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Older Trucks Most Polluting On Metro Vancouver Roads

May 22, 2013 - 6 years ago

By Supply Post

Metro Vancouver recently completed on-road testing of the diesel pollution from thousands of heavy-duty vehicles across the region.

The results of the study confirmed that national emissions standards have been successful in reducing air emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, with newer vehicles producing significantly lower emissions than older models.

Three-quarters of the heavy-duty vehicles observed were 2007 and older models. These vehicles contributed 98 per cent of the measured diesel soot emissions and 90 per cent of the measured nitrogen oxide emissions. This finding indicates that replacing older vehicles with newer ones subject to stricter national emissions standards results in emissions reductions.

“We clearly cannot ignore the impact of older vehicles when talking about air quality,” said Metro Vancouver Environment and Parks Committee Chair Heather Deal. “A well-designed program will need to reduce the impact of the oldest vehicles on the public by removing them from the fleet or bringing them up to a higher emission standard, more on par with newer vehicles.”

The study also examined the problem of “gross emitters.” These are the dirtiest vehicles contributing a disproportionately high amount of emissions per kilometre compared to a vehicle of the same age and type. The study found that the dirtiest ten per cent of the vehicle fleet emitted four to five times more nitrogen oxides and diesel soot and eleven times more carbon monoxide than a properly operating vehicle of the same model year. Many of these “gross emitters” have problems with their emission control systems, which can be repaired to improve emissions performance. Identification of the highest-emitting vehicles can help in developing cost-effective programs for reducing emissions.

These test results will inform policy and program development by the Province of British Columbia and Metro Vancouver over the next two years. The specialized testing technology used in this project was demonstrated to be a viable option for measuring emissions in a less invasive manner without pulling the vehicle off the road or requiring a visit to a specialized test facility. Roadside vehicular emissions testing is one of several options which will be considered in the next phase of program development for on-road heavy-duty vehicles. Other options to be evaluated include scrappage programs, required retrofits, incentives and fees.

“With these results, we can shape a comprehensive package of programs and policies to effectively target the real issues of aging fleet, gross emitters and tampering,” said Metro Vancouver Board Chair Greg Moore. “The regional district will work with the Province to reduce emissions in a way that makes the most sense and is cost-effective, given what the science tells us.”

In 55 days of testing conducted at 24 diverse locations throughout the Lower Fraser Valley between July and October 2012, over 11,700 tests were made on passing semi-trailer trucks, dump trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. Different types of air emissions were measured as the trucks passed through specialized testing equipment. About one in five of the region’s heaviest diesel trucks passed through the test equipment at least once.

This study also measured emissions from vehicles that were not registered in the Lower Fraser Valley region, including those arriving from Alberta and the United States. Average emissions levels appeared to be similar across jurisdictions.

The emissions testing technology, called “remote sensing”, directs infrared and ultraviolet beams from a specialized testing trailer across roadways and through the exhaust from a heavy-duty truck’s engine. Trucks and buses that pass by the test site do not have to slow down or stop to be tested. The test program did not require truck and bus owners to take corrective actions.

This project was sponsored by the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Metro Vancouver, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Fraser Valley Regional District, AirCare and Port Metro Vancouver. The testing was carried out by Envirotest Canada.

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