Vehicle Inspections

If you live in or near a large city, it's likely that you are required to have your vehicle's emission systems periodically inspected. Normally this involves an analysis of exhaust gases and perhaps a visual inspection of major emission components.

That these inspection programs are of dubious value is seldom discussed. They provide work for public and private technicians and civil service administrators. Benefits also accrue to equipment and parts suppliers. Consequently, anyone who suggests that universal vehicle inspections are not cost effective runs into a wall of denial.

Worse yet is to question the utility of these programs in terms of reducing air pollution.

As with other elements of the emissions control program, vehicle inspections are to become more expensive, more time consuming, and mare burdensome. The worst of the lot will be the "Enhanced Inspection and Maintenance Program".

In its full glory the Enhanced Inspection and Maintenance Program will require placing your car on a dynamometer and running it through a specific cycle, while measuring its emissions. There will also be pressure tests of the fuel system and a measurement of the fuel vapors that flow from the evaporative canister to the engine.

The EPA claims that this test is much more accurate in terms of identifying out-of-compliance vehicles and diagnosing the items in need of repair.

The U.S. General Accounting Office checked out the EPA's reliability claims. They found that 25% of (he vehicles that flunked the Last test were able to pass a second identical lest, without having undergone any repairs!

Because such minute amounts are being measured, the possibility for variance from test to test is great. The GAO report envisions scenarios where motorists will be ricocheted from test facility to repair facility, back to the test facility, to the repair facility and on and on because of test variability, inability to identify the faulty component, and technical or test equipment limitations.

Consider these additional GAO findings:

Another article in this issue of the NMA News discusses the roadside emission inspections, so that topic will not be addressed here.

Emissions inspections are spreading, not because of air quality deterioration but because tighter standards encompass greater areas. Many rural areas that do not make any meaningful contribution to air pollution now fall into "inspections required" zones. The reason being is that they are downstream in the airshed from large metropolitan areas. Requiring vehicle emissions inspections in Sheboygan, Wisconsin because Sheboygan gets air from Milwaukee and Chicago is like forcing your children to eat spinach because kids are starving in China.

That caliber of logic is characteristic of universal vehicle inspection programs.

Less intrusive and less costly approaches such as focusing on high volume polluters, subsidizing repairs for low income families, or improvement: the durability of emission control devices arc given short shrift. No, our government opts for covering the land with $140,00().00 dynamometers and bouncing 60 million motorists between lasting facilities and repair shops, testing facilities that can't get the same results twice in a row and repair shops that can't figure out what's wrong, let alone effect proper repairs.

And people complain about high taxes and government waste.

Source: March/April 1993 NMA News

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