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Vehicle exhaust emissions - proposed changes

18 January 2006

Vehicle exhaust emissions - proposed changes

Proposed changes to the requirements for vehicle exhaust emissions have been released for public comment, including a proposal to introduce a visible smoke check for exhausts as part of regular vehicle inspections.

Police currently have the power to ticket smoky vehicles at the roadside, and vehicles entering New Zealand for the first time must meet approved emissions standards, but exhaust emissions are not currently checked as part of Warrant of Fitness (WoF) or Certificate of Fitness (CoF) inspections.

The draft Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Exhaust Emissions (2006) proposes to include a simple visible smoke check as part of WoF and CoF inspections. Vehicles discharging clearly visible, dense smoke from the exhaust would fail inspection.

Director of Land Transport Wayne Donnelly said the proposed new check would only affect a small number of vehicles, but bringing those vehicles up to standard or removing them from the road would benefit all New Zealanders by reducing air pollution.

"Less than two percent of vehicles are likely to fail this check, but they will be gross polluters - most likely poorly maintained and with severely worn or damaged engines. These vehicles are a significant source of air pollution, which in turn can cause serious health problems."

A 2002 report from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) estimates that around 400 people die prematurely each year from exposure to vehicle emissions. The problem is worse in cities and towns with high traffic rates and congestion where a large segment of the population can be exposed to air pollution.

The draft rule also proposes to change the implementation date for the Euro 4 emissions standard for heavy diesel vehicles in order to prevent disruption to the supply of new heavy diesel vehicles, including public transport buses, for New Zealand companies.

For more information on the draft Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule, including submission forms and Q&As, go to www.landtransport.govt.nz


Questions and answers

Revised Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Exhaust Emissions [2006]

Why is the revised Rule being proposed?

The current Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Exhaust Emissions 2003 (the Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule) specifies vehicle exhaust emission manufacturing standards that vehicles must have been built to before they are certified for use on New Zealand’s roads. The Rule currently does not include any requirements related to emission performance, (ie, that vehicles continue to comply with their manufacturing standards and are not gross polluters) for vehicles entering the country or already operating on New Zealand roads. For the first time, performance requirements, in the form of a visible smoke check, will be set out in the proposed revised Rule.

What does Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Exhaust Emissions 2003 say about vehicle exhaust emissions?

The current Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule identifies vehicle exhaust emissions standards for motor vehicles manufactured since the beginning of 1990. It requires all such vehicles entering New Zealand for the first time to have been manufactured to an appropriate, identified standard.

Do any other Rules deal with vehicle exhaust emissions?

Yes. The Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 (the Road User Rule) has a requirement aimed at smoky vehicles, which states that a driver must not operate a motor vehicle that emits a continuous stream of smoke for 10 seconds or more. This requirement is enforced by the Police, and approximately 300 infringement notices are currently issued each year.

So, why do we need more legislation on vehicle exhaust emissions?

The Road User Rule provides operational requirements that road users must abide by when using vehicles on public roads. It does not cover the roadworthiness of vehicles. This will be covered by the proposed revised Rule, and will allow vehicle inspectors to check that vehicles are not heavy polluters. Currently, only the Police can enforce, through the Road User Rule, requirements
relating to smoky vehicles.

What are the proposed changes to the Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule?

There are two specific changes to the Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule proposed:

the introduction of a visible smoke check at vehicle inspections a change in the date that the emissions standard, Euro 4, for heavy diesel vehicles comes into force.

Visible smoke check

What is the proposed ‘visible smoke check’?

The visible smoke check is a simple, subjective test by vehicle inspectors and certifiers on exhaust emissions. The check will be carried out as part of a vehicle’s warrant of fitness (WoF) or certificate of fitness (CoF) inspection.

Vehicles that discharge clearly visible, dense smoke during testing will not be certified for use on public roads.

Why has the change been proposed?

The introduction of a visible smoke check will build on existing measures to control motor vehicle emissions and improve air quality. For example, it will complement Police enforcement of the existing 10-second smoky vehicle rule.

The visible smoke check will also pave the way for possible more sophisticated testing of vehicle emissions.

What is the visible smoke check likely to involve?

