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Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Air - NSW overview

Part 4 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010

EPA's smoky vehicle program

EPA is responsible for maintaining the smoky vehicle program to fulfil its regulatory responsibilities under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010.

The smoky vehicle regulations have been enforced since the mid-1970's. RTA, local council and Police officers also assist EPA in enforcing the smoky vehicle laws. Up to 1000 reports from the public on smoky vehicles are received by EPA's Environment Line each month.

EPA and other officers who have been trained in smoky vehicle observation and reporting regularly patrol streets and highways in NSW to observe and report smoky vehicles. An enforcement officer (who has undertaken the training and been officially designated to enforce the relevant legislation) may automatically issue the owner of a smoky vehicle used for commercial purposes with a $400 fine.

Commercial vehicles often travel far greater distances each year than privately owned vehicles, and may potentially emit far greater levels of pollution if they have smoky exhausts. They are therefore a particular target for enforcement action under the Smoky Vehicle Program. The community and EPA expect that commercial vehicle owners will have in place an effective maintenance regime to ensure that all of their vehicles comply with the regulations at all times when they are in use.

Defective Vehicle Notices can be issued and court action can be taken against owners of vehicles who fail to repair their vehicles as directed and/or which are observed on a number of occasions.

More about the legislation

Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010

    15   Definition of excessive air impurities: section 154

  1. This clause applies to motor vehicles propelled by a spark-ignition or diesel engine.
  2. For the purposes of section 154 (2) (a) of the Act, a motor vehicle emits excessive air impurities if, when in operation, it emits air impurities in excess of such a standard of concentration that air impurities are visible for a continuous period of more than 10 seconds when determined in accordance with TM-31.
  3. For the purposes of section 154 (2) (b) of the Act, a motor vehicle emits excessive air impurities if, when tested in accordance with TM-31, it emits air impurities in excess of an amount per test that results in air impurities being visible for a continuous period of more than 10 seconds.

    16   Motor vehicles emitting excessive air impurities

  1. An owner of a motor vehicle is guilty of an offence if the vehicle emits excessive air impurities while being used.

    Maximum penalty: 400 penalty units in the case of a corporation, or 200 penalty units in the case of an individual.

Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997

   Section 154 (2)

For the purposes of this Part, a motor vehicle emits excessive air impurities if:

  1. when in operation, it emits as determined in accordance with the regulations, air impurities in excess of the standard of concentration and the rate (or the standard of concentration or the rate) prescribed in respect of the class of motor vehicles to which the motor vehicle belongs, or
  2. when tested in the prescribed manner, it emits air impurities in excess of the amount per test prescribed in respect of the class of motor vehicles to which the motor vehicle belongs.

Prescribed Manner from section 154 (2) POEO Act - Observation procedure for excessive air impurities: visible emissions - Test Method 31

When an observer is determining if a vehicle is being used in breach of the clause limiting visible emissions, the following principles apply:

  • The observer must be satisfied that the vehicle generating the visible emissions is correctly identified.
  • The observer must be satisfied that the emissions are visible not just because of heat or the condensation of water vapour.
  • The emissions must be continuously visible for more than 10 seconds.

The following details of the observation must be recorded:

  • Length of time in seconds that the visible emissions were observed.
  • Registration number of the motor vehicle under observation.
  • Type of motor vehicle under observation.
  • Colour and darkness, in the opinion of the observer, of the air impurities emitted.
  • Location, date and approximate time of day that the observation was made.

In the case of observation of digital imagery produced by an Approved Vehicle Emission Recording System (AVERS):

When an observer of digital imagery produced by an AVERS is determining if a vehicle is

being used in breach of the clause limiting visible emissions, the following principles apply:

  • The observer must be satisfied that the vehicle generating the visible emissions is correctly identified.
  • The observer must be satisfied that the visible emissions are visible not just because of heat or the condensation of water vapour.
  • The emissions must be continuously visible on any digital video imagery produced by the AVERS for more than 10 seconds.

The following details of the observation must be recorded:

  • Length of time in seconds that the visible emissions were observed.
  • Registration number of the motor vehicle depicted in the digital imagery.
  • Type of motor vehicle depicted in the digital imagery.
  • Colour and darkness, in the opinion of the observer, of the air impurities which, by reference to the digital imagery, were emitted.
  • Location, date and approximate time of day that the digital imagery was created.

    Approved Methods for the Sampling and Analysis of Air Pollutants in New South Wales

For the purposes of this Test Method 31 the following is an Approved Vehicle Emission Recording Systems:

The hardware and software components of the system known as the Vehicle Emission Enforcement System operated by the Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW and installed to record digital imagery of vehicles emitting visible emissions in the M5 East Tunnel, Earlwood and to enable subsequent viewing of that imagery

Page last updated: 19 June 2013