Step on the gas to beat LEZ deadline

The next phases of London's Low Emission Zone are less than seven months away. Mike Galey argues that specialist vehicle operators should act now to avoid paying the price of non-compliance

Transport for London (TfL) is tightening the emission standards and widening the scope of the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) with the new phase 3 and 4 restrictions coming into force on 3 January 2012.

TfL estimates that 145,000 vehicles will fail to comply with the new restrictions, and in the current economic climate, are expecting more than 20,000 to take the retrofit compliance option.

With so many vehicles requiring retrofit technology, there are fears within the industry that those operators who leave it too long will be caught in a last minute rush to comply and potentially miss the deadline.

The first waves of the London LEZ took effect back in February 2008 and saw all diesel-engine vehicles over 3.5 tonnes required to meet the Euro 3 emission standard for particulate matter. These earlier phases of the London LEZ only affected a small proportion of vehicles. However, the next stage will impact significantly on a greater number of vehicles.

Phases 3 and 4 of the London LEZ come into force in January. Phase 3 will extend the range of vehicles affected to include minibuses and vehicles from 1.2 tonnes, and phase 4 will set a tougher standard of Euro 4 for particulate matter for buses, coaches, trucks and specialist vehicles over 3.5 tonnes - including road sweepers and refuse collection vehicles.

Specialist vehicles over 3.5 tonnes registered as new before 1 October 2006 and vehicles from 1.2 tonnes up to 3.5 tonnes registered as new before 1 January 2002 will not meet the new restrictions and will need to take action before driving within the London LEZ.

The expected increase in the number of vehicles affected by the new restrictions has heightened the industry's concerns and the need for operators to fully understand the options on the table and act now to avoid paying the price of non-compliance.

The penalties are high. Operators who leave it too late will need to pay a daily charge of £200 for every non-compliant vehicle that has to travel into the LEZ, or face a fine of up to £1,000 for non-payment.

Operators have three options for compliance: invest in new vehicles, pay the daily charge, or retrofit with approved technology. Given the current economic climate, small-to-medium-sized operators often do not see the first two options as financially viable. Retrofitting with approved emissions technology becomes a cost-effective route to compliance for operators who make between 15-30 or more journeys inside the LEZ.

The latest estimate from TfL is that more than 20,000 vehicles will need retrofitting to meet the requirements of phases 3 and 4. With expected demand being so high, operators who don't act soon may face a bottleneck in equipment supply and fitting as the deadline approaches. Eminox argues that operators should ideally be compliant by September latest in order to avoid a final rush.

Many local authority fleet managers operating vehicles affected by the first phases of the LEZ enforcement back in 2008 have benefitted from Eminox's two TfL-approved full filtration retrofit systems - the Eminox CRT (Continuously Regenerating Trap), which is complemented by the FBC (Fuel Borne Catalyst) for smaller vehicles.

Some operators already recognise the need to act promptly. For example, MTS Cleansing Services, which operates a large fleet of road tankers in the South-east, chose the CRT technology to upgrade its specialist liquid waste tankers. MTS has a fleet of 240 road tankers, 38 of which do not meet the phase 4 requirements. In other words, they faced a costly replacement programme.

MTS had fitted Eminox systems in the past and decided the retrofit option with the CRT technology was the most cost-effective solution for its road tankers. The CRTs were fitted at Eminox's new London customer service centre, which was recently opened just outside the LEZ, six miles from Heathrow. MTS are now fully compliant ahead of the 3 January deadline.

The CRT system has been a popular choice for operators affected by phases 1 and 2 of the London LEZ. Both the CRT and FBC systems achieve more than 90% particulate matter reduction while CRT also virtually eliminates hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.

Eminox also provides a comprehensive after-sales support. The filters contained in approved emissions systems need to be maintained in order for vehicles to keep their LEZ approved status. The company offers the next generation of filter servicing using the patented Xpurge cleaning technology and Veritex inspection technology. The technology can deliver 'as new' levels of filter performance with longer service intervals.

Mike Galey is marketing director at Eminox

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