There are three parts to the visible smoke check. The engine is purged to clear the vehicle’s exhaust, exhaust smoke is checked for a continuous period of five seconds when a vehicle is idling, and again as the engine speed is increased to approximately 2500 revolutions per minute (or approximately half the maximum engine speed), whichever is the lower.

Who will it affect?

The proposed revised Rule will apply to the owners of vehicles registered in New Zealand that are required by Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Standards Compliance 2002 to be certified for entry, re-entry or operation in service. So, unless your vehicle is exempt from requiring a vehicle inspection, it will undergo a visible smoke check.

What are the anticipated benefits of the proposed changes?

Much of the emissions from vehicles is caused by a small percentage of gross polluters.

Removing the excessively smoky vehicles from the road will reduce harmful emissions without unduly penalising most vehicle owners.

New Zealanders will benefit from improved air quality and public health. Owners of smoky vehicles who repair their poorly performing engines will benefit from more efficient fuel and oil use.

Has metering of vehicle smoke been considered as a measure of emission level?

Yes, and it is possible that this form of measuring exhaust emission levels will be introduced in the future. The visible smoke check was chosen as a way of keeping inspection costs down while providing a workable check. It is an inexpensive way of identifying the very worst polluting vehicles on our roads. The proposed revised Rule introduces this emission performance requirement to ensure that vehicles entering New Zealand or that are already on our roads are not heavy polluters.

If the visible smoke check is ‘subjective’, how do I know that my vehicle really is at fault?

Inspection guidelines and procedures for the visible smoke check will be developed. Land Transport NZ will be able to draw on successful overseas models for stationary vehicle smoke checks, and will work with the New Zealand inspection industry to ensure the test is applied consistently throughout the country.

Although the test is subjective, if your vehicle emits dense and continuous smoke for five seconds or more it is not operating efficiently and is releasing harmful pollutants into the air. Continued use of the vehicle would be likely to make you liable for a fine under the Road User Rule.

How do you know that dense and continuous visible smoke contains harmful pollutants?

Overseas testing has shown a strong correlation between visible smoke emissions and the emission of harmful pollutants. Even though the visible smoke check is subjective, it has been shown that vehicles failed for showing clearly visible dense smoke will be high emitters of harmful pollutants and should be repaired.

A vehicle operating normally should not emit any visible tailpipe smoke. If a vehicle smokes when fully warmed up, it usually means that the engine needs repairing.

Will the time taken to inspect my vehicle increase?

The visible smoke test should add less than one minute to each vehicle inspection – you are unlikely to notice any real difference.

Will the proposed requirements mean additional costs for vehicle owners?

Inspection fees are not regulated, but inspectors must be compensated. The visible smoke test is unlikely to add significantly to the time and expense of an inspection because inspectors will not need any new equipment and the check will take less than a minute. The main costs are likely to be the repairs needed if the vehicle fails the visible smoke check.

What will happen if my vehicle fails the visible smoke check?

If your vehicle fails the WoF or CoF inspection, you will need to get it repaired before it will be allowed back on the road.

What if the design of my vehicle means that it emits unavoidable smoke?

Some vehicles, such as some historic vehicles and those with two-stroke engines, do produce a low level of visible smoke when they are operating. This may occur, for example, when the engine is accelerated for a short time, during gear changes or when carrying a load. The proposed changes will set an acceptable limit for visible smoke to allow for a short puff of smoke that is unavoidable because of the original design of the vehicle.

Will historic vehicles be unfairly penalised by the visible smoke check?

No. It is proposed that provision be made for vehicles that emit unavoidable smoke because of their original design.

How many vehicles is the proposed visible smoke check likely to affect?

The findings from a recent study of petrol vehicles found that two percent of vehicles surveyed emitted visible smoke when idling. The study did not make a distinction between a puff of smoke and continuous visible smoke.

The number of vehicles expected to fail the visible smoke inspections is, therefore, likely to be less than two percent of vehicles tested.

The number of vehicles which, in turn, it will not be cost-efficient to repair to an acceptable standard will be a smaller percentage again.

What sorts of vehicles are likely to fail the check?

The vehicles most likely to fail the visible smoke check will be the worst polluting vehicles on our roads, and will probably have significant engine damage or wear. They will already be in breach of section 7.5 of the Road User Rule, which requires that a driver must not operate a motor vehicle that emits a continuous stream of smoke or vapour for 10 seconds or more.

