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SMEs warned over cost of high-emission vehicles

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A UK fleet management company has highlighted the major changes ahead for some fleets after research revealed nearly on quarter of vehicles operated by its customers fail to meet the latest emissions standards.

Without updating the fleet, many vehicles could be affected by higher taxes or Low Emission Zone restrictions when they are eventually introduced, after legislation to postpone their launch because of the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted.

FleetCheck found that 23.5% of customer vehicles failed to meet Euro 6 emissions standards, which have been set as the benchmark for toll-free access to areas including Birmingham, the UK’s second biggest city.

Analysis by FleetCheck found that 5.3% of company cars and vans operated by its customers only meet the Euro 4 emissions standard or lower, while 18.2% of vehicles from the total sample of 85,792 only achieve Euro 5.

The replacement cost for companies to update the 20,000 affected vehicles could reach £500 million, based on typical vehicle replacement costs, particularly if fleets shift to zero-emission capable vehicles.

Peter Golding (pictured), managing director at FleetCheck, said: “We compiled these figures to illustrate the disparity that currently exists across fleets when it comes to emissions. While at one extreme, some are actively working to achieve zero emissions, at the other, we can see that almost a quarter of all the vehicles our customers operate are Euro 5 or older.

“Because there is a strong SME bias in our customer base and these businesses tend to hang on to cars and vans for longer than corporates, they are probably worse than the fleet parc as a whole. However, they remain an indication of how far the industry will have to travel to achieve the kind of low or zero emissions performance we’d all like to see.”

Most of the oldest and most polluting vehicles in the analysis appeared to be diesel vans, many of which were operated on a spare or pool vehicle basis.

Golding said: “There is a strong argument that these vehicles shouldn’t be on the road at all, given their poor emissions.

“More could be done to persuade fleets to stop operating these vehicles. That might mean disincentives using measures such as Vehicle Excise Duty or it could mean incentives such as wider use of scrappage schemes.

“On a simpler level, the economics behind the ongoing operation of these older vans are often highly questionable, and getting this message across to businesses is also something that we perhaps should be communicating more widely as an industry.”

Alongside the release of this new research, FleetCheck has also implemented a COVID-19 declaration that all of its customers’ drivers will take as part of the ‘fit-to-drive declaration’ included in the company’s Vehicle Inspection App.

The new coronavirus-based declaration provides a simple reminder for drivers of the symptoms they are likely to be experiencing if infected.

First introduced in 2017, the app enables drivers and fleet managers to schedule, carry out, confirm, follow-up and audit all legally-required inspections. Earlier this year, a new version was released called FleetCheck Driver that offers a simplified solution for fleets with no risk management measures in place.

Golding added: “In one week, 170,000 checks were undertaken using the app, so it is no exaggeration to say that the fit-to-drive declaration could help to play a useful part in stopping the spread of the virus.”