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Classic car expert calls for shake-up of rules to protect owners from ULEZ charges

Demand for automated system to protect owners of historic vehicles from being hit with clean air zone charges

A classic car expert has called for a rethink of how historic vehicles are registered to protect owners from unexpected fines.

Tom Wood, CEO of Car & Classic has warned that many motorists risk being caught out in ultra low emissions zones (ULEZ) due to the way that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) manages their registration.

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He said that with London’s ULEZ due to expand from 25 October and the introduction of Birmingham’s ULEZ in June, more drivers are at risk of being hit with charges because they believe their car is automatically exempt.

Historic vehicles - those registered before 1 January 1981 - are exempt from the daily £12.50 emissions charge in London and the £8 charge in Birmingham. However, they have to be correctly registered with the DVLA in order for this exemption to apply.

Failure to do so means they will still be picked up by the schemes’ ANPR cameras and drivers will be charged for entering the zones.

Mr Wood said: “Drivers like myself are used to seeing the signs plastered up and down roads as you near these zones. We all know the drill by now, if you drive into one of these areas you have 24 hours to pay the charge otherwise you get a fine.

“However, if you are an owner of a classic vehicle made before 1 January 1981, the Government has made those cars exempt from the new ULEZ expansion.

“Drivers up and down the country rejoiced until they realised that, when using the link provided, they typed in the registration number and it popped up saying they would not be exempt from the charge.”

The problem stems from the fact that historic status is not automatically applied to any car over 40 years old. Instead, owners have to apply to the DVLA for historic tax status. Once they have historic tax status, they are exempt from paying car tax, don’t require an annual MOT and are also registered as charge exempt on the ULEZ systems’ records.

Mr Wood believes that the system should be automated to stop unwary drivers being charged for entering a ULEZ.

He said: “One of the ways [confusion] could be avoided is simply by having an automatic enrolment system put in place for classic cars, changing the vehicle status to historical.

“This could be done via DVLA, who already has the database and infrastructure to put such a system in place. It would help countless classic car owners, like myself, who love to be able to use their vehicle.”

The ULEZ schemes in both cities are designed to reduce air pollution by discouraging owners of higher-polluting vehicles from using them within the cities.

Both schemes apply a charge to any petrol vehicle which does not meet at least Euro 4 emissions regulations and any diesel which is not Euro 6 compliant. Generally, this means pre-2006 petrol and pre-2015 diesel vehicles.