As the operation of the toxic air charge gets underway in London, clean air experts at Dearman have warned that poorer drivers will feel they are being penalised while government continues to subsidise cheap diesel.
The £10 a day applies to vehicles whose main engines do not meet the Euro IV emission standard, i.e. mostly vehicles registered before 2006. Coming in addition to the congestion charge which covers the same area, the 34,000 motorists affected will now have to pay £21.50 a day to drive their vehicle.
However, many refrigerated delivery trucks use two diesel engines. The main engine propelling the truck is subject to the Euro emission standards, but the second engine, keeping the back compartment cold, is subject to significantly weaker regulation.
Because the second engine is classed as Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM), although it is used on roads only, it is eligible to use red diesel. Fuel duty and VAT on red diesel is significantly lower, therefore almost halving the price of diesel that the second engine can use.
The weaker regulation allows the second engine to emit six times as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 29 times as much Particulate Matter (PM) as the main engine of a Euro VI HGV.
The combination of weak regulation and cheaper diesel means government is effectively subsidising air pollution- leaving many drivers asking why they are having to pay £21.50 a day.
Dearman is calling on ministers to end the red diesel subsidy and encourage fleet operators using secondary engines to upgrade to zero-emission equivalents.
Commenting, Commercial Director David Sanders said:
“Many drivers having to pay £21.50 a day or spend money upgrading their vehicles will wonder why government is allowing cheap diesel for highly polluting second engines. This will look to many motorists like government is subsidising air pollution while hitting drivers. Ministers must end their red diesel subsidy for secondary engines and this would encourage a much-needed switch to available and affordable zero emission alternatives.”