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HomeLegal UpdatesWhat is the ULEZ?

What is the ULEZ?

Since 8 April 2019, there has been a charge to drive within areas of central London known as the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Its purpose is to improve air quality.
In order to help further improve the quality of the air in London, the ULEZ has expanded across all of the London boroughs as of 29 August 2023.

Transport for London (TfL) contends that road traffic is the single biggest contributor of nitrogen dioxide.

Most vehicles are exempt, but if a vehicle does not meet the ULEZ emission standard, there is a daily charge of £12.50 (most vehicles) or £100 (goods and other vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and buses or coaches over five tonnes) to enter the Zone.

The ULEZ:
• affects all vehicles
• operates all day, every day of the year, except Christmas Day
• does not replace the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) that covers most of Greater London and is operational 24 hours day, every day of the year
• is in addition to any £11.50 Congestion Charge (that operates 0700 to 1800 hours Monday to Friday)
• imposes penalty charges of £160 for non-compliant cars/small vehicles and £1,000 for large vehicles (£80 and £500 if paid within 14 days).

Transport for London states: “Londoners are developing life-changing illnesses such as cancer, asthma and lung disease, and there is a higher risk of dementia in older people. Air pollution even contributes to the premature death of thousands of Londoners every year. It’s not just a central London problem. In fact, the greatest number of deaths related to air pollution occur in outer London areas. That’s why the ULEZ has expanded across all London boroughs.”

Vehicle standards and ULEZ emissions standards

The TfL state that currently, nine out of 10 cars already driving in outer London already meet the ULEZ emissions standards.

Cars: the minimum emission standard is Euro 4 for petrol vehicles (generally ones first registered with DVLA after 2005) and Euro 6 for diesel vehicles (generally ones first registered with DVLA after September 2015). So drivers of diesel cars will be particularly affected, unless they have a car of less than about four years old.

Vans, minibuses etc: the same emission standards apply. All new diesel vans sold w.e.f. September 2016 should meet Euro 6 standard, and all petrol vans registered at DVLA w.e.f. January 2006 should meet Euro 4.

Larger vehicles (i.e. goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and buses/coaches with more than eight passenger seats over five tonnes gvw): Euro VI standard has to be met – these are normally ones registered at DVLA after 2014.

Motorcycles, mopeds etc: these must meet Euro 3 standards (normally registered after July 2007.

You can check if your vehicle meets the standards online at https://www.tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle-35896

Discounts and exemptions: Some drivers and vehicles qualify for at least a temporary 100% discount from the Ultra Low Emission Zone charge (ULEZ). Others are entirely exempt.

More information can be found at https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/discounts-and-exemptions

There is also a scrappage scheme to assist those with vehicles that do not comply to dispose of their vehicle and, if they wish, use these funds to purchase a compliant vehicle.

Specialist Vehicles/HGV’s
In certain specialist business sectors there are modified and purpose-adapted vehicles that do not have ULEZ-exempt engines, but can only be rebuilt/adapted on the bodies of ULEZ-exempt vehicles at huge cost. Modification costs may be unaffordable such that these vehicles must bear constant daily charges. At the same time, there are exemptions to ULEZ charges that include showman’s vehicles which are something of an anachronism but are entirely exempt. In reality, the ULEZ system is geared up to straightforward cars, vans and lorries etc. – not high cost specialist vehicles.

Personalised Number Plate
Another area where difficulties have been encountered is sometimes in the recognition of vehicles being exempt, where they bear a personalised number plate. Goods operators often buy such plates for their fleet. However, it is vital that the plates and the vehicles align and that penalties are not raised in error. A vehicle that is ULEZ-exempt with personalised plates may trigger penalties that need to be contested and reversed.

Leased Vehicles
It will often be the case that the vehicles that incur penalty charges are not being used by the lease company, but rather, the hirer. In order for the leasing/hire company to avoid charges, there must be a proper leasing agreement in place that covers a specific list of criteria (all of which must be fulfilled), for the hirer to be regarded as the user of the vehicle when the ULEZ charge becomes payable. Where vehicles are also lent or hired on a short term basis between any parties, this is an area that needs to be watched, if the vehicle is entering the ULEZ zone and is not for any reason exempt.

Ashtons Legal advice and representation
If you require any advice with regard to Goods and Passenger Operator Licencing, including advice concerning DVSA Investigations, correspondence with the Office of The Traffic Commissioner or Traffic Commissioner Preliminary Hearing/Public Inquiry work, then please get in touch.

Contact: Tim Ridyard, Partner Transport and Regulatory T: 01284 732111

E: Tim.Ridyard@ashtonslegal.co.uk

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