As we stand on the threshold of 2018, it’s worth preparing ourselves by looking ahead to the big events that are likely to affect the fleet industry over the next 12 months.
The surprises of the last few years have taught us that none of our crystal balls are as reliable as we once thought. So, instead of trying to guess what will happen, you can arm yourself with this list of the major policy announcements that we already know to expect…
A zero-emission transport strategy
We’ve seen a fair few ‘Strategies’ and ‘Plans’ from the Government in recent months – not least the Air Quality Plan in July and the Clean Growth Strategy in October – and there are more to come in 2018. When the Government published its Air Quality Plan and announced a ban on the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, it also teased ‘a further strategy on the pathway to zero emission transport for all road vehicles to be published by March 2018.’
Ministers have provided no clues as to what that document will contain, but it should offer more detail on how the Government intends to help the number of ultra-low emission vehicles to grow further.
The Chancellor’s first Spring Statement
Following the Budget’s move to the autumn this year, 2018 will see Philip Hammond deliver his first Spring Statement. This will include the usual set of new economic and fiscal forecasts from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, but, according to the Treasury, ‘The Chancellor will not make significant tax or spending announcements at the Spring Statement, unless the economic circumstances require it.’
Rather than final policy decisions, therefore, we should expect Hammond to announce consultations or reviews in preparation for the Budget later in the year.
Local clean air plans (and a national one, too)
In the Air Quality Plan, the Government ordered local authorities with the highest levels of air pollution to draw up their own plans to bring down nitrogen dioxide concentrations. 29 councils have been given until the end of March to publish their draft proposals, with the final versions due by the end of 2018.
We know that five of these plans – in Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton – will include the introduction of Clean Air Zones by the end of 2019. It’ll be worth looking at the detail to see if any of these councils will impose charges on the most polluting vehicles entering these zones, and whether other councils also decide to introduce their own Clean Air Zones.
The Government is currently consulting on possible measures to help motorists and businesses who are hit by these clean air plans. That consultation concludes on 5 January, so hopefully we won’t have to wait long to discover which of these measures will actually be implemented.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has also promised to publish a ‘comprehensive’ national Clean Air Strategy at some point in 2018. Gove suggested that this will be broader than 2017’s Air Quality Plan, and will address ‘more than just transport’.
The premier annual policy event is the Chancellor’s Budget. Hammond's 2017 edition certainly included much of significance to fleets – including tax rises for diesel cars, a new Charging Investment Infrastructure Fund and another Fuel Duty freeze. It’s too early to say what exactly will be in the 2018 Budget, and much will depend on the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves next autumn, but there are a few things we should expect from the Chancellor.
First, there’s Fuel Duty. Hammond cancelled the increase that was due in April 2018, but the rate of Fuel Duty for petrol and diesel is still scheduled to rise in line with inflation in April 2019. If pump prices continue to go up, the Budget would be Hammond’s opportunity to offer motorists relief by cancelling that rise, or maybe even cutting it. Meanwhile, Budget 2017 announced that the Government will review the Fuel Duty rates for alternative fuels, with any changes to be confirmed at Budget 2018.
Then there’s Company Car Tax (CCT). We currently only have the CCT rates up to 2020-21, and the Chancellor failed to provide any new ones in his 2017 Budget. He will need to give fleets clarity by providing the 2021-22 rates – and preferably the 2022-23 ones as well – in 2018.
Other policy decisions due
There are plenty of other decisions that are due to be made in 2018. The consultation on expanding London’s forthcoming Ultra-Low Emission Zone ends in February, so we should expect a final announcement from Sadiq Khan soon after. And the Government plans to put Heathrow expansion to a vote in Parliament in the first half of the year, which it hopes will result in the final go-ahead for a third runway.
Of course, we’ll be keeping a close eye on all of the above, and will be providing our usual insight and analysis here on our expert blog. See you in 2018!