BVRLA's Andrea McMahon writes for GreenFleet Magazine
With the UK Government devolving responsibility to the regions to tackle air quality, it now falls to local authorities to find a solution that doesn’t adversely impact residents, small businesses and local economies.
Having set out ambitions to see the complete decarbonisation of road transport by 2040, government has tasked local authorities with the challenge of reducing nitrogen dioxide in our most polluting towns and cities.
The BVRLA and its members have been engaging for some time with local and national policymakers to set out the role that BVRLA members can play in delivering the benefits promised by new mobility technologies and business models.
In London, where the pollution and congestion problems are so visible, and its public transport provision so excellent, it has been possible to introduce a congestion charging zone with relatively little backlash. However, in other UK cities charging zones are politically much more difficult and are only being considered as a last resort.
New technological innovations are guiding solutions, with emerging modes of transport like electric vans and e-cargo bikes having the potential to transform the way goods are delivered.
The advent of the sharing economy has also opened up new ideas and a culture has evolved where people are increasingly expecting to be able to plan, book and pay for transport on their smart phone.
This ‘pay-as-you-go’ approach is increasingly part of the fabric of life in the UK. From streamlining services to gym membership and transportation, people are increasingly using a service-based model for meeting their needs.
It is this combination of culture change and technological advancement that provides the backdrop for the BVRLA’s Mobility Credits Scrappage Scheme proposal. It makes the case for a nationally funded, locally targeted vehicle scrappage scheme that provides Mobility Credits to those getting rid of older, more polluting vehicle.
Mobility Credits would be spent on more sustainable ‘pay-as-you-go’ private and public transport modes, including car and bike hire, car clubs, trams, buses and trains, reducing emissions and advancing the shift away from vehicle ownership to usership.
A scheme like this is mostly suited to an urban area that has strong transport links and is under pressure to introduce measures to improve air quality. The infrastructure would need to be in place to enable people to fulfil all their transport needs without using their own private vehicle.
A Mobility Credits scheme can be used in conjunction with new technologies such as integrated Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platforms to incentivise more sustainable journeys involving public, shared and active transport.
The benefits for local authorities are clear. By incentivising long-term behaviour change, a scheme like this would limit congestion, reduce roadside air pollution and would encourage individuals to embrace efficient, healthier and more sustainable forms of transport.
Additional benefits would also be felt amongst local residents and business owners, who would face increasing costs if an alternative solution like Clean Air Zones were to be put in place.
We know that by nudging behaviour change, we can derive long-term benefits. This can be demonstrated by the introduction of car clubs, which have reported findings to suggest that their members have directly contributed towards reducing the number of privately-owned cars on the road.
A Mobility Credits scheme that utilises not only car clubs, but a range of other modes of shared transport would multiply the number of journeys available and have a huge impact on driving behaviour change.
In October 2018, Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street announced that the region is to become the UK’s first Future Mobility city with £20m being invested to enable Transport West Midlands to work with companies to trial and demonstrate new modes of transport, services and technology. This will include investment in mobility as a service, car sharing, electric bikes and using data to tackle congestion.
Welcoming West Midlands Mayor Andy Street’s announcement, BVRLA Chief Executive, Gerry Keaney said: “The fleet sector is determined to play a lead role in tackling air pollution and this announcement, which must be the start of a wider transition in urban transport, has the potential to dramatically improve the sustainability of road transport in the West Midlands.
“We look forward to collaborating with authorities and government to deliver solutions that ensure customer safety and provide a fair and level playing field for service providers who will rely on having equal rights to access data. Protecting consumers and businesses must remain at the heart of this evolution.”
The BVRLA believes that the scope of a Mobility Credits scheme can go far beyond local authorities giving credits to residents scrapping older, more polluting vehicles. It could also be deployed as an effective method for businesses to give employees credits to help reduce their business grey fleet.
Unlike a diesel scrappage scheme, which continues to promote vehicle ownership by incentivising the purchase of lower-emission vehicles, Mobility Credits really takes advantage of our changing cultural behaviours and advances in technology to derive much longer-term societal and environmental benefits.