British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association
Category: Trade Association
The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association is a trade body representing vehicle rental, leasing and fleet management companies. It has over 1,000 member organisations, responsible for a “combined fleet of over five million cars, vans and trucks on UK roads” equating to “1-in-8 cars, 1-in-5 vans and 1-in-4 trucks” on the UK’s roads.
Its members purchase around half of all new vehicles sold in the UK and approximately a third of all new electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, according to its website.
The organisation has been supportive of the transition to cleaner vehicles and celebrated the success of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone in reducing air pollution. However, it has also criticised charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) schemes in various cities and worked with other trade associations to water down proposals, particularly with regard to HGVs. It has also strongly defended modern diesel vehicles as being part of the solution to decarbonising transport.
The group works with “members, partners and advocates” to “actively lobby policymakers and regulators in the best interest of the industry”. According to its website, it does so to “mitigate the risk of over-regulation, anti-competitive behaviour or detrimental policymaking that could adversely affect the vehicle rental, leasing and fleet sectors”.
The BVRLA runs a number of campaigns, including on Clean Air Zones and the government’s “Road to Zero” transport strategy. Writing in its 2019 annual review, the BVRLA’s Chief Executive Gerry Keaney noted that the organisation had gained “unprecedented levels of access to government ministers and policymakers” and that “50 parliamentarians and two government Ministers” attended its Summer Parliamentary Reception. Elsewhere, it stated that 10 parliamentary questions were “tabled on behalf of the BVRLA”.
The BVRLA also works to uphold industry standards and regulatory compliance among its members and provides an “extensive range of training, events and information-sharing activities”.
Its board of directors is made up of managers at many leading fleet management companies, including Zipcar, BT Fleet Solutions and Hertz.
The BVRLA recorded turnover of £3.4m and net assets of £1.9m in 2019, according to its annual report.
Air Pollution Lobbying
In a paper laying out its position on air quality, the BVRLA acknowledges the health impacts caused by air pollution, noting that “transport is responsible for 80% of NOx in areas of the poorest air quality”. It states that its members can “play a massive role in improving air quality” and that Clean Air Zones can be a “catalyst for behaviour change if supported with a targeted scrappage scheme”.
On a webpage dedicated to the government’s air quality plans, the BVRLA states that it has been “actively involved from the start to ensure the voice of the rental and leasing industry is heard by decision makers at a national and local level”.
It says it has had “regular contact with policy makers in the cities currently considering CAZs, as well as at a national level with the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU)”, run by both the Environment and Transport Departments.
It also “meets with senior MPs, Peers and other engaged stakeholders frequently to discuss air quality measures and plans, including with relevant select committee members and chairs” and has held “roundtable” events in various cities.
In its submission to the March 2020 Budget, the organisation stated that the “transition to decarbonised road transport will be lost or won” in the coming decade and said it was looking to the Budget to “drive the transition to zero emission road transport”. It also called for continued support for “Future Mobility Zones” and “mobility credits”, designed to increase the use of low-carbon transport, reduce congestion and improve air quality.
In its 2019 annual review, the BVRLA states that its members have the “cleanest vehicle fleet on the road”, with “100% of members’ rental cars and 96% of lease cars” being “Clean Air Zone compliant”. The same year it signed a joint declaration calling for the government to adopt World Health Organisation air quality standards and a national vehicle scrappage scheme to help drivers switch to electric vehicles or public transport. It has also celebrated the London Ultra Low Emission Zone for successfully reducing the number of more polluting, non-compliant vehicles driving in the zone.
In a 2017 video on emissions regulations, the organisation’s CEO Gerry Keaney said the BVRLA were “great supporters” of low emission schemes in London and said it could “position its members as part of the solution” in other cities considering similar measures.
However, in its 2018 annual review it describes CAZs as both a “threat” and an “opportunity” for BVRLA members and their customers. Elsewhere it argues that Clean Air Zones should “only be used where absolutely necessary” and should be “as small as possible to minimise disruption”.
The BVRLA also calls for exemptions from the charge for HGVs in “certain essential locations within Clean Air Zones” such as vehicle dealerships. It argues older Euro V lorries should be subject to a lower charge”, which it claims would preserve their second-hand value and enable operators of even older lorries to transition to cleaner vehicles faster.
It recommends allowing lorries to make deliveries at night and to use bus lanes outside of commuting hours to avoid congestion and pollution. It argues these measures could “reduce emissions and minimise the need to charge any road users, including HGVs”.
The BVRLA has also criticised what it calls a “patchwork and chaotic range of clean air zones” as a result of local authorities introducing different schemes, arguing that central government should take on a greater level of coordination.
In April 2020, it welcomed the news that the planned introduction of CAZs in a number of UK cities would be postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it a “very sensible decision in the current circumstances”.
The BVRLA also welcomed the news that stronger measures on emissions and HGV driver vision due to be introduced for heavier vehicles in October 2020 would also be postponed.
Its Chief Executive said: “the Mayor must continue to liaise with the sector and be ready to delay these schemes still further depending on how the sector and the wider economy are able to recover from the current crisis.”
Freight Industry Coalition
The BVRLA is part of a coalition of trade bodies representing the road freight sector that has strongly criticised charging Clean Air Zones and wants to see non-charging alternatives implemented instead. Other members include the Road Haulage Association, the Freight Transport Association and the National Franchised Dealers Association.
