Clean Air Zones: What do They Mean for my Business?

London green space

Our site is reader-supported – by clicking our links, we can match you with a potential supplier, and we may earn a small commission for this referral.

In May 2017, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs released its Clean Air Framework. This document laid out the government’s key principles regarding the implementation of Clean Air Zones in the UK.

In this article, we’ll explain what a Clean Air Zone is, and look at what a zone in your town or city could mean for your business. We’ll tell you how your business could be affected, and what you can do to lessen the impact.

London green space

What is a Clean Air Zone?

A Clean Air Zone is an area where targeted action is being taken to improve air quality.

There are two categories of Clean Air Zone (CAZ): non-charging and charging.

No Charge Clean Air Zone

What is a non-charging Clean Air Zone?

A non-charging Clean Air Zone typically involves educating local communities and businesses about the importance of reducing emissions within the CAZ, so air quality can be improved without any drivers being charged money.

This strategy includes the promotion of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEV), working to facilitate cycling and walking, the introduction of car share schemes, and using telematics to optimise fleet operations.

Charging Clean Air Zone

What is a charging Clean Air Zone?

In a charging Clean Air Zone, any drivers who enter the zone will be charged a fee if their vehicle doesn’t meet the required environmental standards. This is usually based on the vehicle’s Euro emissions standard.

Which businesses will be affected by Clean Air Zones?

All businesses will be expected to work alongside councils to help staff adopt cleaner ways of travelling and healthier attitudes towards the environment. This could be through introducing cycle to work schemes, or setting up environment awareness sessions.

Those most affected by the implementation of a Clean Air Zone will be businesses that operate fleets within the area. These could be:

  • Bus companies
  • Taxi firms
  • Transport and logistics companies
  • Construction companies

What does the introduction of a Clean Air Zone mean for your business?

Firstly, the government framework makes it clear that the introduction of a Clean Air Zone is not intended as a money spinner.

In fact, the government states that councils must do whatever they can to mitigate the implementation of a charging zone. Councils should also do everything they can to protect the economy of local high streets and town centres, and support local growth and ambition.

It was then agreed that Southampton would instead introduce new restrictions on taxi companies, and incentivise taxi and private vehicle owners to upgrade to low emission vehicles.[/expm_feature_box]

This means that even if there are plans to introduce a CAZ in your area, you still have a voice. If you’re unhappy with the plans that the council are putting in place, make sure you attend consultations to have your opinions heard.

Secondly, the Clean Air Zone initiative isn’t a one-size-fits-all-cities solution. There are four classes of Clean Air Zone, each detailing the type of vehicle affected. They are:

  • Class A – Buses, coaches, taxis, and private hire vehicles (PHVs)
  • Class B – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
  • Class C – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs, and light goods vehicles (LGVs)
  • Class D – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs, LGVs, and cars

Bear in mind that vehicles that meet required EU emissions standards are exempt from CAZ charges.

The charges for each class differ from place to place, too. For example, here are the Clean Air Zone charges for Leeds compared with those in Bristol:

Mini buses£12.50/dayNo charge
Buses and coaches£50/day£50/day
Taxis and private hire vehicles£12.50/day or £50/week£8/day (taxis only – no charge for PHVs)
Cars and vansNo charge£8/day

The fact that the charges are different for each city means that the initiative has been designed to be as fair as possible to transport businesses, while laying out the necessary actions to meet air quality targets.

So how will local councils work with businesses to improve air quality within Clean Air Zones?

Raise awareness and understanding

Councils will work with local businesses to create campaigns that promote the importance of Clear Air Zones. These campaigns should also promote other means of travel, such as public transport options, and advice for cycling and walking.

What does this mean for your business?

In addition to running employee sessions that cover the health and environmental benefits of the CAZ initiative, you may want to raise awareness of how employees can get involved with something like the Cycle to Work Scheme, or apply for a train ticket season loan

The Cycle to Work Scheme essentially allows employees to loan a bike for a set amount of time, before buying it at its market value at the end of the loan period. Thanks to the scheme, employees can save 29-35% on the cost of a new bike. 

The government has already released a document that guides employers on how to implement the Cycle to Work Scheme

If it’s possible for employees to commute by train or bus, you could give them the option to purchase a season train or bus ticket through your company. You purchase the season ticket on their behalf, which they then pay back by sacrificing an agreed amount of their salary each month.  

Deliver local ambition

According to the Framework, a Clean Air Zone will support plans for local growth. This means any planned developments will also be approached in an environmentally conscious manner, too.

Local ambition also applies to optimising traffic management. This initiative involves the creation of safe, continuous, and convenient cycling and walking networks – an important factor in the promotion of cycling and walking schemes.

It’s also expected that local authorities will take the lead when it comes to the use of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs), alternative fuels, and approaches to employees using their own vehicle for business purposes. This includes the reduction of vehicle usage, and the implementation of car sharing schemes, cycling incentives, and flexible working practices.

What does this mean for your business?

If you’re planning to move to a new office within a Clean Air Zone, you may find the building management has a stronger focus on waste management and energy efficiency. You may also find charging points for electric vehicles in the office car park.

It may also be that you take the lead to promote an office car sharing scheme, or introduce a working from home initiative that permits members of the team to work from home a certain number of days per month.

