What the Increased ULEZ and Fuel Shortage Means for Delivery

Steve Evans, CEO @ XeroE

As the business world slowly gets back to normal after theCovid-19 lockdowns it is easy to forget what a strange period we’ve all lived through.

For all the undoubted heartache, stress and inconvenience that the pandemic caused – including contributing to the current petrol crisis– we shouldn’t lose sight of some of the good things that emerged too. Things like community, an appreciation of our key workers and, one of my favourites, cleaner air.

Unsurprisingly, the dramatic reduction in road traffic inUK cities saw huge declines in pollution. It was the ultimate ULEZ experiment and whilst the fuel crisis isn't ideal there is an upside to this as well -   Fewer vehicles on  the road means less emissions.

At XeroE we find ourselves sitting in a funny place. The business was started business expressly to develop a clean air solution for the delivery world. My natural inclination is to support councils that want to cut dangerous levels of CO2 and NOx, but I understand why many businesses balk at the perceived cost and disruption.

Traditional delivery firms naturally take the view thatULEZ schemes, such as the now expanding one in London, hamper commerce and cost companies money. We’d say that doesn’t have to be the case – and in fact, the introduction of low-emission zones gives businesses in cities the chance tore-evaluate what they are doing and get more in line with public opinion.

It isn’t a coincidence that XeroE’s emission-free delivery model – we operate EVs alongside an army of well-trained bike couriers and cargo bikes – is up and running in the capital and Bristol. London’s ULEZ is well established while Bristol’s equivalent arrives next year (having been delayed by the pandemic). Meanwhile, we are ready to start new operations in a host of cities that are on their way to creating their own clean air zones.

Logistic firms with diesel and petrol fleets get their drivers to do up to 100 drops a day inside cities, so a typical £15 a day emissions charge only pops 15p extra onto a delivery charge. That isn’t much, but in a price-sensitive market is enough to get the big boys riled up.

Instead, I take the opposite view. Free of ULEZ charges we are able to compete, and then on top of that can raise ethical standards too, making sure our delivery staff can earn at least the London Living Wage (they typically get a good deal more). Of course, at the same time we are ‘delivering’ on our promise to not pump out any harmful gases into the atmosphere. Our model of operating from urban  distribution hubs is perfect to keep journeys short, but it’s one traditional firms see as costly and unwieldy.

Ultimately, it’s about what our customers think. There’s no doubt that the general public wants a cleaner world, although you probably would be hard-pressed to claim most people want higher charges. They just want logistics firms to sort it out so they can make the right choice.

For our partners that’s good news. When we pitch our services, we can see how committed they are to the ‘green journey’ by checking out their public pronouncements in advance. Those that we reckon would score7/10 on a rough scale probably are companies we want to work with.

The truth is that every company should be looking to get to that level by now anyway. Being able to offer zero-emission delivery is never going to harm your business. Being able to back up your ‘eco-talk’ is vitally important to younger generations who are less inclined to fall for meaningless greenwashing.

Sure, the introduction of ULEZ-type schemes across the country are going to present challenges. But they certainly don’t have to be problems. The pandemic showed everyone that new ways of thinking are possible, and that we can embrace a better way of doing things.

Steve Evans, Co-founder and CEO of XeroE