City by city emissions regulations create market confusion

city emissions regulations operators

Air pollution in cities is an increasingly important issue being addressed by governments and city administrators. According to the United Nations’ climate and clean air coalition, nine out of 10 people around the world live in an environment where pollution levels exceed World Health Organization limits. Diesel emissions are regarded as a primary source of pollutants and have been blamed for the premature deaths of 3m people a year. Now, political momentum is gathering pace. The Institute for Public Policy Research has stated that “it is likely that diesel cars [and trucks] will have to be completely phased out … over the next decade in order to reach compliance with safe and legal levels of air pollution.” This has led an increasing number of city authorities to place controls on, and even ban, types of diesel engine vehicles.

As countries and cities around the world race to address pollution levels, transport and logistics companies face a raft of new restrictions affecting their delivery operations. There is very little consistency of regulations, even often within the same country, and this provides a complex and confusing framework within which to work. Restrictions are often imposed based on:

  • The category of diesel engine permitted to enter a regulated ‘Low Emissions Zone’. The EU, US and China have their own categorizations of engine efficiency, albeit roughly aligned
  • Minimum requirements for the engine efficiency of new trucks
  • Delivery times
  • Routing schemes which regulate when and where goods vehicles can go
  • Specified loading/off-loading zones
  • Weight and size
  • Arbitrary day bans on vehicles (such as odd/even number plate measures).

The complexity of the environment in which truck operators have to operate is exemplified by the disparity of regulations in Europe where it might be thought that a standardised approach to the issue would exist:

  • Paris has a ban on trucks which are not Euro V engine or later and all diesel vehicles will be banned from 2024
  • Germany has passed legislation empowering towns and cities to place bans on different types of diesel-engined vehicles. Diesel engines Euro IV and above are generally permitted
  • Italy has no national framework, and cities set their own standards
  • Madrid and Barcelona in Spain have Low Emissions Zones but with different restrictions
  • London has no bans but charges fees for non-compliant diesel trucks to enter restricted areas, the most regulated being the Ultra-Low Emissions Zones (ULEZ)

Even the way in which programmes work vary from city to city. Some employ a coloured sticker scheme, others are more technologically advanced using automatic number plate recognition. Some cities allow many exemptions to the regulations, others many less. Of course, countries in Asia and in the Americas have even more diverse controls and levels of restriction on diesel trucks.

The plethora of restrictions which apply to trucks across markets around the world is highly confusing to operators and, of course, to truck manufacturers. Complete bans on diesel engines rely on there being alternative solutions to the delivery of goods to inner city areas and for this to occur there has to be considerable progress in the development of alternative fuels. But despite all the hype, a world without diesel is many years off.

Source: Transport Intelligence, November 28, 2019

Author: John Manners-Bell

The full paper on emissions regulations and diesel-bans is exclusively available to GSCi subscribers