The Road Haulage Association says it is dismayed with the London Mayor’s plan to expand the LEZ across London for HGVs from as early as October 2020, despite the sector leading the way in adopting cleaner air technologies.

More than 43% of the UK fleet would be subject to the charges at its launch – where Euro 5/6 trucks will be charged £100 a day to enter the capital, and Euro 3 trucks and older will pay £300.

But with no commitment to reinvesting any revenue in helping the haulage industry become even greener, the RHA can only conclude that TfL is using the LEZ expansion to generate income from hauliers.

RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett said: “Our sector has done a huge amount to adopt cleaner air technologies over the last few years – in fact we’ve nearly halved our NOx emissions since 2013 – and that trend is set to continue. We expect the figure will be 70% in 2021, yet the Mayor still pursues policies that ignore the progress we’re making in leading transport towards an emissions-free future.”

What’s not clear is how forcing hauliers out of London is going to make the air any cleaner – the RHA believes the opposite will happen.

“Where’s the incentive for operators to continue delivering in London if all but Euro 6 trucks will be charged huge amounts to enter the capital?” asks Mr Burnett. “Many hauliers will be priced out of delivering in the capital – and some may even be driven out of business – so suppliers will turn to vans instead. This will mean more congestion on London’s roads which means more pollution. So it’s not clear how the LEZ extension – and indeed the premature introduction of ULEZ next April – is going to make London’s air any cleaner in the short term.

“What we need is the sensible phasing in of these schemes that will allow hauliers to replace their fleets to more realistic timeframes – not punishing policies that will put many SMEs in jeopardy.”

The Freight Transport Association also reacted with dismay to the June 8 announcement that confirmed that the London Ultra Low Emission Zone will be expanded to cover the whole of Greater London for lorries in 2020, and inner London for vans (as well as cars) in 2021.

FTA’s Head of UK Policy Christopher Snelling commented: “While some large logistics operators will have mostly compliant fleets, the real losers here will be small companies reliant on their lorries or vans. Small firms tend to buy secondhand so will have older vehicles that do not reach the latest emissions standards and will really struggle to raise the loans they will need to buy compliant vehicles a few years early then they would have.”

FTA has calculated that, for a typical small firm with five lorries or five vans, the extra cost of compliance in 2020 or 2021 will amount to more than 40% of their annual turnover – putting the business model of the company at risk.

Mr Snelling added: “We all fully support the need to clean our air – after all, our members live in cities too. This is why FTA has been positively engaged in the compulsory deployment of the Euro standards regulations for our vehicles since the 1990s. But the reality is the ULEZ is not a transformative measure – it only brings forward the air quality gain that was coming anyway by a few years, at a cost to the livelihoods of many small businesses in London.”

FTA will continue to argue for limited sunset clauses for operators based inside the expanded Zone who need more time to meet the requirements, while not endangering positive overall progress on air quality.