Ban new diesel HGV sales by 2040 to help make UK freight carbon free

Published: 16 Apr 2019


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Blurred close-up image of an HGV

Ministers should ban the sale of new diesel HGV lorries by no later than 2040, a new report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) says today.

The development of hydrogen and battery HGVs is already well advanced and vehicles are expected to be commercially available in the early 2020s.

Sir John Armitt, the Commission chairman, said the move was necessary to provide the freight industry with the certainty it needs to invest in new, green technologies and prepare for an environmentally friendly future.

The ban on new sales of diesel HGVs should also be part of wider efforts to support the entire road and rail freight industry to become carbon-free by 2050, and also to help ease worsening congestion.

Measures should include the government setting a clear framework for freight at all levels of the UK’s planning system to ensure the needs of the sector are considered in land use, local plans and new developments.

The UK freight industry is one of the most efficient and competitive in the world, using air, sea, road and rail to maximise its effectiveness in the face of capacity and technical constraints. In 2016, the road and rail freight industry moved 1.4 billion tonnes of goods.

But with the increase in same day delivery services, just-in-time manufacturing processes and internet shopping, demand on the sector is set to grow.

Over the next 30 years heavy freight transport in the UK is expected to increase by at least 27 per cent – and could rise by as much as 45 per cent. And the number of miles covered by vans delivering goods could increase by as much as 89 per cent over the same period.

Transforming freight

Freight on road and rail produces around six per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions today. But if no action is taken the sector could be responsible for around a fifth of all allowed emissions by 2050.

With the industry facing high levels of competition and tight profit margins, today’s report suggests that planning well in advance can reduce the cost of transition. But without government action, it warns the problems of congestion and emissions are likely to worsen.

It recommends that Ministers should set out within the next two years how they plan to ban all sales of new petrol and diesel HGVs by 2040 and begin preparing the nation’s infrastructure for this transition.

Worsening congestion is harming the economy. So it is important that the needs of freight and its value to the economy are also fully recognised at a much earlier stage in the UK’s planning system, especially in and around cities. Only then will the best solutions to ease congestion and promote efficiency be agreed and implemented.

The report emphasises there needs to be better coordination between government, planning authorities and the freight industry. It recommends the creation of a new Freight Leadership Council to bring all parties together to solve future challenges with an integrated strategy.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said:

“Whether it’s retailers, manufacturers or each of us as consumers, we all rely heavily on our freight industry. As one of the most efficient in the world, it rarely fails to deliver.

“But we are paying the price for this miracle of modern service through the impact on our environment and air quality, and through congestion on our roads. Government must act to help businesses tackle these issues.

“Today’s report says we need to set out bold plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel HGVs, bring emissions from freight on both road and rail to zero and give the industry greater visibility in Whitehall and town halls.”

Commissioner Bridget Rosewell OBE said:

“Heavy goods traffic on our roads could increase sharply over the coming decades, and distances covered by light goods vehicles like vans could come close to doubling.

“Clear, decisive action – including a ban on new diesel HGV sales and tackling emissions from rail freight – is needed now if we’re to have a zero carbon freight industry by 2050, which could help us to meet our stretching climate change targets.”

Commissioner Andy Green said:

“Unless the government commits now to working with the industry, the impact of freight on congestion and carbon emissions will only increase, damaging the quality of life of communities up and down the country.

“Freight can no longer be a mere afterthought, but must be factored into long term transport plans, with a coordinated approach across government departments to ensure it doesn’t slip through the cracks.”

“That’s why we’re recommending city authorities should also incorporate freight as part of their long term infrastructure strategies, alongside transport, jobs and new homes.”

Commission recommendations on freight

The National Infrastructure Commission was established in 2015 to offer independent and impartial advice to government on meeting the country’s long term infrastructure needs.

In November 2017, Chancellor Philip Hammond charged the Commission with examining the future of the freight industry, and to identify how government can help companies get their goods to the front door or factory gate faster and more efficiently.

Better Delivery: the challenge for freight highlights the need for the government to prepare detailed assessments of the infrastructure needed to enable the uptake of battery electric or hydrogen lorries, and for the energy regulator Ofgem to work with the freight industry to enable charging at depots by 2025 – all to support the ban of petrol and diesel HGVs by no later than 2040.

Clear long term targets will enable the industry to manage the transition to cleaner fuels and vehicles and take advantage of the opportunities for increased efficiency and reduced costs from new low-carbon technologies.

The Commission also calls on the government to publish by the end of 2021 a full strategy for eliminating carbon emissions from rail freight by 2050, specifying the investments and subsidies that it will provide to get there.

The National Infrastructure Commission also proposes that:

  • The government introduce new planning guidance for local authorities by 2020 so they can incorporate effective policies and schemes for freight as part of their Local Plans and Local Transport Plans – including the provision of land or floorspace for storage and distribution activities, and to maximise potential for freight trips to be made at off-peak times;
  • City authorities should incorporate plans for freight as part of their long term infrastructure strategies, covering transport, employment opportunities and new homes. Many authorities are already working alongside the Commission to put in place recommendations from the UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment; and
  • The government should develop a framework for minimum standards of freight data collection, to help support the development of the freight policies that form part of these long term infrastructure plans.

Today’s report also calls for a coordinated approach between government and industry through a new Freight Leadership Council, meeting bi-annually and bringing together representatives from all freight transport types and parts of the supply chain, as well as from the Department for Transport, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Notes to Editors:

  • Plans for the freight study were announced in the 2017 Budget by Chancellor Philip Hammond. The terms of reference can be found here.

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