Management & Operations

Massachusetts mandates emissions testing

Posted on March 1, 2001

In an effort to enhance its clean air campaign, Massachusetts began a new program which will require diesel vehicles, specifically heavy-duty vehicles over 10,000 pounds, to undergo emissions testing. Implemented on Feb. 1, the program, administered by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Protection, signifies the first time that diesel vehicles must submit to tests for excessive exhaust smoke. Massachusetts joins 13 other states, including New York and Maryland, that have mandated programs in place. The emissions testing program is being lauded by the Diesel Technology Forum in Washington, D.C., for its efforts to improve air quality in the region and the importance of identifying vehicles in need of maintenance. “It’s a win-win for everybody—the air gets cleaner, the vehicle after making repairs is a more fuel efficient piece of equipment,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the diesel forum. Since 1994, diesel engines have been designed to be smoke free in compliance with EPA standards; however, there are still smoky vehicles on the road. “That’s a reflection of how the technology is maintained, the quality of fuel and other factors,” said Schaeffer. Black smoke is an indicator of unburned fuel, resulting in monetary losses as well as less efficient engines. It is this black smoke that emissions testing programs will identify and take measures to eliminate. The testing method, known as a snap acceleration test, utilizes an opacity meter to measure the amount of particulate matter present in vehicle exhaust. In order to pass, diesel vehicles must measure below the required opacity level applicable to the vehicle year. Vehicles that do not pass will be given 60 days to make necessary repairs and obtain re-inspection. Emissions’ testing is required for diesel vehicles every two years, in addition to a yearly safety inspection. The cost is $29 for the safety inspection and the emissions test, readily accessible at more than 250 inspection sites across the state. Mobile inspection services are also available for diesel operators. Besides the obvious benefits of cleaner air and improved fuel efficiency, the inclusion of diesel vehicles in the emissions program creates a level of equality amongst the driving public. “Now that all vehicles in Massachusetts have to have an emissions test, folks are very positive about the inherent fairness now,” said Steven Sebestyen, director of vehicle services at the RMV.

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