Clean air zones and courier businesses

Many of you will know that leading same day courier company Rock Solid Deliveries are based in Birmingham. Birmingham has recently introduced a clean air zone in the city, meaning that highly polluting vehicles are charged for entry into the city centre. Bath has a similar scheme, there are plans for others in cities across the UK, not to mention the congestion charge in London. From a courier drivers perspective, these schemes can be something of a blow, because all couriers use vans and large vans depending on their custom capabilities. This can mean that they are disproportionately affected by these charges. In our latest posting we’ll take a closer look at this.

Many companies are, and have been, in a little bit of a pickle when it comes to clean air zones and congestion charges. Everyone, including us here at Rock Solid Deliveries recognise the importance of health and the damage that high concentrations of pollution can bring. Pollution accounts for a number of deaths each year, not to mention the long term and complicated health conditions that can be experienced by many people.

The problem for a lot of courier drivers is that most of their vans run on diesel. Diesel can often be more expensive than petrol. Whilst the prices do tend to vary, fuel prices have shot up in 2021 and these are initially added costs and considerations that factor into many couriers’ business models, before any other clean air or congestion charges are even looked at.

Everyone knows that a new car is expensive. A van is no different. Thinking about the size of vans that many couriers use, a brand new vehicle can cost a substantial figure. Many courier companies have fleets of vans to be able to operate and offer the service that they do. Being able to replace all vans with new models simply isn’t possible. Therefore, many use vehicles which they have had for a number of years. When it comes to clean air and congestion charges here lies the problem. These types of schemes tend to target older models of cars, and especially vans, because they are more polluting. As just described, it is not as simple as being able to go out and buy all new vans, so many couriers find themselves in a very difficult position.

The problem many find is that alternative methods are well out of reach. New green technologies are excellent and go a long way to reducing pollution and increasing health benefits among the population. Experience shows that this type of technology comes at a price, and this can end up being more expensive than petrol and diesel models, making it a completely ironic situation. If the authorities really are serious about tackling pollution in the cities, they need to ensure fairness aswell. Green models which are out of reach of many ordinary people or businesses does not send the right message and this needs to be looked at urgently.

If you are a courier, have older van models, unable to change, and find yourself facing charges, what can you do?

This is still the answer that many are trying to work out! One idea for example could be to set up a base outside the city where congestion and clean air zones do not apply. Then for any city delivery, the business can look at green alternatives that cover the perimeter of the charging area. Critics would say that this does not address the problem and simply pushes it somewhere else – an argument which also has merit.

The key is definitely balance. How that can be achieved remains to be seen.

We operate in all parts of the UK, including in clean air and congestion zone areas. To find out exactly what cities we cover, visit our locations page for further details.

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