Industry body fears "new regional road transport tax" will hit businesses hard.

Almost half of the UK's small businesses are unaware that Clean Air Zones, which see polluting vehicles charged to enter certain areas, are arriving as early next year, new research has shown.

The zones could see some cities charge up to £100 per day for trucks and £12.50 for taxis and vans, causing huge – and potentially unexpected – costs for businesses.

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According to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), just 55 percent of small and medium-sized businesses know that the zones are coming.

Leeds, Derby, Birmingham, Nottingham and Southampton have all committed to introducing Clean Air Zones (CAZs) by 2020, while another 23 local authorities have also been earmarked. A further 33 authorities are still considering whether or not to implement the zones.

T-Charge

London, meanwhile, will launch its 24/7 Ultra-Low Emission Zone in April 2019, replacing the current ‘Toxicity Charge’, or T-Charge levied on older, more polluting vehicles.

The BVRLA says businesses could suffer as a result of the charges, especially with the uncertainty already caused by Brexit. The organisation has recommended a range of measures to help businesses move to cleaner vehicles, including minimising the size of CAZs and introducing “phased charging”, which would mean vehicles that only just fall short of the CAZ exemption criteria would pay less than their older, more polluting stablemates.

UK city centre traffic

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “Unless more is done to publicise the impact of these various Clean Air Zones and mitigate their impact, hundreds of thousands of businesses across the country will be hit with a new regional road transport tax that will bring additional cost and confusion at a time when firms are already dealing with Brexit-related economic uncertainty.

“We are particularly concerned about truck operators, who are more likely to be impacted by these zones, face the biggest charges and will struggle to find and afford CAZ-compliant vehicles.”