January 5, 2004

New Drive Clean regs tighten heavy-duty diesel vehicle opacity standards

Amendments to Ontario Regulation 361/98 (Motor Vehicles), under the provincial Environmental Protection Act, will update the province's Drive Clean heavy-duty vehicle program to make its emission limits the toughest in North America for large diesel trucks and buses when the new standards come into effect in April. Standards limiting the amount of particulate matter (PM) in exhaust emissions, will be tightened in two stages, on April 1, 2004 and April 1, 2005. The amending regulation, 455/03, was filed on December 19 and published in the January 3, 2004 edition of the Ontario Gazette.

"With these new standards, we will be identifying more dirty vehicles and ordering them cleaned up. The result will be cleaner air and healthier communities," said Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky. She also announced that heavy-duty diesel vehicles which voluntarily achieve a very low emissions level will be allowed to have tests every two years, instead of each year. An anti-idling strategy will be developed for large trucks and buses as well.

Emissions from diesel-powered heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) registered anywhere in Ontario must be tested annually for opacity, a measurement of the amount of light that can be blocked by PM in the exhaust emissions. Current standards allow 55% of the light to be blocked by the exhaust of 1990 or older model year vehicles and 40% by 1991 or newer vehicles. The establishment of 1991 as the dividing line year for the standards is the due to the introduction that year of new and cleaner diesel engine technology.

The new standards will tighten the opacity standard to 45% for 1990 or older vehicles, effective April 1, 2004 and to 40%, effective April 1, 2005. The standard for 1991 and newer vehicles, as well as heavy-duty diesel school buses of any age, will be 35% as of April 1, 2004 and 30%, effective April 1, 2005. Heavy-duty diesel school buses are required meet the more stringent of the two standards regardless of vehicle age in order to reduce the exposure of children to potentially harmful exhaust emissions.

Ontario has been applying the North American standards in its diesel opacity tests but has found that well-maintained HDVs can easily surpass these standards. Consequently, the new regulation will offer owners and operators of heavy-duty diesel vehicles an incentive to keep their vehicles maintained well beyond the requirements needed to meet the new, stricter standards. Currently, these vehicles must be tested annually. Vehicle owners will be able to earn an exemption from the next year's annual test if they meet or surpass a 20% opacity standard.

These vehicles will require testing only every two years as long as they continue to meet or surpass the 20% opacity level. Vehicles registering over 20% opacity will still require annual tests. The exemption program opportunity for heavy-duty diesel vehicles will be phased in beginning January 1, 2005. In 2005, heavy-duty diesel vehicles of odd-model years (e.g. 2001, 1999, 1997) may be exempted from testing. In 2006, even-model years (e.g. 2002, 2000, 1998) may be exempt.

Sixteen jurisdictions in Canada and the United States, including Ontario, have some type of heavy-duty vehicle (HDV) emissions testing program. The other jurisdictions with HDV programs are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Utah, and Washington. Ontario will be only one of only five jurisdictions that combine both periodic testing and random roadside inspection.

A recent independent analysis of the Drive Clean program for heavy-duty diesel vehicles determined that it had reduced particulate matter (PM) from these vehicles registered in Ontario by nearly 1,100 tonnes from 2000 through 2002, almost twice the program target of 660 tonnes. Heavy-duty diesel vehicles contribute more than 50% of the PM from transportation sources, of which 85 to 90% is microscopic PM2.5, the tiniest particles that are readily absorbed by human respiratory systems.

More information on Drive Clean, is available by calling 1-888-758-2999 (toll-free) or on the program Web site, www.driveclean.com.

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