Running out of time

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Manufacturing almost always happens behind closed doors in factories: trade and commerce happens discreetly in offices. But often logistics operations happen out on the open road in full view of the public.

As a result, it comes under a level of scrutiny that few other activities have to endure, and is an easy target for politicians seeking to pick up a few cheap votes. The thought is prompted by Ken Livingstone’s plan for a “low emission zone” for London.

This is going to cost about £130 million to set up and run, according to Transport for London. Under the scheme, trucks entering the zone will, from 2008, have to meet Euro 3 emission standards otherwise they will have to pay £200 a day to enter the city. From 2010 the Euro 4 standard will apply. This comes on top of the London night time lorry ban and the congestion charge. The consultation for the LEZ goes on until 24 April. The basic consultation document is very short of detail on exactly how much of an improvement in air quality this scheme will provide.

In practice, of course, this latest wheeze will have little initial effect on major operators – most of which have fairly short vehicle replacement cycles and consequently will be fully Euro 3 compliant by 2008. The Euro 4 deadline could be more of a problem – many operators will have Euro 3 trucks that are scarcely four years old by 2010.

This is now a significant consideration as introduction of the Euro 4 standard takes place in October. Operators are now having to make decisions about whether they bring forward purchasing plans to stay with Euro 3 as long as possible. This seems likely to be the cheapest option. It also postpones having to make decisions about which of the two Euro 4 technologies to adopt.

As we report in this issue (page 31), time is running out to make these decisions. Many commercial vehicle manufacturers will only take orders for Euro 3 vehicles for another couple of months or so because of the need to move over to Euro 4 production.

And there is concern that some operators, at least, might be too focused on the digital tachograph introduction in May to appreciate the situation. If you haven’t got your plans in place, time is not on your side.

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