Old trucks in the gun as NSW looks to reduce pollution levels

NSW will target old polluting trucks under a carrot and stick approach to reduce pollution levels

Old trucks in the gun as NSW looks to reduce pollution levels
Old trucks in the gun as NSW looks to reduce pollution levels
October 25, 2012

Old trucks in New South Wales spewing excessive emissions face hefty fines and the prospect of being taken off the road as part of a plan to improve air quality in the M5 tunnel.

Roads Minister Duncan Gay says high-polluting vehicles face fines of $2,000 for the first two offences, with a third offence attracting a $2,000 fine and an automatic three-month suspension of registration.

The penalties are due to take effect on December 1, with the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to use cameras installed in the tunnel to catch offenders. Gay says tunnel cameras have identified 300 trucks with excessive emissions in the past year.

However, the Government will provide financial assistance to operators to help them cut down on emissions. Gay says $8.5 million will be spent over three years on a program to fit particle traps to trucks and provide mechanical repairs.

Gay made the announcement while releasing the results of an 18-month study into the effectiveness of an air quality filtration plant that was installed in the tunnel in 2010. He says the plant will be shut down in three months because it has only had a minor impact on air quality.

"This study shows that we need to focus on cleaner vehicles, primarily heavy vehicles, to promote fewer emissions and cause less pollution," he says.

"To that end, we will be working on a project to retrofit exhausts on diesel trucks with pollutant reduction devices and offering mechanical repairs and servicing to make heavy vehicles cleaner."

Cameras inside the tunnel will be used to detect the smokiest heavy vehicles. The Roads and Maritime Services will then contact the owners and ask them to have their vehicles assessed, repaired and fitted with a particle trap. The Government has offered to cover half the cost of doing so.

"Most of the visible fumes in the M5 East tunnel come from diesel vehicle exhausts as that road is the main transport route to and from Port Botany," Gay says.

"The main emissions are from older trucks which not only spew fumes for the 20 minutes they are in the tunnel but also across the city for the other nine or 10 hours that they are on the roads in our city."

A review will be conducted after six months to determine the success of the new arrangements.

Gay says the $8.5 million program is "a good faith offer" to encourage owners of old vehicles to clean up their fleet.

"However, for the operators who do not take up our kind offer and are later found to be continuing to spew out excessive amounts of pollution stiff penalties will apply," he says.

The air filtration plant was installed after community concerns about haze in the tunnel.

"The study indicated around 5 percent of total haze pollution and 3 percent of nitrogen dioxide in the tunnel was being removed via the filtration plant," Gay says.

"While these results are not what we expected, motorists should be aware the levels of pollution within the tunnel have been monitored 24 hours a day and have not exceeded World Health Organization standards."

The Government announced in August additional air quality measures including the installation of new signs at the tunnel’s entrances advising users to wind up their windows and put their air conditioning system onto recirculation. Those signs have been installed.

The Government also pledged to publish in-tunnel air quality data on the RMS website and to provide to the community educational material around air quality issues.

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