Call for CAZ clarity as new trucks arrive at Oldham firm

HPP driver Ian Roberts with one of new vehicles

A director at a leading Oldham-based kitchen and bedroom manufacturer and supplier has called for greater clarity over the future of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone (CAZ), which was put on hold earlier this year.

Andy Evans, a director at Hill’s Panel Products (HPP), was speaking as the firm took delivery of two new HGVs, with four more to follow in early 2023 – each with a price tag of more than £100,000.

He said: “What prompted us to start looking at new vehicles in the first place was the clean air zone.

“We typically renew two vehicles a year, but we decided to upgrade more to avoid exposure to the risk of being charged for non-compliant vehicles.

“But getting an update on the clean air zone status every few months doesn’t help us, and I’m sure it’s just the same for other businesses, large and small.

“I understand times change, and decisions change with them, but it would be much better for everyone if we were given a clear timeframe so we could make clear, time-based decisions.

“Even though the clean air zone is on hold, we’ve decided to go ahead and replace six of our vehicles because we’re taking responsibility for the air quality in the environment, but you do wonder whether you’ve made the right decision, and whether the money might have been better spent elsewhere in the current economic climate.”

HPP estimates the original CAZ would have cost the business almost £80,000 per year in clean air charges if it did not tackle the compliance status of its 20-strong HGV fleet.

The new vehicles – 18-ton capacity, twin-axle, curtain-sided Scanias – have gone straight into service and will primarily deliver to areas where clean air zones are already in operation.

All the new vehicles are Euro6 compliant, meaning they can enter a clean air zone without incurring a charge.

The Greater Manchester CAZ was originally scheduled to launch in May, operating seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Charges were due to be based on vehicles meeting certain emission standards – Euro6 or better for diesel engines, and Euro4 or better for petrol.

Non-compliant coaches and HGVs were due to be charged £60 to enter the zone, and taxis and private hire vehicles £7.50, with a temporary exemption for Greater Manchester-licensed vehicles until May 31, 2023.

However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, announced they would look again at how best to improve air quality in the region, with a promise of an update by July of this year, according the Clean Air Greater Manchester website, which is showing no sign of an update.

The delivery of the two new HGVs, and those of the other four, are indicative of further problems for businesses.

HPP Transport Co-ordinator Andy Moores said: “The four new vehicles expected next year are due in February, but supply has got more difficult because of the shortage of chipsets, which are typically used within the vehicles, so that’s been another consideration for us.”

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