The Mayor of London could immediately improve the city’s air quality by offering incentives such as discounted congestion charging to the cleanest freight operators, says the Freight Transport Association.

The FTA says Boris Johnson’s vision of becoming the ultra-low emission vehicle capital of Europe could be more readily achieved if he offered incentives now.

Speaking after yesterday’s Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle delivery plan launch, FTA’s Climate Change Policy Manager Rachael Dillon said the right incentives were needed to get the freight industry on board as the plan had huge cost implications for the sector.

Rachael Dillon said: “Low emission vehicles can offer fantastic benefits to help the freight sector play its role in reducing pollutants and carbon, but high vehicle costs, concerns over reliability and lack of public refuelling infrastructure means that uptake remains relatively small.

“FTA sees today’s announcement as a key opportunity for both Transport for London and the Government to provide further incentives to enable fleet operators to make a business case for these alternative fuels and technologies. Why wait? This could be done straight away to improve air quality.”

Within TfL’s 15-point action plan to deliver ULEVs, it aims to increase the uptake in freight and fleet operations. This will include a new Low Emission Commercial Vehicle Programme commencing this summer in which FTA is participating. The programme is intended to accelerate the development and supply and widen the uptake of low-emission commercial vehicles and refuelling infrastructure.

The Alternative Fuel Discount, a previous incentive, was scrapped in 2010 and since then the only discounts available on the Congestion Charge are for cleaner cars. There are no incentives to encourage investment in cleaner commercial vehicles.

Ms Dillon said: “Many fleets are already operating Euro VI HGVs ahead of the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone from 2020. The right incentives could mean that fleets move their newest and cleanest vehicles to the capital, giving those living and working in Central London some of the benefits of ULEZ straight away.”