Clean Air in Birmingham: Headache for Drivers?

Birmingham’s officials debate a Clean Air Zone, does this protect businesses or hurt driving professionals?

Getting to grips with the city’s air pollution problem - which costs £2.7bn nationally through lost productivity - is a priority for Birmingham City Council. They plan to have a Clean Air Zone in place by 2020. So, is this bad news for drivers? It doesn’t have to be.

The city’s residents will have a chance to consult on the plans by the end of the summer, and plenty of them will be aware that businesses rely on road traffic to stay open and remain profitable. Deterring courier work because of extra tariffs is damaging for the bottom line. But as many other cities are facing similar targets, the onus is on councils to find a way to retain transport links and keep things moving.

What’s The Plan?

The area inside the A4540 Middleway ring road will form the new Clean Air Zone. This means no extra charges for “clean engines”, but could mean congestion-style charges for:

●        Vans and lorries

●        Private buses, coaches, perhaps even public transport

●        Private hire vehicles like taxis

●        Larger or older cars

Up in the air

Aside from the more obvious financial impacts, pollution in the air of our cities costs the country billions each year in lost productivity from sick days that could have been avoided. And it’s not just days out of work – pollution costs lives, especially in the more vulnerable members of society.

It’s clear that cities – Birmingham included – simply cannot function without a robust haulage network to support and supply its needs. The plan’s main focus is to shift unnecessary traffic away from the inner city: commuters who could be taking public transport, cycling or walking to work, and shoppers who congest the city centre when taking a bus or train would be more environmentally friendly.

What does it mean for the industry?

The ACFO is deeply involved in the consultation process with Birmingham City Council, and as advocates of courier workers large and small, their role is crucial in making sure both business and the community can benefit from these plans.

Whether you’re a fleet manager or a self-employed driver, you’ll know that all the recent developments in the industry have pointed towards greener engines, more sustainable fuelling models, and less impact on local air quality. Early adopters of green freight technologies have a big opportunity to make strides in this new urban landscape, and if they can make it worth couriers’ while to switch, councils and drivers can help each other to thrive.

By 2020, the UK government wants to make cities greener - which will certainly have an impact on the average courier. Work will still be there though, as the cities will always need logistical links; keeping aware of the plans, and thinking about how to make them work for you is the first step to success.

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,300 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships. 

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