CAZ) that some cities are introducing to curb traffic pollution, including most recently Bath and Birmingham. 

So what’s the likely impact on hirers in practical terms? 

Bath’s CAZ, which came into force on 15 March, affects Alide Hire Services, one of whose three depots is located there. Another of its branches is in Bristol, which might implement a Zone later this year. A double whammy for Alide, then!

Non-compliant vans and 3.5-tonne trucks are charged £9 a day to enter the Zone in Bath, and for HGVs it’s £100. Alide has a fleet of around 30 vehicles and has a planned programme of replacement, but the company needed to decide what the most appropriate additions would be to meet CAZ requirements.

“We started planning ahead as soon as we heard about the Zone, back in 2019,” Alide’s managing director Brett Thompson tells me. “The most important factor was deciding how many of our vehicles would be affected." 

Alide’s Bath depot obviously has its own delivery fleet that traverses the city, but vans and trucks from its other branches in Bristol and Keynsham also visit frequently. Keynsham in addition manages the company’s portable sanitation fleet. 

“We examined data from our Teletrac Navman telematics system, which we have used for some time. It monitors all our vehicles to see their locations and to assess driver habits like harsh braking and acceleration for environmental awareness,” says Brett. 

“This also showed us how often our vehicles would enter the CAZ and what the likely cost impact would be. 

“Our Bath location is outside the city centre and is actually not in the CAZ area. Government-backed low interest loans were available to ease the burden on businesses that had to take steps to comply. However, using our telematics data, a checker service on the local authority website showed that we marginally didn’t enter the Zone frequently enough to qualify.” 

Overall, roughly half of Alide’s vehicle fleet is now CAZ-compliant. It has just added six new Ford Transit dropside trucks (shown above) with Euro 6 engines, joining others that already comply with the regulations. But Brett says that the CAZ implications require careful management. 

“We have set up telematics alerts to tell us whenever one of our non-compliant vehicle enters the Zone because the onus is on you to pay the daily fee to the Council. And that’s a cost a business must meet or pass on to the customer. Of course, you’ll always find some companies who won’t charge it and will try to use it to drive rates down.” 

Brett says only semi-jokingly that he can envisage a scenario where some businesses in certain industries just stop delivering altogether and operate on a collection-only basis. 

And he adds that being a delivery driver in Bath and other locations is becoming increasingly onerous, requiring vigilance in looking out for bus lanes, cycle lanes, box junction cameras, roadworks and now the CAZ warning signs. 

The route to carbon zero is obviously a challenging road. Literally.

What’s your experience of Clean Air Zones? 

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