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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

MEA Council seeking to decarbonise fleet of 260 vehicles with annual fuel bill of £780K

Mid & East Antrim Borough Council street cleaning vehicle

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council owns 260 vehicles worth £3.2m councillors have been told.

A report to elected representatives says the fleet consists of bin lorries, vans, heavy goods vehicles, trailers, tractors, quads and excavators. With the exception of four small electric vans, the fleet is diesel-powered with an annual fuel bill of £780k.

The council’s Draft Fleet Strategy 2023-27 presented to this month’s meeting of the Environment and Economy Committee will see the local authority decarbonise smaller vehicles first.

The Northern Ireland Executive has signed up to the Glasgow Deal at COP26 for the transition to 100 per cent zero emission cars and vans no later than 2035 which will require all government, council and publicly-funded fleets to have zero emissions by 2035.

Councillors were told the local authority’s overall fleet maintenance cost was £4m during 2022/23, including fuel. Sixty per cent of vehicles are involved in waste collection of 132,000 bins at 59,000 households. Of these, 60 per cent are located in Mid and East Antrim’s three main towns, Larne, Carrickfergus and Ballymena.

Currently, the council expects to replace bin lorries every seven years. The report notes replacement is through “nearly-new” vehicles. Tyres are “re-grooved and re-used”.

The report states: “It is crucial that vehicles are available and reliable to deliver effective services and minimise downtime but also that they are used as efficiently as possible”.

Route “optimization” is expected to be operational for bin lorries this year in a bid to improve fuel efficiency and an “eco-driving” programme will be rolled out to reduce emissions. The report says challenges will be to “embrace new technology within the fleet”.

Commenting on decarbonisation of vehicles, Joseph Carter, head of Asthma and Lung UK Northern Ireland, said:

“Air pollution can penetrate deep into someone’s respiratory system, leading to new lung conditions and for those with a lung condition, it can leave them fighting for breath. The council’s fleet vehicle strategy is a positive step in the right direction.

“Children who are at exhaust height take the brunt as breathing polluted air can cause irreversible damage to growing lungs and those who grow up in highly polluted areas are four times more likely to have reduced lung function in adulthood.

“The sooner the Department for Infrastructure can make sure all high polluting vehicles are off our roads, the more chance our children will have to breathe the clean air they deserve.

“We welcome the steps by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to decarbonise their fleet, and reiterate that we urgently need a Clean Air Strategy and investment in public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure to give people other options to travel around their neighbourhood without contributing to toxic air.

“We also urge the local authority to continue engagement with DAERA to ensure that the area has maximum air pollution monitoring, through the fully funded Departmental grant scheme.”


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