In 2018, the coalition published a plan entitled “The Way Forward” setting out alternative measures to CAZs, which it said were unfairly targeting lorries. The coalition met with Transport Minister Jesse Norman and Environment Minister Therese Coffey to discuss the recommendations.
The BVRLA’s Chief Executive told the i newspaper that HGV operators needed more support and argued that “any Clean Air Zone policy that deters trucks is likely to increase the usage of vans”.
The coalition has also published a “factsheet” arguing that there were currently no viable alternatives to diesel for HGVs and that small and medium sized businesses would be “worst affected” by CAZs. It also criticised the charging system for not distinguishing between different types of older diesel lorries.
The factsheet said that lorries were being “asked to bear the greatest burden in reducing emissions”, despite not being the only source of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and that the charges would “result in a tax on freight, a tax on business and higher prices for everyone”.
The BVRLA has made supportive comments about diesel vehicles, claiming in its 2020 “Industry Outlook Report” that “newer, cleaner diesel powertrains provide a low-emission solution for logistics and long distances”. It argued the technology has a future “if politics doesn’t get in the way”.
It warned against local and national government “using diesel as a vote winner by implementing diesel bans and punitive taxes”.
It also cautioned that plans to introduce a ban on diesel vehicles in Bristol city centre could “open the floodgates for other cities to follow suit”.
The BVRLA has been supportive of the growth of electric vehicles, writing in its submission to the 2020 Budget that a “monumental effort” was needed to “shift [battery electric vehicle] adoption from “innovator” consumers into the mass market”.
It called on the government to continue providing “some form of Plug in Van and Car Grant until 2025”, when EVs are expected to cost the same as their petrol or diesel equivalent models. It also urged the government to ensure the tax system for company cars continued to favour electric vehicles and to further encourage their use by raising the threshold at which EV owners pay vehicle excise duty.
In its 2020 “Industry Outlook Report”, it said the electrification of transport was “the future” but that there were widespread concerns about the market supply of EVs and the availability of charging infrastructure.
The BVRLA has been a strong supporter of hybrid vehicles. In its “Manifesto 2019”, it called on the government to introduce a grant to “reboot purchases of plug-in hybrid cars and reverse the dramatic falls in sales”.
Hybrids have been criticised by environmental campaigners because their emissions savings can be quickly wiped out by driving in petrol or diesel mode, while “extended-range” electric vehicles can arguably offer the same benefits in terms of mileage.
Key Arguments in Order of Prominence
- Clean Air Zones should only be introduced where absolutely necessary and be as small as possible
- Alternative measures should be prioritised such as allowing HGVs to make deliveries at night and use bus lanes outside of commuting hours
- Imposing charges on HGVs will lead to an increase in van usage instead, worsening congestion and pollution
- HGVs are being unfairly targeted by clean air schemes
- Euro V diesel lorries should be subject to a lower charge to preserve their resale value and encourage owners of older lorries to purchase them
- Small businesses will be hardest hit by CAZs
- Different CAZ schemes across the country are causing chaos and confusion
- Increasing operating costs for HGVs will lead to higher prices for consumers
- The latest, cleanest diesel vehicles have a key role to play in the future
- Operators with an adaptation plan should be given a grace period before being subject to CAZ charges
Bath: the BVRLA advertised the public consultation on the city’s planned CAZ and said it would be responding in due course.
Bradford: the BVRLA advertised the public consultation on the city’s planned CAZ and encouraged its members to respond, particularly regarding the level of funding proposed for upgrading or retrofitting vehicles.
Bristol: the BVRLA advertised the public consultation on the city’s planned CAZ and encouraged its members to respond.
Coventry: the BVRLA “worked closely with Coventry City Council” to avoid the city introducing a charging CAZ, opting instead for “alternative air quality mitigation measures that may be more appropriate than Clean Air Zones”. It claimed that modelling showed “commercial vehicles and HGVs are not the main issue for the city, so a CAZ which penalised HGVs would not have been fair”.
Derby: the BVRLA welcomed news that the city had decided not to go ahead with a CAZ, instead opting for “new air quality traffic management measures”. It noted that there was “considerable consultation between the Council and fleet industry representatives” prior to the decision. The organisation had co-hosted a roundtable with the council and the Energy Saving Trust at which it “outlined a range of alternatives to a charging CAZ and ways of reducing the impact of a zone if introduced”.
Edinburgh: the BVRLA advertised the public consultation on the city’s planned Low Emission Zone.
London: according to a summary of responses to the consultation on the city’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, the BVRLA was “generally supportive” but had concerns about its financial impact on small and medium sized businesses who use HGVs and vans. It called for a three-year grace period and 90% discount for businesses “who can demonstrate an adaptation plan”.
Along with the NFDA and FTA, the BVRLA also called for discounts for businesses located within the zone, similar to the scheme for residents.
In a factsheet on the London ULEZ, it argued the charges could cause HGV deliveries to be transferred onto “multiple EVs with much smaller payloads”, worsening congestion.
Sheffield: the BVRLA advertised plans for a CAZ in the city and said it would be responding to the consultation in due course.
Wales: the BVRLA advertised clean air plans proposed by the Welsh government, encouraging its members to respond to the consultation.
Writing in its 2019 annual review, the BVRLA’s Chief Executive Gerry Keaney noted that the organisation had gained “unprecedented levels of access to government ministers and policymakers” and that “50 parliamentarians and two government Ministers” attended its Summer Parliamentary Reception.
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