The essentials of international road haulage

Vehicle emission levels and controls

All businesses have legal obligations to consider environmental issues, but being environmentally responsible can also have significant other benefits, improving your business reputation and improving staff morale. One increasingly important environmental requirement is the reduction of particle emissions in vehicle exhausts. This means that before a new vehicle can be approved for sale in the European Union (EU) it must meet certain standards for exhaust emissions as specified by EU directives.

Standards for light duty vehicles (cars and vans) and heavy-duty vehicles (heavy goods vehicles and buses) are defined in separate EU Directives. Light duty standards are referred to using Arabic numerals (eg 'Euro 4') and heavy-duty standards using roman numerals (eg 'Euro IV'). The current emission standard for new heavy-duty vehicles is Euro 5/Euro V. For light-duty vehicles, the emission standard currently in force is Euro 4. The EU Directives also define a non-binding standard called Enhanced Environmentally friendly Vehicle.

Euro standards are also used to establish whether heavy goods vehicles can be registered with a Reduced Pollution Certificate (RPC). An RPC will significantly reduce vehicle tax, and permit entry of RPC-registered vehicles into low-emission areas such as the London Low Emission Zone.

For more information on the vehicles affected, see our guide use vehicles in the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ).

If you own buses or heavy goods lorries, you can tax vehicles in one of a reduced-pollution tax class when producing a valid RPC.

Qualifying for an RPC

If you want to qualify for an RPC, vehicles registered in the UK before 1 October 2006 must be constructed or adapted to achieve a higher particulate emission standard than that required when they were manufactured. Standard diesel-powered vehicles first presented for reduced pollution compliance testing on or after 5 January 2001 will in all cases require a modification, such as an exhaust particulate trap. If you have vehicles with engines meeting the full Euro V standard that are equipped with an approved 'torque limiter' and registered before 1 October 2009 they automatically qualify for an RPC and reduced vehicle tax rates.