Leeds City Council is consulting on plans for a controversial new clean air zone (CAZ) in the city centre, with the Freight Transport Association (FTA) calling on fleets in West Yorkshire to speak out against the plans or face a surge in operating costs.

The FTA insisted that the sheer scope of the CAZ across Leeds city centre was more significant than most local fleets anticipated and that they must make their concerns heard to the council to keep costs and disruption to an absolute minimum.

Leeds is one of five cities across England which were told to implement a new CAZ as part of the UK government’s plans to improve urban air quality. Consequently, Leeds City Council has issued a draft consultation on proposals for the city’s scheme. The current proposals state that trucks and buses which do not meet Euro 6 emissions standards will have to pay £100 daily charges to operate within the CAZ.

The FTA fears that, whatever the outcome of the agreed CAZ scheme, many fleets operating across West Yorkshire are in danger of being hit with sizeable extra operating costs. These charges could potentially be passed on to local consumers or push fleets into worrying financial troubles.

Malcolm Bingham, head of policy for the north of England, FTA, insists freight and logistics firms must now make some difficult decisions.

“The plans announced for the Leeds Clean Air Zone are much more extensive than anticipated, and will come as a shock to many West Yorkshire businesses.

“Whether companies operate a single van or a large fleet of trucks, they must establish how they will be affected by these proposals and send their comments to Leeds City Council. This is the last chance to have an impact on the final scheme.

“Most transport companies operating in Leeds will choose either to pay the new charge, or purchase compliant vehicles.

“Either option will mean a significant extra business cost with little or no time to phase it into business planning – those with new, non-compliant vehicles will be forced to write them off.

“Operators will have no choice but to absorb the extra expense or pass it on to their customers. Some firms will sadly decide it’s simply not worthwhile to continue serving residents and businesses within the Clean Air Zone.

“In the end, it will be local residents, as customers or employees, who will pay the price for this plan.”