Collaborate with local stakeholders

Implementing a CAZ isn’t just about changing the way in which we travel around – it’s about changing attitudes towards the environment in general. As such, the Framework also focuses on local authorities and businesses working together to combat other important environmental matters, such as:

  • Carbon reduction
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Health improvement
  • Reducing traffic congestion
  • Noise reduction
  • Improvements to the natural environment
What does this mean for your business?

Perhaps you could think about collaborating with local authorities, other businesses, and a local bus company to implement a park and ride scheme for employees coming in and out of the Clear Air Zone?

This has already happened in Manchester, where Stage Coach, a private bus firm, funded a park and ride initiative that would replace up to 6,000 car journeys across a nine mile route.

You could also look at becoming a carbon-neutral business, a process which combines in-house efficiency measures with support for external emission reduction projects.

Just Eat and the London Ultra Low Emission Zone

How has delivery giant Just Eat helped businesses reduce ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) charges?

We talked to Tracy Bagnall, Just Eat’s Senior Partnerships Manager, about the company’s electric vehicle initiative. 

In April 2019, London introduced the ULEZ, which would see the majority of vehicles charged £12.50 a day to operate within its boundaries. Just Eat, however, was way ahead of the game.

Back in April 2017, it partnered with Eskuta, a company that designs and manufactures e-bikes and electric scooters. The partnership would mean Just Eat could purchase electric vehicles off Eskuta at full price, and sell them to its restaurant and takeaway partners for a fraction of the cost. 

Not only do these vehicles cost nothing to operate within the ULEZ, but they’re also exempt from both road tax and insurance, making them both an incredibly cost-effective option and better for the environment!

What actions can I take to help reduce my Clear Air Zone charges?

The Framework makes it clear that businesses have a certain amount of freedom when it comes to deciding how they’re going to act once a CAZ has been introduced. Local councils are meant to encourage ambition, give businesses sufficient time to decide how to act, and give them plenty of time to implement these changes.

Not all businesses, however, have a delivery giant like Just Eat to help them reduce their low emission zone charges. And not all businesses have the resources available to invest in a new fleet of Euro 6 standard, hybrid, or electric vehicles.

While we’ve already provided some insight into what the introduction of a Clean Air Zone might mean for your business, there is another action the Framework recommends that can help you become more aware of how you’re operating within the zone.


Fleet management and vehicle tracking devices are telematic solutions. They collect data straight from a vehicle dashboard and send it to a software dashboard, giving you intel into how efficiently you’re running your fleet.

Fleet management is also an Internet of Things solution. Put simply, this is a combination of hardware and software that communicates via the internet.

A vehicle tracker is a hardware element of a fleet management system. It sends GPS data, along with driver behaviour information, back to a software interface. A fleet manager can then use that data to ensure drivers are taking the best routes, and are driving in the most efficient way.

How will a fleet management system help you reduce CAZ charges? 

  • Set up geo-fence alerts so drivers know when they’re approaching a Clean Air Zone
  • Create optimum routes that bypass the Clean Air Zone, but don’t necessarily add too much time to the overall journey
  • Ensure drivers are driving efficiently to mitigate additional fuel costs caused by avoiding the Clean Air Zone
  • Plan rotas so the minimum amount of vehicles operate within the Clean Air Zone

The cost of vehicle tracking and fleet management

The cost of vehicle tracking and fleet management depends on the sophistication of the system you require.

If you would like a system that can provide you with all of the capabilities listed above, you’ll be looking at a relatively big investment – but one that should provide you with a good return over time.

The good news is, many providers give you the option to rent the hardware, with you then paying a small monthly fee to license the software.

If you’d like to learn more, we’ve already put together a complete guide to vehicle tracking costs.

Alternatively, you can use our free quote comparison service to discover exactly how much a fleet management system will cost your business. Receive quotes from a range of top suppliers, and find out which one can give you the best deal – with minimal effort required from you!

Where are Clean Air Zones currently in operation?

There are currently five cities that have been singled out to implement the Clean Air Zone initiative. These are:

  • Leeds
  • Birmingham
  • Nottingham
  • Derby
  • Southampton

But the government isn’t stopping there. There are a total of 49 cities and areas around the UK that are expected to come up with a plan to lower the amount of carbon emissions in and around central business districts (CBDs) within the next few years.

Fleet News has already produced a map that shows the locations where Clean Air Zones are being or will be implemented.

In conclusion

In a time where dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide have been found in over 2,000 locations across the UK, Clean Air Zones are essential for creating healthier places for us to live and work.

While charges do form a part of it, they are by no means standard, and councils and local authorities should work together to meet EU requirements without looking to charge every vehicle that enters the zone.

There are plenty of initiatives that businesses can introduce that will help employees reduce the amount they pay if they have to enter the zone, including Cycle to Work schemes and travel ticket loans.

Clean Air Zones do target fleet owners, especially those that still operate older vehicles. However, it’s worth remembering that fleet management and vehicle tracking will help to mitigate some of the charges if upgrading your fleet isn’t an option.

Written by:
Aimee profile image
Aimee is Expert Market’s resident telephone systems and point of sale go-to. If she’s not writing about business products, you’ll find her daydreaming about dog walking on Dorset beaches.