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November/December 2017
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Executive Hire News › Archives › November/December 2017 › Executive Report : Airing hot topics

Executive Report : Airing hot topics 

Nick Johnson reports from this year’s CPA Plant Conference which included several presentations designed to help delegates better understand and influence the future of construction plant hire.

Held in a more central venue at the Heart of England Conference& Events Centre near Coventry, the 2017 CPA Plant Conference really scored well. Topics such as the work being done to improve air quality in London and the future of the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) were exceptionally well-timed.

Delivered so shortly after the Mayor of London had introduced the new ‘T-charge’ to help tackle the capital’s ’toxic’ air, the presentation by Daniel Marsh could not have been more relevant. As part of the morning session entitled Research - The Foundation of Policy, he described the work being done to measure emissions from non-road mobile plant (NRMM) in order to formulate future LEZ (Low Emission Zone) policy aimed at improving air quality in the capital.

As the Senior Air Quality Analyst in the Environment Research Group at King’s College in London, Daniel Marsh specialises in the control of dust and emissions from construction and demolition. He is currently project managing the London Low Emission Construction Partnership (LLECP) funded through the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund. London is the most heavily populated city in Europe and Greater London Authority (GLA) figures show that 9,400 people die prematurely every year in the capital due to poor air quality. That startling total breaks down into 5,900 from long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 3,500 from fine particles (PM2.5).

On-site plant testing

Whilst many of the problem emissions come from diesel-engined road vehicles, including plant delivery trucks, there is also a significant contribution from NRMM with diesel engines working on sites in London. So, to accurately check the current situation, Daniel Marsh and his team are carrying out on-site testing of construction plant to see how machines are performing. This will be invaluable in formulating achievable future policies to bring in cleaner machinery.

He reported that London is the first city in the world to have a Low Emissions Zone for 37kW to 560kW NRMM. This now sets a minimum Stage IIIA engine emissions requirement for relevant machines used on all major developments in Greater London, and a minimum requirement for Stage IIIB for all developments within what is called the Central Activity Zone and Canary Wharf. These stringent standards are being applied in the areas where there is the most pollution. In 2020, the NRMM LEZ policy tightens further. Then the Central Activity Zone and Canary Wharf will move up to Stage IV equipment and the rest of London moves to Stage IIIB.

Daniel Marsh advises plant hire companies seeking to supply sites in London to ensure that new purchases are the cleanest possible machines. And, if companies consider retro-fitting older models with emissions control devices such as DPFs (diesel particulate filters), the device and the fitting company must both be approved. With all the construction activity in London, it is recognised that it will not always be possible for contractors to procure all plant with the required emissions standards. In that case, it is possible to apply to the GLA for an exception to the policy.

To support the stringent LEZ policy, there is an official NRMM register. Each site utilising plant that needs to meet the emissions requirements must register on-line both the development itself and all the machinery it is using. Moreover, it is likely that such policies will be adopted in many of the other 28 cities in the UK that are being told to clean up their air quality. Daniel Marsh recommends plant hire companies to read the very recent publication entitled “Engineering Cleaner Air”. This is available as a free download from the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) website (www.ice.org.uk).

Tomorrow’s plant operators

Another important topic in the plant hire industry is operator supply and demand, which was addressed by Carl Letman of Skyblue Research. He has been working with the CPA and others to gain data in order to better plan and implement future recruitment and upskilling programmes. He said that his company estimated that the total number of plant operators in the UK is 289,000, including approximately 19,000 workers who drive plant some of the time as part of their main construction role.

An important message was that more needs to be done to make the sector attractive to young people, and there should be more plant operator apprentices. John Batty of Bluejohn Marketing also highlighted this challenge and referred to a report entitled “Construction as a Career of Choice for Young People” written by Liz Waters of Sir Robert McAlpine. She considers how the industry can promote itself as a viable and attractive career option, and a particular recommendation is the need to really embrace the social media channels to connect with young people.

Having recently gained continued industry support - albeit with many calls for reform - for its Levy raising powers, the CITB is now revealing some of the changes it proposes. The presentation by its Industry Relations Director, Mark Noonan, said the organisation will have a simplified and more user-friendly grants and awards process, where smaller businesses get a fairer share of monetary support. Paperwork will be reduced through the introduction of automated grant payments.

Usefully, the CITB plans to introduce a new comprehensive training directory in April 2018. It will cover its own courses as well as the external and in-house training that is delivered to a recognised standard and, therefore, eligible for grant support. •

     
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