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Commercial drivers face cloudy forecast with proposed charges and taxes against diesel vehicles

Based on efforts to reduce air pollution levels in Britain’s cities and towns, vehicles with diesel engines could potentially face a series of new charges and higher taxes in the near future.

Under new plans for an “ultra-low emission zone” drawn up by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, drivers of diesel-powered vehicles will have to pay an extra £10 on top of the standard congestion zone charge to enter central London from 2020 as part of the “ultra-low emission zone”. And it seems that up to 20 other cities could follow suit in the coming years as they attempt to impose their own caps on emission under European Clear Air targets. Johnson has also urged the government to charge diesel car drivers more road tax.

For diesel commercial vehicles in London, these penalties may even stretch further. For example, commercial diesel drivers working or making deliveries in the borough of Islington could also potentially face penalties as part of the local council’s new pollution targets. More specifically, of buses, lorries and diesel cars that sit stationary for long periods with the engine running may be hit with increased spot fines for unnecessary pollution. While this power has been in place since as early as 2002, it appears that Islington is the first borough set to enforce the law.

Councillor Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, said, “We are committed to improving air quality in Islington which is why we are clamping down.”

But Communities Minister, Brandon Lewis described the fines as nothing more than a way to “tax drivers by stealth” and nothing more than a sign of Britain’s “clipboard-wielding culture”.

For many fleet owners, this is difficult news to swallow, especially for those businesses who had at one time been encouraged to move from petrol to diesel engines by the government through a number of tax incentives. These efforts saw the number of diesel cars on Britain’s roads rise from 1.6million to more than 11 million over the last decade – a third of UK vehicles.

Indeed, motoring groups have accused the government of “betraying” drivers and shifting the goalposts as they have shifted the focus of their environmental efforts from penalizing CO2 emissions towards hitting NO2 emissions.

Matthew Jaffa of the Federation of Small Businesses voiced his frustration on Sunday by asserting that these charges would drive small firms out of the capital. He furthermore called for a “root and branch” review of how the congestion charge is calculated. “This is an attack on business,” continued Jaffa. “If we want to be open for business, this sends the wrong message in that respect.”


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