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Review of the year in road transport: 2021

16 December 2021 #Features & Interviews #TNB News #Uncategorised

This year has been an impactful one for road transport with many announcements affecting the industry related to issues including Brexit, decarbonisation and driver training.

We look back at some of the key moments in our 2021 review of the year, in a year of momentous developments.

At the start of this year, SMMT welcomed the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation agreement (TCA), ensuring all automotive companies will benefit from continued tariff-free trade with the country’s largest market.

Although there is extra paperwork for goods shipped across the UK-EU border, SMMT believes the TCA provides a platform for future trade, given the deeply integrated and frequent movement of parts, components and completed vehicles across European borders.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The TCA provides the opportunity for tariff and quota-free trade, foundations on which the industry can build.

“Further ahead, we must pursue the wider trade opportunities that Brexit is supposed to deliver while accelerating the UK’s transition to electrified vehicle manufacturing.”

Related to Brexit, 2021 saw the introduction of separate vehicle type approval provisions in the UK for Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a result of the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Type approval guidance is aimed at manufacturers or importers wishing to sell vehicles, and/or systems and components into Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Under these terms, Northern Ireland remains subject to EU type approval regulations, and the approvals will be known as UK(NI) to distinguish them from EU member States’ approvals.

The UK type approval regulations cover both Great Britain and Northern Ireland but apply differently in each.

As well as the UK’s 2030 phase out for petrol and diesel cars and vans, all new HGVs sold in the UK will be zero emission by 2040.

The UK has also committed to phasing out new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035.

However, SMMT believes the country urgently needs a dedicated public HGV charging network, as only operators who can afford to invest in expensive depot infrastructure and operate on a back to base model can currently make the switch.

There is currently no clear technology that can provide full zero emission operations for all weights and uses of HGVs, and government must work with industry to develop a plan that facilitates the transition to these vehicles.

In 2020, just 0.2% of HGVs were alternatively fuelled, in contrast with cars, which reached this proportion in 2007.

Battery electric van usage, meanwhile, reached 0.3% in 2020 – the same proportion as cars in 2019 – with LCVs facing fewer obstacles in the decarbonisation journey than HGVs.

It is estimated that by 2030, the UK will need 8,200 public HGV charging points, equivalent to more than two new charge points opening every single day until the end of the decade.

In addition there are currently only a handful of hydrogen refuelling locations across the country.

SMMT also says the industry needs better EV skills training, as well as a stable, long-term regulatory and fiscal strategy to deliver a vibrant zero emission HGV market.

Hawes said: “The industry is committed to be fossil fuel free, but there is not yet a clear technology path for every weight class and every use case.

“Before it sets a deadline for the sector, the government must support the technological development and market proposition and provide the right framework, so hauliers don’t defer their decarbonising decision to the last minute.”

In March, the government announced an investment of £3 billion in England’s bus network, with the aim of providing more frequent and cheaper services, hundreds of miles of new bus lanes, contactless payments on all buses, and more evening and weekend services.

The Zero Emission Buses Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme was also launched in the UK, with up to £270 million in funding in the financial year 2021 to 2022 to help local transport authorities outside London introduce zero-emission buses and the infrastructure needed to support them.

In October, funding worth almost £71 million was awarded to the first five LTAs selected under the fast-track process to support up to 335 zero emission buses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; Kent; Leicester; Milton Keynes and Warrington.

Nevertheless, it has been a challenging year for the bus sector, with registrations down some 10.2% year to date.

The government announced a review in November into the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) for HGV and bus drivers, who are currently required to undergo five days of periodic training every five years.

Currently some drivers have to pay for the training themselves and are not paid while attending their training course, putting off many who have left the profession from returning.

The review will look at how the process can reduce the burden on both returning and new drivers and ensure it does not act as a barrier to working in the sector.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We’re listening to industry leaders who have told us about the issues HGV drivers face with CPC arrangements.

“No driver should be out of pocket or out of work through no fault of their own.”

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is central to Transport for London’s (TfL) plan to clean up the capital’s air and vans driving in the zone must meet tight emission standards or pay the daily charge.

In October, the ULEZ expanded from central London up to – but not including – the North Circular and South Circular roads.

The new zone, which is in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round (except Christmas Day), is 18 times the size of the central London zone and covers 3.8 million people.

Vans have continued to be in high demand this year boosted by the continued growth in the home delivery market, in the self-employed workforce, as well as services and utilities.

November 2021 saw the best-ever November for new van registrations, despite market volatility, with 31,320 new LCV registrations – 11.4% up on the pre-pandemic average.

However, while demand remains high, the sector is impacted by the global semiconductor shortage which has throttled production, and is expected to continue during 2022.

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