Supply chain · 17 May 2016

London mayor’s air quality plans could spell disaster for white van men

White Van
There are over 200,000 commercial vans on the streets of the UK capital / Photo: Sven Storbeck

A proposed increase in the London congestion charge levied on those driving in the centre of the city will increase the cost of doing business in the capital and could destroy its smallest businesses, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA) – a body representing the UK’s transport industry.

Sadiq Khan’s new air quality plans – unveiled on 13 May – are the first policy announcement he has made since his election on 5 May. They include an additional levy on vehicles with the poorest emissions and extending the zone covered by the charge to the north and south circular roads.

“These disruptive proposals will at best only accelerate the situation that is likely in a few years from now. They will put businesses at risk, and add massive costs to all – especially to those who need the services that vans provide,” said the FTA’s head of regional and national policy, Christopher Snelling.

“Freight operators and the service industry could find themselves being charged extra for their vehicles before they have had any reasonable chance to upgrade. Many businesses could lose trade first in central London, then the whole of inner London – and for businesses based in the zones involved, the impacts will be even worse.”

Research carried out by the RAC in 2014 found there were over 200,000 commercial vans on the roads of the capital. Nationwide, over twenty per cent are used by those working in the logistics industry. There were almost 300,000 self-employed people working in this sector in 2015 – almost six per cent of the total self-employed population of the UK.

Many of the remainder are vital tools of the trade by the self-employed tradesmen who have grouped together as “white van men” since a radio presenter coined the term in 1997.

“The stereotypical white van man comes in for a lot of bad press but the rapidly rising number of light commercial vehicles on our roads suggests a growing army of hardworking sole traders, delivery men and small businesses on whom the economy depends,” said Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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