RHA & the Environment: Going green sensibly

Following COP26 and the upcoming change to a Prime Minister who championed net-zero, what is the current lay of the land on the decarbonisation of vehicles? RHA Executive Director Rod McKenzie sums it up.

If you went to the recent Road Transport Expo, Multimodal or the CV Show this year, as I did, you will have certainly noticed one thing. The manufacturers showing off their new non-fossil fuelled options: electric, HVO, hydrogen.

It was an impressive showcase and demonstrates the commitment of the OEM’s and their research and developments teams to meeting the looming deadlines set after the COP26 summit. There was certainly a buzz from firms checking out their, admittedly still pricy, options.

Clearly, we all know the big issues: what about the heavier vehicles, range anxiety, fuelling options, price, availability, delivery, timescale for change, government support.

It was interesting to see MAN argue that governments must create a stable and incentivised arena for the creation and introduction of heavy electric trucks: CO2 pricing to boost competition and funds earmarked for transportation – subsidies for operators to establish charging infrastructure – a core electricity grid for charging along highways and a core network of hydrogen stations. This added to a 75% reduction in road tolls for zero emission trucks…and purchasing subsidies, too.

So, what’s the RHA’s view? Let’s start with our key membership – SME operators of lorries and coaches. They have limited buying power and a tighter appetite towards risk – so it is important the government stops talking to just big corporates about this stuff because the needs of SME’s must not be overlooked.

We need an infrastructure to allow zero or low emission HGVs and coaches to be refuelled – otherwise we risk a nightmare scenario with vehicles out of juice littering our highways and byways.

We need resilience planning in place. Put simply, we need to cope with unforeseen events such as power cuts in the case of electric trucks or in situations where its simply too hard to decarbonise in remote or rural areas. Goods and people must be able to move seamlessly whatever the eventuality.

So, we at the RHA strongly support the aim to decarbonise commercial vehicles. Our starting point is that 100% of the economy is included and we are working through the many practical issues to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible for our members.


We welcome the Government’s £200m investment in the “Zero Emission Road Freight Trial” – we believe the outcomes arising from it will give our sector the confidence it needs to start planning investments. It will also allow Ministers to signal which technologies they are willing to back via future regulation. It’s all about supporting SME’s, that’s why we would like to see a rebate price on renewable fuels based on pence per litre and potential greenhouse gas saving.

Of course, there is one other intriguing factor. The Prime Minister who won his victory in 2019 and drove through rapid timetables for phasing out fossil fuel at COP26 has gone. It’s possible his successor – and successors – faced with the reality of pricing, availability and a cost-of-living crisis, may take a much more pragmatic view of the need to go greener, faster.

Slow and sensible rather than flooring it. The news comes as the RHA launches its #RHAEnvironment campaign. We will champion our industry’s move towards net zero, bringing together our members, politicians, policy makers, manufacturers, trade bodies and the wider industry to focus on solutions to help you invest with confidence in new technologies. We are also reducing our own carbon footprint.

This is the second of three initiatives we’re running to focus our efforts and resources on key issues we’re tackling for our industry. We introduced our ‘Skills campaign last month, and our ‘Facilities’ campaign will follow in the coming weeks.