The organisation in charge of London’s roads will delay the enforcement of new safety and emissions laws for freight vehicles as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Enforcement of new legislation for the Low Emission Zone and the Direct Vision Standard, which governs visibility for trucks, will be put on hold for four months to allow the freight industry to “focus on its core operations”.

Not to be confused with the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, which covers central London, the Low Emission Zone covers much of Greater London. Under existing rules, heavier freight vehicles that fail to meet emissions standards would have been charged to enter the zone from October 26, 2020.

Similarly, the Direct Vision Standard, which sees vehicles awarded a star rating based on how much the driver can see through the windows, would have seen vehicles that fail to meet the required standard banned from London on the same day. Although both schemes will still be introduced in October, Transport for London (TfL) says no charges will be payable or enforced for non-compliant vehicles under those new standards.

The organisation, which is also in charge of the Underground network and other forms of public transport in London, says the delay was requested by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, because of the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on supply chains. TfL says this would have made it “more difficult” for the new standards to be met on time, although it claims the freight industry has been preparing for the new rules for “some time”, and “many vehicles” are already compliant.

Man on tiny scooter between car and HGV truck in London traffic

"Coronavirus has disrupted supply chains and placed additional demands on the freight industry, making it more difficult for new standards to be met on time,” said Mr Khan. “To help ease pressure on the sector I've asked TfL to delay the enforcement of the new stricter rules, initially for four months, to allow the freight industry to focus on its core operations during the pandemic.

"People should not be travelling, by any means, unless they really have to. London's roads should only be used for essential journeys. I continue to urge all Londoners to follow the advice of public health authorities and not leave their homes unless it is absolutely essential to save lives."

HGV truck delivering concrete for New Battersea Railway Station in London

Meanwhile Christina Calderato, TfL's head of transport strategy and planning, said although both schemes were important, the organisation also needed to recognise the “intense” new demands of the coronavirus pandemic. She also promised to keep the four-month delay under review.

"The tighter standards for the Low Emission Zone and Direct Vision Standard are both absolutely vital to our plans to make London a cleaner, greener and safer place to live. We're committed to bringing these changes in as soon as practically possible while supporting the freight industry and recognising that the coronavirus pandemic has placed intense new demands on people and organisations across the capital. We'll continue to work closely with the freight industry and propose to begin enforcement of the new rules four months later than planned, at the end of February 2021. We will keep this under review."

HGV and bicyclist share the road in London

However, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), which represents freight companies, said the delay should be longer.

“It’s unthinkable that TfL and the mayor are going ahead with the Direct Vision Standard at this time,” said the RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett. “Hauliers supplying London with the goods they need during the crisis are already facing a financial struggle for survival. Saddling them with huge costs to upgrade their vehicles right now is short-sighted and beyond belief – they need more time. Adding a year to the roll out of this scheme would cost the authorities nothing and save many firms from going out of business. It would be a win-win for common sense.”