Ministers should ban the sale of new diesel HGV lorries by no later than 2040, according to a new report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).
The development of hydrogen and battery HGVs is already well advanced and vehicles are expected to be commercially available in the early 2020s.
Sir John Armitt, the Commission chairman, said the move was necessary to provide the freight industry with the certainty it needs to invest in new, green technologies and prepare for an environmentally friendly future.
The ban on new sales of diesel HGVs should also be part of wider efforts to support the entire road and rail freight industry to become carbon-free by 2050, and also to help ease worsening congestion.
Measures should include the government setting a clear framework for freight at all levels of the UK’s planning system to ensure the needs of the sector are considered in land use, local plans and new developments.
The NIC says the UK freight industry is one of the most efficient and competitive in the world, using air, sea, road and rail to maximise its effectiveness in the face of capacity and technical constraints. In 2016, the road and rail freight industry moved 1.4 billion tonnes of goods.
But with the increase in same day delivery services, just-in-time manufacturing processes and internet shopping, demand on the sector is set to grow.
The NIC says that over the next 30 years heavy freight transport in the UK is expected to increase by at least 27 per cent – and could rise by as much as 45 per cent. And the number of miles covered by vans delivering goods could increase by as much as 89 per cent over the same period.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said: “Whether it’s retailers, manufacturers or each of us as consumers, we all rely heavily on our freight industry. As one of the most efficient in the world, it rarely fails to deliver.
“But we are paying the price for this miracle of modern service through the impact on our environment and air quality, and through congestion on our roads. Government must act to help businesses tackle these issues.
“Today’s report says we need to set out bold plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel HGVs, bring emissions from freight on both road and rail to zero and give the industry greater visibility in Whitehall and town halls.”
Commissioner Bridget Rosewell OBE said: “Heavy goods traffic on our roads could increase sharply over the coming decades, and distances covered by light goods vehicles like vans could come close to doubling.
“Clear, decisive action – including a ban on new diesel HGV sales and tackling emissions from rail freight – is needed now if we’re to have a zero carbon freight industry by 2050, which could help us to meet our stretching climate change targets.”
Commissioner Andy Green said: “Unless the government commits now to working with the industry, the impact of freight on congestion and carbon emissions will only increase, damaging the quality of life of communities up and down the country.
“Freight can no longer be a mere afterthought, but must be factored into long term transport plans, with a coordinated approach across government departments to ensure it doesn’t slip through the cracks.”
“That’s why we’re recommending city authorities should also incorporate freight as part of their long term infrastructure strategies, alongside transport, jobs and new homes.”