If the number of vehicles this legislation will affect is likely to be significantly less than two percent of the entire New Zealand vehicle fleet, is it worth introducing the visible smoke check?

Air quality monitoring shows that motor vehicle exhaust emissions are a significant source of air pollution. Reducing the number of vehicles that emit clearly visible dense smoke will reduce air pollution.

Although it is expected that only the very worst polluting vehicles will fail the visible smoke check, the measure is significant, as it introduces a formal vehicle emissions check for the first time at vehicle inspections in New Zealand and makes it clear that harmful vehicle emissions are not acceptable.

What are the health impacts of vehicle exhaust emissions?

Poor air quality can be a significant cause of health problems, including asthma, heart disease and bronchitis. Anyone may be affected by poor air quality, with children and the elderly most at risk.

A National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA) report commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and released in 2002 estimates that around 400 people die prematurely each year from exposure to vehicle emissions. The problem is worse in cities and towns with high traffic rates and congestion where a large segment of the population is exposed to air pollution.

What are the environmental impacts of vehicle exhaust emissions?

The health and environmental impacts of vehicle exhaust emissions are closely linked. Environmental problems caused by air pollution are less direct and quantifiable than health impacts, and include such things as poor visibility (including smog and haze) and staining of building surfaces. Air pollution can also damage New Zealand’s international reputation for having a clean environment.

There will also be environmental benefits, because poorly performing (and therefore, less fuel efficient) vehicles will either be repaired or taken off the road.

Euro 4

What is the proposed change for Euro 4?

The Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule specifies vehicle exhaust emission manufacturing standards that vehicles must have been built to before they are certified for use on New Zealand’s roads.

Under this Rule, heavy duty diesel vehicles (ie, those weighing more than 3500 kg) have to comply with the emissions standard Euro 4 if they are: New-model vehicles and manufactured on or after 1 January 2007; or Existing-model vehicles and manufactured on or after 1 January 2008.

It is now proposed to delay the introduction date for Euro 4 by one year.

Are any other vehicle exhaust emissions standards affected?

Yes, the Australian standard ADR80/81, which is functionally the same as Euro 4, has also been delayed by a year.

Why is the change being proposed?

The proposed change is to prevent problems with the supply of new heavy diesel vehicles into New Zealand. It means that New Zealand companies can continue to import vehicles, including public buses, without the risk of disrupting supply.

The European Union (EU) has only just (26 October 2005) officially adopted the Euro 4 emissions standard, with which new heavy diesel vehicles have to comply from October 2006. Existing models, however, do not need to comply until October 2008.

The EU timing means that New Zealand importers cannot reasonably be expected to guarantee the supply of Euro 4-compliant vehicles in accordance with the dates currently set out in the Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule.

Is this the only reason for the proposed change?

No, there is another reason. Some overseas manufacturers use a technology to reduce engine emissions that needs a supply of urea to ensure compliance. If this type of Euro 4 diesel engine operates without urea, it produces much higher emissions. New Zealand industry needs time to develop a suitable urea supply; that is, allow time for the necessary infrastructure to be put into place.

Who is this proposed change likely to affect?

This proposed change will directly affect importers of new heavy diesel vehicles.

Next steps

How do I have my say on the proposals in the revised Rule? The consultation (yellow) draft of the proposed revised Rule is available on the Land Transport NZ website at ww.landtransport.govt.nz/consultation/vehicle-emissions or you can ring the Land Transport NZ help desk on 0800 699 000 to request a printed copy. Guidance on how to make a submission is included with the draft Rule. What’s the deadline for consultation?

Submissions should be sent to Land Transport NZ by Friday, 24 February 2006.

What will be done with my feedback?

Issues that are raised in submissions on the yellow draft will be analysed and taken into account in redrafting the proposed revised Rule. Those who have made submissions on the yellow draft will be advised if significant changes to the proposed Rule are made.

What will be the next stage of the process?

Following the public consultation phase, the draft Rule will be sent to the Ministry of Transport for the government’s consideration. The final draft of the Rule will be considered by Cabinet and then signed by the Minister.

When will the proposed revised Rule come into force?

The revised Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule is expected to come into force in late 2006.


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