November 21, 2005

Drive Clean program changes focus on higher-polluting vehicles, stronger enforcement

The Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) is revising the province's Drive Clean vehicle emissions testing and repair program in order to improve its effectiveness and concentrate more on vehicles most likely to pollute.

Designed to reduce emissions of smog-causing contaminants from cars, trucks and buses, the program currently requires light-duty vehicles at least three years old to be tested every two years as part of the renewal process for their licence plates. Light-duty vehicles 20 years old or more are exempt from testing.

Effective January 1, 2006, the program is being revised as follows.

*Required emissions tests as part of the licence renewal process will begin when vehicles are five years old instead of three, as newer vehicles have much better emissions controls and it has been found that three-year-old cars pass Drive Clean over 99% of the time. Heavy-duty trucks and buses will also require tests beginning when they are five years old, instead of three.

*The 20-year-old rolling exemption for light-duty vehicles will be eliminated: 20-year-old light-duty vehicles, which have a high risk of being serious polluters, will now require testing, with 1988 and newer model year vehicles remaining in the program.

*Consumer protection and fraud prevention will be strengthened by making it an offence under the Environmental Protection Act to create, distribute or use false Drive Clean passes and making it easier to decertify emissions inspectors who create, distribute or use false Drive Clean passes.

The MOE is also proposing further changes to the Drive Clean program, including:

*requiring annual testing for vehicles 12 years old and older;

*increasing the amount vehicle owners must spend on repairs should their vehicle fail its Drive Clean test from $450 to $600;

*no longer requiring a Drive Clean test for an ownership transfer between family members, or when a vehicle lease is bought out by the lessee; and

*using the vehicle's own on-board computers for testing 1998 and newer vehicles.

In addition, the Ministry plans to realign its Smog Patrol resources to focus inspections on high-risk transportation sectors such as heavy-duty vehicles (including out-of-province vehicles) and commercial vehicles (including taxis and other high-mileage vehicles).

The modifications to Drive Clean are the result of an overall program review that began in January of this year. A science-based review done as part of this initiative concluded that the program is achieving reductions in emissions of smog-causing pollutants from on-road light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. It said even greater reductions could be achieved through improvements such as exempting newer vehicles and focusing more intently on older vehicles, which are most likely to pollute.

Both Drive Clean's new and proposed changes have been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry for a 60-day comment period ending January 17, 2006 (reference No PA05E0019). The posting may be viewed at

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