Government decision disappoints by removing low carbon fuels from derogation

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【Summary】The government's decision to remove low carbon fuels from the derogation is disappointing for the logistics industry. While efforts have been made to decarbonize operations, the heavier weight of alternatively fuelled vehicles affects payload capacity. Initially, a five-year derogation allowed category B license holders to drive such vehicles up to 4.25 tonnes, but now only zero emission vehicles will have this flexibility.

FutureCar Staff    Nov 15, 2023 3:17 PM PT
Government decision disappoints by removing low carbon fuels from derogation

Decarbonisation has become a top priority for the logistics industry in recent years, leading many operators to switch to alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs). While these vehicles offer emissions reductions, they tend to be heavier than conventional vehicles due to the fuels or electric batteries they use.

In the UK, drivers with a category B licence can operate vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes. Any vehicle exceeding this weight is classified as a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) and requires a different licence. As logistics businesses strive to decarbonise their operations by 2050, it is crucial that operators can utilize their fleets without sacrificing payload capacity when using greener vehicles.

To avoid hindering decarbonisation progress, the UK obtained a temporary five-year derogation from the European Commission in 2018. This derogation allowed category B licence holders to drive alternatively fuelled goods vans with a maximum authorized mass (MAM) of 4.25 tonnes. After the UK's departure from the EU, this derogation became permanent.

In 2022, the government conducted a consultation on changes to driving licence flexibility for AFVs. In response, Logistics UK recommended that all AFVs up to 4.25 tonnes should continue to be allowed on a category B licence. They also suggested removing the mandatory five hours of training, which members believed acted as a cost barrier to further AFV adoption. Additionally, Logistics UK recommended that these vehicles should be permitted to tow a trailer with a MAM of up to seven tonnes.

Following the consultation, the Department for Transport (DfT) and Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) announced that only zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) would have access to category B flexibility. The five hours of compulsory classroom training would be eliminated, and ZEVs operating under the derogation would be allowed to tow a trailer up to seven tonnes MAM. Furthermore, the flexibility would be extended to all ZEVs up to 4.25 tonnes, not just those transporting goods, to simplify vehicle allocations for non-goods carrying sectors.

These new regulations require legislation before they can take effect, and the date for the changes is currently unknown. However, it is expected to be within this parliamentary session. While the decision to extend the derogation to all vehicle types and remove the compulsory training requirement is encouraging for the sector, the removal of low carbon fuels is disappointing as it delays immediate greenhouse gas emission reductions for operators that cannot fully transition to electric vehicles until suitable zero emission options are available in the market.

Logistics UK will continue to engage with the government to emphasize the need for a clear strategy on low carbon fuels and fundamental reform of the regulatory weight thresholds. These measures are necessary to support the industry as it undergoes the necessary transitions to meet net zero deadlines.

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