Delivering into London - A growing crisis? | Descartes Routing UK

Want more information? Contact us to see how we can help you.

Delivering into London - A growing crisis?

ULEZ London deliveries

A growing population, consumer demands combined with legislative and environmental constraints are making it increasingly difficult for companies to fulfil deliveries in London and our congested cities with Clean Air Zones.

The proposed expansion of the new London-wide Ultra-low emission Zone (ULEZ) in August 2023 will impact more than 1.5 million people living outside of London. Along with many businesses in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Kent, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex, who need to travel into London. DVLA data suggests that across the UK 30% of vehicles would not meet the new ULEZ requirements. 

Below are the key challenges businesses are currently facing when delivering in London.


London ULEZ charging 

While cars that do not meet the requirements will be charged £12.50 per day, HGVs and larger non-compliant vehicles will be charged £100/day and the central London LEZ (Low Emission Zone) for heavy vehicles will also continue and if delivering into central London, a noncompliant HGV will be charged for both.  


Central London congestion zone 

On top of the ULEZ and LEZ charges there will also be a central London congestion zone charge of £15 if delivering between 7am - 6pm, Monday to Friday or 12noon - 6pm Saturday and Sunday into the centre of London. 


Vehicle scrappage grants 

Sole traders and small businesses with less than 10 employees can apply for a grant from the Greater London Authority (GLA), of between £5,000 and £7,500 to assist with scrapping and replacing their van, leaving larger companies to foot the bill for changing to low or zero emission vehicles themselves. 

Logistics UK, The UK’s Freight Transport Association, said that many van operators will struggle to buy suitably compliant vehicles in time for the introduction of the expanded ULEZ on 29th August 2023. Due to recent supply chain shortages of Semi-Conductors and van production that was hit by Covid19 there is simply not enough vehicles to meet demand, especially with many other cities also introducing ULEZ Zones. 

The London Chamber of Commerce, while acknowledging that, “the ULEZ is a step towards improving London’s public health and making it environmentally safer and greener”, stated that the change maybe too great for smaller firms in the capital and called for the GLA to review the introduction date along with the grants for changing vehicles. 


Food deliveries in London 

For the rapidly growing foodservice sector in particular, the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) has warned of a looming crisis, which could leave Londoners faced with empty shelves if action isn’t taken soon to address the city’s logistics challenges. 

The UKWA study, Feeding London: 2030, examined the combined impact on the supply chain of an increasingly congested urban environment, delivery trends, new consumer demand profiles for food and drink, and changes in the grocery retail sector. The lead author, Andrew Morgan, said: “Things are becoming stretched across London’s food and drink supply chains and current logistics thinking is no longer fit for purpose.” 

The Coronavirus pandemic and evolving retail demands have already caused many transport operators to streamline their independent fleet operations and make use of real-time information, but the vast majority have done so in isolation of their urban surroundings. To reach the next level of efficiency, stronger links must now be built between different supply chain components and a more collaborative, community-based approach undertaken that leverages data across the board. 


Delivery Solutions for London 

Advanced route planning and scheduling technology can help, this was proven during the two-week period of the London Olympics in 2012 that saw severe restrictions placed on delivery companies in London. During this period John Lewis Partnership  maintained a full delivery proposition with all the constraints that were in place using Descartes’ Route Planning and Delivery Reservations software. 

Going forward many companies will operate mixed fleets for quite some time as vehicles are slowly replaced, therefore choosing the correct vehicle for deliveries into central London and the ULEZ, Clean Air Zone, Congestion and Low Traffic Neighbourhood Zones will become vitally important to ensure that charges are kept to a minimum. Once the parameters of your vehicles are entered into  Descartes’ delivery route scheduling software it will automatically select the best vehicle from your fleet when scheduling deliveries within these special zones. 


Contact us for more details on routing deliveries within ULEZ and Clean Air Zones or send an email to