New Ontario Drive Clean standards begin tomorrow

TORONTO, (March 31, 2004) — Stricter standards of Ontario’s Drive Clean program are set to take effect tomorrow — tightening pollution controls for heavy trucks, but also offering incentives to the owners of the province’s cleanest heavy vehicles.

The new emissions standards for all heavy-duty diesel vehicles (currently 40 per cent opacity for 1991 and newer vehicles, and 55 per cent opacity for 1990 and older vehicles) will be tightened to 35 per cent for 1991 and newer vehicles, and to 45 per cent opacity for 1990 and older vehicles in 2004. The standards will be further reduced in 2005 where 1991 and newer vehicles must meet 30 per cent opacity levels, and 40 per cent for 1990 and older vehicles.

However, as Today’s Trucking reported in January, the Ontario Trucking Association successfully lobbied the government to reward truckers that go above and beyond the new benchmarks by allowing them to test their vehicles every two years instead of annually. Heavy-duty diesel vehicles which surpass (are equal to or lower than) the standard of 20 per cent opacity will be exempted from an emissions test in the following year. Vehicles that meet the Drive Clean standard but still emit opacity greater than 20 per cent will continue to require tests annually.

The OTA says that 98 per cent of the province’s trucks are passing the current standard and the association is confident that 95 per cent will still pass with the new regs.

Meanwhile, contrary to some media reports, Ontario will not be phasing out Drive Clean testing for cars, vans and SUVs while continuing to test trucks and buses. Such a suggestion was initially made by Ontario Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky, who apparently stated incorrectly that the light duty program would be “phased out” when what she meant was that it would be “reviewed.”

The Ontario Trucking Association says has been assured by a number of government sources, including Minister Dombrowsky’s office, that the Drive Clean program will continue as is, at least until each aspect of the program — including the truck component — is reviewed in 2005-2006.

The OTA says it will seek the elimination of the program at that time — adding “it has a strong case” to support such a proposal.

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