Clearing the air

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. – This summer highway inspection officers with the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) have been stopping heavy vehicles operating south of the 55th parallel in Quebec that are obviously exceeding exhaust emission guidelines. Issuing warnings was the first step in publicizing the requirement that trucks must conform to the new emission standards brought into force this June 1. Beginning Sept. 1, however, inspection officers will begin handing out fines.

The operative title for this program designed to improve air quality, particularly in urban areas, is called the programme d’inspection et d’entretien des vehicules automobiles lourds (PIEVAL), or the heavy-duty vehicle inspection and maintenance program. Although the SAAQ Web site has been carrying announcements about PIEVAL, the most extensive documentation is located on the Quebec’s Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (MDDEP) Web site; see .

There are 130,000 heavy vehicles in Quebec, of which 55,000 are large transport trucks. Although they make up just 3% of highway traffic, they produce 50% of the pollution caused by vehicles, according to the SAAQ. It is estimated that between 15,000 and 18,000 heavy vehicles on Quebec roads produce pollutants that exceed the norms set in other Canadian provinces where vehicle inspection and maintenance programs are in place, or in US states.

The new regulations on the environmental norms applicable to heavy vehicles have set environmental standards for heavy vehicles and specify that the anti-pollution devices installed on them must be working properly. Every heavy vehicle in Quebec, with certain exceptions, “…must be equipped with a pollution control device or system in working order that reduces the emission of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide or particles into the atmosphere,” reads the regulations. Pollution control devices may not be removed or modified, except for replacement; replacement systems must conform to the standards of the original system.

The emission levels for diesel engines is measured by the exhaust opaqueness, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers recommended practice J1667 Snap-Acceleration Smoke Test Procedure for Heavy-Duty Diesel Powered Vehicles.

For the first two years following the implementation of the new emission standards, the maximum permitted opaqueness will be 45% for 1991 and more recent vehicles, and 60% for 1990 and older vehicles. Thereafter, the maximum permitted opaqueness will be 40% and 55%, respectively; the rules also cover gas or gas-powered heavy vehicles.

In an approach designed to target the most obvious offenders, SAAQ inspection officers will only stop trucks that appear to be polluting excessively – spewing clouds of black smoke, in other words. Having stopped a truck, the officer will ask the driver to gun the engine repeatedly to see if, in fact, his first impression was correct. If it was not, the driver and vehicle may go on their way. But if the officer’s first impression is confirmed by lots of exhaust smoke, an opacimeter will measure the opacity of the exhaust fumes. If the truck fails the test, an infraction report will be written and sent to the MDDEP.

Beginning in September, violators will receive both fines and repair notices. For a first pollution offence, fines range from $100 to $200, and twice that for people leasing or selling non-conforming trucks.

Owners of trucks without pollution control devices can be fined $300-$600; people leasing or selling non-conforming trucks can be fined twice that. Removing or modifying pollution control devices in contravention of the regulations is worth from $750 to $3,000. Installing a non-conforming replacement pollution control device is also worth from $750 to $3,000.

Owners of non-compliant vehicles will have 30 days from the date of receiving a repair notice to repair the vehicle. The repair must be done at an accredited establishment, which will then issue a document certifying that the heavy vehicle complies with the emission standards.

Vehicle owners will have to pay for the repairs themselves but, trolling statistics from British Columbia, the MDDEP learned that the average cost of a repair to bring a truck into compliance with emission standards is $345. For 40% of trucks though, the cost was less than $100. Since the program is so new, the MDDEP looked to Ontario for guidance on the cost of a re-inspection using an opacimeter: currently it is $70 to $125.

To support PIEVAL, a training program for mechanics is being offered by Camo-route inc. For more information, Camo-route can be reached at 514-593-5811 or . As well, an agency of the MDDEP called the Centre d’expertise en analyse environnementale du Quebec (CEAEQ) has developed an accreditation program for any organisation or business that wants to get into the business of doing re-inspections for their own vehicles or those of paying clients. The CEAEQ can be reached at 418 643-1301 or

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