Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Vehicle emissions

Car emissions

Emissions from vehicle exhausts are a significant source of air pollution. Air pollutants in vehicle emissions include:

  • carbon dioxide
  • carbon monoxide
  • fine dust particles
  • nitrogen oxides
  • unburnt hydrocarbons.

You should try to limit the vehicle emissions produced by your business as they may:

  • lead to ill health, such as respiratory problems, in your staff and the public
  • cause a nuisance to your neighbours
  • contribute to roadside pollution levels in urban areas
  • contribute to climate change.

What you must do

Make sure that your vehicles comply with emission limits and weight regulations. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) carries out roadside checks to enforce these standards.

Ensure your vehicles comply with exhaust emission standards as specified in the:

  • Ministry of Transport (MOT) test scheme for motor vehicles
  • Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) scheme, or
  • Public Service Vehicle (PSV) scheme.

These schemes are operated by;

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

Driver and Vehicle Agency (Northern Ireland): Vehicle testing

Your local council monitors air quality in your area. If the air quality exceeds a certain threshold, it may declare an area to be an Air Quality Management Area.

Some local councils are introducing low emission zones to reduce pollution in urban centres. These are areas where you may have to pay a daily charge if your vehicle doesn't meet certain emission standards or qualify for an exemption. Check with your local council to find out if there are any low emission zones or air quality management areas in your area.

Contact your local council

You can also search for air quality management areas on the Defra website.

Defra: Local air quality management areas

You must turn off your engine if your vehicle is stationary to reduce exhaust emissions and noise. You can be prosecuted or fined by some local councils if you leave your engine running while stationary for more than a few minutes.

Good practice

  • When buying new company vehicles, select models with low carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and high fuel efficiency.
  • You can find out the fuel efficiency a vehicle from the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) or Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Ltd (SMMT).

VCA: New car fuel consumption and exhaust emissions

VCA: New van fuel consumption and exhaust emissions

SMMT: New and Used - CO2 emissions data for all cars

You can benefit from tax breaks by buying low emission vehicles.

Reducing vehicle emissions: Choose low emission vehicles

You can reduce your vehicle emissions and possibly reduce running costs by using alternative fuels, such as gas or electrical hybrids.

VCA: Cars and fuel options

Energy Saving Trust Scotland: Electric vehicles

The Energy Saving Trust has produced a smart phone app that can save you money and track your fuel use. You can find out about the app at:

Energy saving Trust: FuelGood

You can fit older vehicles with devices that reduce their emissions. This can be a cheaper alternative to upgrading engines.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) reward businesses that use cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. Road tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) are linked to the car's exhaust emissions, particularly its CO2 emissions. You can get more details from the HMRC.

HMRC: Company cars

Service all your vehicles regularly.

Make sure tyres are correctly inflated and remove roof bars and boxes when they are not needed.

Remove any excess weight by only carrying what you need.

Keep speed down. Driving at 50-60 mph produces the lowest emissions. Driving over 70mph rapidly increases vehicle emissions. It can cost up to 15% more in fuel to drive at 70mph compared with 50mph.

  • Keep the vehicle moving if possible. Starting and stopping uses more fuel than a vehicle moving steadily.
  • Use air-conditioning and other electrical devices sparingly as this increases fuel consumption.
  • Monitor your fuel consumption to help detect problems early.
  • Pre-plan delivery routes to maximise the efficient use of vehicles.
  • Avoid using vehicles for short journeys. Encourage your staff to use public transport, cycle or walk.
  • Reduce the impact of necessary journeys by using less-congested routes, avoiding peak travel times and encouraging car sharing.

In this Sector Guideline

Car parking

Carriage of dangerous goods

Refrigerated transport and equipment

Travel plans for education

Travel plans and green transport for offices

Vehicle air-conditioning systems

Vehicle cleaning (including wheel washing)

Vehicle emissions

Vehicle movements and deliveries at construction sites

Vehicle refinishing products

Additional resources

Video Case Study: How to Reduce Carbon Emissions From Your Business

Environmental News Blog

  • My Year at NetRegs, A reflection on my time as an intern with the NetRegs team at SEPA. An overview of all the activities and projects I had the opportunity to participate in during my Bright Green Environmental Placement.

  • A day with Hydrology, SEPA's hydrometry unit is responsible for around 400 gauging stations and 350 rainfall monitoring sites. River gauging stations are important as they allow river levels to be monitored so flood events can be predicted and flood warnings sent out.

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms