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Driving through London? meet the low emission zone

22 February 2008

This month London introduced the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) to the UK. Within this zone (which comprises the majority of the area within the M25 ring road), vehicles which do not meet Londons emission standards will be charged a fee. The fee is currently set at £200 per day for large vehicles. TfL says it estimates that approximately 12,000 relevant vehicles inside the zone were non-compliant in the six months of monitoring in 2007.

Currently the only vehicles which are affected are lorries over 12 tonnes. However from 7 July this will be expanded to vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and to buses and coaches. The scheme is planned to expand again in 2010 and again in 2012.

All such vehicles must pay the LEZ charge when passing through London, unless they are compliant with the relevant European standard for emissions. Currently vehicles over 12 tonnes which travel through London are required to be Euro 3 compliant. This standard is set to be increased in 2012. Vehicles can be made exempt by obtaining a Reduced Pollution Certificate. Alternatively, vehicles on TfLs "eligible engines" list may pass a smoke test and receive this certificate. If your vehicles adopted the Euro 3 standard before October 2001, you may need to register your vehicles with TfL in order to avoid the charge.

The LEZ is to be enforced in a similar way to the congestion charge, through the use of cameras which record the vehicle registration numbers passing their checkpoint. TfL will compare these details to its records, obtained from the DVLA and VOSA, to check if the vehicle is noted as being compliant. If it is not, and it has not paid the charge, then a penalty charge notice, of up to £1,000 for larger vehicles, will be issued.

We recommend that businesses not only ensure that their vehicles are compliant with European standards and have the relevant eligibility documentation, but they also ensure that TfL have properly recorded that compliance. Some readers will still remember the legacy of the erratic enforcement procedures adopted by TfL for the so called "London Lorry Ban". It is important not only to comply, but to ensure that you get full credit for that compliance. Whilst, inevitably large fleet operators are likely, with the best will in the world, to sometimes fall foul of the enforcement system, if you receive penalties which are inconsistent with your own records, then do not hesitate to challenge TfL to properly establish its case.

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