Ontario will begin smoke testing heavy duty diesel trucks and buses in September under the province's Drive Clean initiative.
Annual testing will apply to heavy duty vehicles registered in Ontario and more than three model years old, beginning with those whose registrations must be renewed on or after Sept. 30, 1999. There is no maximum age for vehicles covered by the program.
If a vehicle fails, it must be repaired to Ontario standards and retested. The inspections must be conducted at an accredited Drive Clean heavy duty vehicle facility or a mobile unit, the first of which are expected to open in June.
Trucks will be administered exhaust opacity tests, which measure the density of vehicle emissions. The tests will use the Society of Automotive Engineer's standard "Snap Acceleration Smoke Test Procedure for Heavy-Duty Diesel-Powered Vehicles (SAE J-1667)." The opacity standard for 1991 and newer models is 40% or less. For 1990 and older models, the standard is 55% or less.
The Ontario Trucking Assn. says the Ontario Ministry of the Environment is completely ill-prepared to implement the program, calling it "an expensive paper tiger that is destined to go up in smoke." OTA President David Bradley says the timing of the program is motivated purely by election politics, and that the ministry should do a cost-benefit analysis of the program.
"What the ministry should be doing is concentrating its resources on the gross emitters," Bradley says, "which tend to be the older vehicles that are not equipped with the new electronic engines. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a $20,000 opacity meter to see if a truck is smoking."
Ontario already has the Smog Patrol, an on-road enforcement program targeting vehicles emitting thick and visible smoke from their exhaust systems. This applies to all vehicles, regardless of where they are from.
The Smog Patrol now has nine full-time enforcement officers to identify and ticket the worst-polluting vehicles with visible smoke emissions. Between April 1 and April 16 of this year, the Smog Patrol stopped more than 400 vehicles and issued 43 tickets. Last year, the Smog Patrol inspected a total of 700 vehicles, tested the emissions of 270 and issued 130 tickets, which carry a fine of up to $425.