The decision to bring forward the introduction of the London Ultra Low Emission Zone by 17 months to April 2019 could lead to a short-term increase in the city’s van traffic, according to Fleetcheck.

The fleet software firm warned that delivery businesses could opt to switch heavy loads out of non-compliant HGVs into greater numbers of compliant (Euro 6) vans if they did not have enough compliant larger vehicles at their disposal.

Peter Golding, Fleetcheck boss, explained: “Trucks are operated on much longer replacement cycles than vans, so fleet operators will probably have much larger numbers of compliant vans than trucks available in 2019.”

He argued that the £100 daily charge for an older truck would be a major disincentive, leading operators to transfer loads into Euro 6 vans where possible, resulting in more vehicles entering the ULEZ.

Older, non-compliant vans will be liable for a daily charge of £12.50 – the same as cars and motorcycles.

“Fleets have been planning for the original ULEZ date for years and timing their vehicle replacement accordingly,” said Golding.

“To change that date at relatively short notice is something that has a definite cost, either in terms of replacing vehicles earlier or operational compromises.

 “While sorting out air quality problems in London and elsewhere is undoubtedly crucial, balanced against that is the impact that changing the deadline could have on businesses in terms of jobs and more.”

The ULEZ, which matches the boundaries of the Congestion Charge zone, was originally set to go live in September 2020 under former London Mayor Boris Johnson but his successor Sadiq Khan brought forward the start date.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) warned the early introduction of the ULEZ would hit SMEs particularly hard.

“The ULEZ will now come into effect seventeen months earlier than originally planned and many commercial fleet operators will face a big financial challenge in trying to upgrade their vehicles ahead of schedule,” said chief executive Gerry Keaney.

“Many of these operators will be small and medium sized businesses that rely on buying second-hand vehicles from larger fleets and can’t afford to go and buy a whole new Euro 6 fleet at short notice.”