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Vehicle Regulations - Are they really helping the environment?

First published in the February 2019 issue of Quarry Management

Moreton Cullimore, managing director of The Cullimore Group, lends his thoughts on current urban regulations and the impact they may or may not be having on the environment, as well as the pressures they put on small businesses

Transport is a thriving industry with heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) being a constant sight on any motorway, transporting everything from household goods and food to aggregates such as sand and gravel. However, for haulage businesses, a growing strain is being put on overheads as they have to continuously keep their fleets updated to comply with the latest emissions regulations. 

Urban regulations are quite often talked about within the environmental community, and every few years new plans are implemented to try to reduce the impact emissions are having on the environment. It is, however, becoming increasingly difficult for companies that buy their vehicles outright (the more cost-effective option) to maintain them and not be forced into constant vehicle turnover, which in turn further harms the environment. 

Old vehicles that are deemed non-compliant with environmental standards are often exported to other countries, which just moves vehicle waste around, begging the question, what are we actually achieving? When trucks are exported it simply only moves the problem elsewhere. Additionally, having to update to the newest version of a vehicle is costly and small businesses are hit the hardest as trucks tend to come with a £120,000 price tag. 

The Cullimore Group have been around for more than 90 years and we have seen many changes within the transport industry and recognize the positive impact they can have on the environment. It seems, however, that by imposing stricter regulations we are in danger of going backwards rather than forwards in the fight against pollution and climate change.

To understand the impact vehicle regulations have on the environment and industry, we need consider ULEZ (ultra-low emission zone) and CAZ (clean air zone); two of the most recent regulations that are being talked about. These aim to create low-emission zones in an attempt to reduce the amount of pollution in the air we breathe. The Government has called on fleet operators to upgrade their vehicles to Euro 6 standard, which, it hopes, will cut down on exhaust NOx and PM emissions.

In order to do so, truck operators need to have a new technology fitted into their existing vehicles, allowing for AdBlue to be sprayed into the exhaust gasses, suppressing the noxious elements and making them stick to a filter. This filter, however, needs to be replaced frequently and has an additional cost alongside the rising price of fuel. Furthermore, the added technology needed to make the vehicle compliant adds extra weight to the vehicle. With no change in weight restrictions, this has led to less cargo carrying capacity, which has the knock-on effect of more emissions being dispersed.

Cutting down on NOx and PM is a noble cause, however these primarily affect the air we breathe and, therefore, by focusing on these, the Government fails to address the wider issue of climate change and specifically CO2 wreaking havoc on our planet. Whilst reducing NOx and PM emissions might make the air cleaner, the regulations around it mean that, in practice, more trips are needed to transport the same amount of goods. For example, when a customer orders
2,000 tonnes of construction material such as sand or gravel, more trips are needed than was the case for the same volume five or six years ago. On previous-model Euro 5-standard vehicles, these materials were delivered in 100 trips. But with new regulations, that same order now has to be done in 108 trips, meaning the work is contributing more CO2 into the environment.

At The Cullimore Group we are by no means dismissive of the environmental issues that need to be addressed, nor do we shy away from our responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint. However, if we want to make an impact on climate change, we also need to make an impact on CO2, but no one in our industry or politics is talking about what we are doing with CO2 emissions from trucks.

Electric trucks have been proposed as an alternative that would eliminate emissions, but they are far from perfect. The batteries do not last long enough to support the workload of the trucks and they also contain lithium and mercury, which are highly poisonous and emit some pollutants themselves. So, while electric trucks may be the way of the future, they are not a viable option today.

Whilst regulations must clearly be respected, the onus of tackling the issue of CO2 is seemingly being left at the doorstep of private businesses. Businesses will have to find their own ways to reduce their carbon footprint.  

At The Cullimore Group, we always try to stay one step ahead when it comes to our carbon footprint and the impact we are having on the environment. This involves a delicate balancing act of reducing wasteful miles while moving the maximum amount of goods with the smallest pollutive footprint possible. Within my role as managing director, if I have the opportunity to run things in such a way as to reduce our carbon footprint, then I make sure we take it. I take great pride in training my drivers to operate the vehicles safely and fuel-efficiently. Doing so takes various forms but being proactive in managing and scheduling our vehicles as efficiently as possible while taking the most fuel-efficient routes is helping greatly to reduce our carbon footprint. 

Taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint will not solve the issue of climate change and pollution on its own, but it is a start. Ultimately, if the transport and haulage industry works to lower our carbon footprint while adhering to ever-tougher environmental vehicle regulations, we may see some substantial progress made in the fight against climate change.

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