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Measures introduced to reduce vehicle emissions

30 June 2005

Measures introduced to reduce vehicle emissions

Associate Minister of Transport Judith Tizard today announced a new set of measures to reduce the harmful effects of vehicle emissions.

A visual smoke test will be introduced as part of the warrant and certificate of fitness and the removal of or tampering with a vehicle's emissions control technology will be prohibited.

"This government remains absolutely determined to reduce the harmful health and environmental effects of vehicle exhaust emissions," Judith Tizard said.

"Immediate measures to deal with the current vehicle fleet will see the worst polluters off the road by introducing a visual smoke test for all vehicles as part of the warrant and certificate of fitness check. This measure will target poorly maintained petrol and diesel vehicles, and will be in force by the end of 2006.

"Modern vehicles are getting cleaner as each year passes ƒ{ some feature ¡¥on-board diagnostics¡¦ or OBD technology, which continually monitors the emissions control system to maintain optimum operating performance. To ensure that clean vehicles stay clean, tampering with and removing emissions control equipment will be prohibited.

"Over the next few months, the Ministry of Transport will work with local government, the motor industry, consumer groups and car enthusiasts to develop the detail of these measures and a workable implementation plan.

"Officials will also look into stringent new controls for vehicles entering the country requiring them to meet high international emissions standards and to ensure that used vehicles entering the country continue to meet the emissions standards they were manufactured to before they can join the New Zealand vehicle fleet. The Ministry will also undertake work to assess the economic and social impacts of the new border standards for vehicles.

"Reducing the health and environmental impacts of vehicle emissions is a major focus for this government. This problem was ignored by previous governments throughout the 1990s, but it is a threat that no responsible government can ignore," Judith Tizard said.

Contact: Catherine Field-Dodgson, Press Secretary ¡V 04 471 9871 or 021 579 871 or email
Questions and answers

Why target smoky vehicles?

It is estimated that 10 percent of vehicles account for up to 40 percent of New Zealand¡¦s harmful vehicle exhaust emissions. Removing the ¡¥smoky vehicles¡¦ from the road, either by requiring they be repaired or retiring them from the vehicle fleet, will significantly reduce harmful emissions, without unduly penalising the vast majority of responsible motorists.

What is a visual smoke test?

In general terms, a visual smoke test is a subjective, visual examination of the opacity of a vehicle¡¦s exhaust emissions carried out by a trained person. A vehicle with an engine out of tune or in need of repair produces blue or black smoke. A diesel vehicle with a fuel system problem produces black smoke (particularly apparent under load).

How will a vehicle pass or fail the visual smoke test?

The details are yet to be decided and will be the subject of consultation with the motor industry and other interested parties. It is envisaged the visual smoke test will be subjective and based on the current 10-second rule and appropriate guidelines developed by the Ministry. It is expected that the test will draw on guidelines in place in the UK where the visual inspection forms part of their in-service testing.

Will older vehicles be required to pass the visual smoke test?

Classic vehicles will be taken into account. The current ¡¥10-second¡¦ rule provides for vehicles with an original equipment engine whose design means it cannot reasonably comply.

What is the ¡¥10-second¡¦ rule?

Known as the 10-second rule, Regulation 28 of the Traffic Regulations came into force in March 2001 (now Section 7.5 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004). The rule makes it an offence to operate a vehicle producing excessive visible exhaust smoke for a sustained period longer than 10 seconds. Enforcement is a matter for the Police.

How will the public know about the visual smoke test?

The Ministry will undertake a public awareness and education campaign to ensure the public and the motor industry is provided with the information necessary to comply with the test.

How much will the visual smoke test cost the motorist?

As it is a visual test, it is likely to take only a matter of seconds to carry out ¡V hence the 10-second rule. The cost has yet to be determined, but it is expected to be very inexpensive for the vast majority of motorists whose vehicle are well-maintained and not emitting excess exhaust smoke.

What has been done to reduce New Zealand¡¦s harmful vehicle emissions?

From 1 January 2004, vehicles entering the country have been required to meet an approved emissions standard applying in the country of manufacture, at the time of manufacture.

From 1 January 2006, revised diesel fuel specifications will lead to the reduction of the sulphur content in diesel fuels to 50 parts per million, making New Zealand diesel cleaner and bring it into line with European standards.

The Ministry is working toward removing the barriers to the introduction of renewable transport fuels ¡V including ethanol petrol blends and bio-diesel.

Why target modified exhaust systems?

A new focus of the vehicle emissions policy is on improving the emissions technology of the vehicle fleet over time. One key component of modern emission control systems is the catalytic converter, which removes much of the harmful gases from exhaust emissions. Allowing any part of such systems to be removed or tampered with undermines efforts to clean up the vehicle fleet.

What is ¡§on-board diagnostics¡¨?

On-board diagnostics or OBD is a US standard, widely used elsewhere, whereby an on-board computer and sensors monitor the emissions performance of a vehicle and warns the driver if a problem is detected. Many US states have introduced an OBD emissions test (a short test requiring the connection of an electronic probe to a suitable terminal on the vehicle) in which information from the on-board computer is downloaded to verify the emissions control equipment is working.

What emissions testing regimes exist in other countries?

Emissions testing regimes vary from place to place overseas, and are found in almost all developed countries. The most stringent emissions regulatory regimes are found in California and some other US states. Vehicles are tested in either loaded or unloaded conditions ¡V that is, either at idle or in simulated driving conditions. The common characteristic of emissions testing regimes overseas is the long history of emission standards applying to their vehicle fleets, which provides base-line emission performance against which to test and determine if a particular vehicle may be operated on the road. This characteristic does not exist in New Zealand.

How many vehicles are in the New Zealand vehicle fleet?

The New Zealand vehicle fleet consisted of 3,668,577 million vehicles as at 30 June 2004 ¡V about 2.5 million passenger cars and vans ¡V 0.5 million goods vans, trucks and utilities ¡V and 0.5 million other vehicles (such as trailers, motorcycles, tractors). This represents one of the highest levels of vehicle ownership per-capita in the world.

How old is the average New Zealand car?

The mean age of cars in the New Zealand vehicle fleet as at 31 December 2004 was estimated to be 11.78 years. This has increased from an estimated 11.28 years as at 31 December 1999.

When will the new visual smoke check and the tampering / removal prohibition be in place?

Implementation of the visual smoke check as part of the warrant and certificate of fitness check and the prohibition on tampering with and removal of a vehicle¡¦s emission control equipment require an amendment to Land Transport Rules. Following consultation with the motor industry and other interested parties, the Ministry of Transport aims to have the visual smoke check in place by late 2006 and the tampering and removal prohibition in place by late 2007.

Will the public be consulted on these new measures?

The Land Transport Rule process provides for public input into their development.


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