Editorial — It's time AirCare died
AirCare will die a natural death in December, 2014. It is long overdue.
The provincial program, which is operated by a private operator under TransLink oversight, was actually instituted in the dying days of the Social Credit government. The Socreds were desperate to be seen as ‘doing something’ about air pollution from vehicles.
By the time the program was up and running in early 1992, the Socreds had been voted out and the NDP were in power. Thus some members of the NDP are claiming that the program came in under their government, which is technically true. However, it was not their policy initiative.
AirCare has been unpopular from the beginning, but at first it did serve a purpose. There were a lot of polluting vehicles on the road, some with pollution control equipment that had been disabled. Others belched oil smoke because of engine wear, and there was nothing to stop such vehicles from being driven indefinitely.
AirCare either forced these vehicles off the road, or into a shop for needed repairs. But the testing was erratic at first, with vehicles failing at one test station and passing at another.
The program was updated several times, with newer vehicles only requiring two-year inspections, and the newest vehicles not needing them at all. This is because vehicle emission standards are much higher than they were in the early 1990s.
As a result, AirCare hasn’t been necessary for some time. There simply aren’t enough older vehicles on the road to make such an expensive and bureaucratic program necessary.
The province’s idea is to perhaps shift the emphasis to testing of larger vehicles, which has always been AirCare’s Achilles heel. Large trucks and buses have not been held to the same anti-pollution standards, even though they are a key source of vehicle emissions.
It doesn’t make sense to set up AirCare-type stations for large vehicles. What would be more logical would be to give police and commercial vehicle inspectors enough power to take a badly-polluting vehicle off the road, or order one in for testing if they suspect pollution control devices have been tampered with. This should apply to all vehicles.
Random enforcement to reduce air pollution is best, in an era where emission controls standards are much higher than they used to be.