An update on the Drive Clean program
The Ontario government has announced two significant and long-overdue changes to the controversial Drive Clean emissions program.
In November 2016, it announced a starting date for the elimination of the $30 Drive Clean fee on vehicles seven years old and older. That date is April 2017, which is more than a year after the government announced it planned to kill the fee.
The government also announced that, also starting in April 2017, an emissions test is no longer required on the resale of pre-owned, salvaged or rebuilt light-duty vehicles, regardless of age.
This would include dealership company vehicles, which are typically grounded and sold with around 10,000 kilometres.
All vehicles built before 1987 are exempt from Drive Clean testing.
Consumers do not need an emissions test for most hybrid electric vehicles, light-duty vehicles with a model year before 1988, vehicles that are plated “historic” under the Highway Traffic Act, light-duty commercial farm-plated vehicles, kit cars and motorcycles.
Consumers may wonder about potential emission problems on pre-owned vehicles that they are interested in purchasing, but needn’t be. Failure rates on newer model vehicles, including dealership company vehicles, are almost nil.
Since late-model-year and dealership company vehicles sold by dealers are almost new and under warranty, having to perform an emissions test on them is unnecessary and a considerable waste of time for dealers and consumers.
Emissions tests on newer-model, pre-owned vehicles, including dealership company vehicles, have been a financial and/or physical burden on dealerships, automotive technicians and consumers since the program was first established.
The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), which represents 1,100 member dealers across Ontario, applauds these recent changes and views them as victories for dealers and consumers, but feels the government should have gone further and cancelled the Drive Clean program altogether.
The $30 cost for running emissions tests on older vehicles will now come from the government’s general revenues.
If a vehicle fails its initial test when renewing the registration, however, the vehicle owner will now still have to pay to have their vehicle retested.
Further contributing to Drive Clean’s inefficiency is the new computerized testing procedures, which were introduced in 2013. The new procedures measure on-board computers rather than actual tailpipe emissions and have resulted in an increase in failure rates.
The increase in failure rates have been mostly the result of system malfunctions, not increased vehicle emissions. When a vehicle fails an emissions test, the car owner must pay for a second test at a cost of $17.50.
Since the Ontario Drive Clean program was first introduced in 1999, it has been mired in controversy.
In the past 10 years, the program has become an unnecessary tax on motorists given that most current-model-year vehicles pass the emissions test with flying colours.
While it could be argued that the program served a purpose in lowering harmful emissions in the early years, Drive Clean has long since outlived its usefulness.
According to the provincial government of the day in 1999, the original aim of Drive Clean was to serve as a temporary, revenue-neutral program to reduce the amount of exhaust emissions into the atmosphere by identifying the most serious offenders. Drive Clean continues to run a surplus of more than $11 million. The TADA will continue to advocate to scrap this unnecessary program and to make the government accountable for the revenues it has generated from Drive Clean. British Columbia ended its emissions-testing program (AirCare) in 2014 after 22 years.
American economist and Nobel Prize-winner Milton Friedman once said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” Drive Clean fits that sentiment perfectly.
Emission-test failure rates on newer-model vehicles, including dealership company vehicles, are almost non-existent, Bob Redinger writes.