Diesel scrappage … Brown’s £60bn long-haul legacy to UK

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The road hauliers association has driven headlong into the battle over the scrappage of diesel vehicles in the UK, saying their giant trucks only do as much damage to air quality as a small family car.

Their claim comes as the Government pledges to pay diesel drivers compensation   under new plans to improve air quality.

The Government has been forced to come up with the measures after losing a legal battle with environmental campaigners.

But road hauliers claim their vehicles are so clean that the scheme should not apply to them in any form.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The report indicates that applying the scrappage scheme to all pre-Euro 6 diesel cars and vans in the UK in 2019 could cost the Government £60bn.

“With the price of a new, Euro-6 HGV costing upwards of £80k, the same scheme cannot realistically, be applied to road haulage operators.”

The scheme could affect eight million cars and two million vans, with grant levels of between £6,000 and £6,500 respectively.

The long-awaited measures also include national clean air zones and charges on drivers of the most polluting vehicles.

But the Automobile Association has warned the Government not to penalize diesel drivers who bought their vehicles in good faith on Government advice.

In 1998, then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said diesel cars should be taxed less than petrol cars as they pollute fewer grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre on average.

Theresa May’s Government tried to oppose publishing its provisional plan before the General Election, amid fears it could affect the outcome of the result on June 8.

But a High Court judge ruled against them and said the action to improve the UK’s air quality was a public health emergency, after it was revealed 64 people were being killed as a result of pollution a day.

However, the RHA says that the DfT is distorting the debate on air quality. Its recent Freight Carbon Review stated that HGVs produce 21% of transport NOx although they account for “only” 5% of vehicle miles. However, this is hugely misleading.

Euro VI trucks now account for 33-40% of HGV miles and, with their ultra-low emissions performance has already slashed NOx outputs from lorries by around 37% since 2014.  That figure is falling month by month, as new vehicles come onto the road. By 2020 the RHA estimates that NOx from lorries will have reduced by 65% from 2014.

“Natural replacement is driving down the pollution impacts of HGVs at a remarkable rate, and that needs to be recognised. These vehicles have proven reliability, they are cost-effective, they do not discriminate between large and smaller firms, and they are delivering to standard,” says RHA policy director Jack Semple.

“By contrast some of the costly investment in alternatives has been hugely wasteful. The £11 million trial of dual fuel, gas/diesel trucks in fact cost nearer £25 million when you include the heavy fuel duty incentive for every mile travelled, and ended up producing more damaging emissions than conventional diesel.”

Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, said: “A new scrappage scheme would be popular with seven in 10 drivers and, we feel, could be part of the solution.

“AA members understand the issue and more than 80% say that improving air quality is important, but it would be grossly unfair to penalise those who bought diesels back in the early 2000s in good faith and with government encouragement.”

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