Ban on diesel HGV sales by 2040 deemed unworkable

A proposal by an independent commission to ban the sale of diesel lorries by 2040 has been criticised as unworkable by the industry.

The National Infrastructure Commission on Wednesday said the government should ban the sale of diesel heavy goods vehicles as part of a plan to remove all carbon emissions from freight transportation by 2050.

The commission, which was set up by the government to provide independent advice on the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs, said alternative technologies such as hydrogen or electric power were “already well advanced” and that some vehicles would be available in the early 2020s.

“It is imperative that government provides a clear signal of intent now to give the freight industry time to plan its investments,” the report said, calling for a ban to be announced by 2021.

More than 99 per cent of lorries currently run on diesel because of its fuel efficiency. While the motor industry is developing alternative fuel sources, electrifying heavy goods vehicles is more difficult than passenger cars or smaller delivery vans because they have to carry large loads and travel long distances.

Groups representing truck manufacturers and operators criticised the suggested ban. “This proposal is simply impractical and doesn’t take account of reality,” said Rod McKenzie, policy director of the Road Haulage Association, which represents 6,000 lorry operators in the UK.

He added that diesel lorries typically drive between large depots, while most air pollution from diesel is in congested cities, which can be serviced by smaller vehicles that are easier to electrify.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, an industry body that includes truck makers, said the call for a diesel ban was “high risk” when no viable alternative was yet available.

“Banning one fuel type before a replacement is competitive, or even identified, is high risk and could undermine efforts to encourage replacement,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “The industry is committed to a zero emission future, and is investing heavily in electrified and other technologies to get us there, but while industry can ultimately deliver the technology, it cannot dictate the pace of change nor the levels of market demand.”

The government is already planning to phase out the sale of cars and vans that do not use hybrid or electric technology by 2040.

In its “Road to Zero” strategy published last year, which included the 2040 ambition, the government said its “long-term goal is the development and deployment of zero emission HGVs” but admitted that “the pathway to achieving this is not as clear as for cars and vans”.

The government has brought in incentives to lorry owners to switch to vehicles with the latest engines, offering a 10 per cent reduction on the HGV Road User Levy.

A government spokesman said: “We are taking action now to incentivise freight companies to move to cleaner HGV fleets, including through investment in research and development for greener vehicles and by introducing higher charges for the dirtiest lorries using our roads.

“Tackling the issue of pollution and investing in green technologies is a priority, which is why we have a £3.5bn plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.”


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