Reporting smoky vehicles
The NSW Government and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) are working to improve air quality. People in the community can also play a role in improving the quality of the air we breathe.
At home, at work and in our leisure time, there are many things we can do to improve the air quality in our local area, region and globally. The choice to drive our motor vehicles and the way we use them is important in protecting air quality.
In most cases, the driver of a smoky vehicle is not aware that their vehicle is emitting excessive smoke. By reporting smoky vehicles, you can help ensure the vehicle owners are advised there may be a problem with their vehicles. Our follow-up surveys show that most vehicle owners who receive an advisory letter take steps to have their vehicle checked and repaired if necessary.
For a complete smoky vehicle report, you will be required to provide the following information:
- Your contact details
You must provide your name and phone number when making a report, but these details will never be passed on to the owner of the vehicle.
- Vehicle registration plate details
The vehicle registration number and state of registration helps us locate the registered owner of the vehicle. Vehicles registered in NSW, ACT, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria can be reported.
- Description of the vehicle
Details about the vehicle such as make, model, colour and type of vehicle help us to confirm if the vehicle has been correctly identified.
Provide the street and suburb where the smoky vehicle was seen.
- Date and time
The date and time that the smoky vehicle was observed must be included in the report. Reports must be submitted within 14 days of the observation.
- Duration of smoke
You must observe the vehicle emitting smoke for more than 10 seconds continuously to make a valid report. An emission for a period of 10 seconds or less cannot be reported.
- Colour of smoke
The colour of smoke coming from the vehicle can indicate what type of problem is causing the smoke. In cold weather, condensation can be mistaken for white smoke. Condensation normally disappears after the vehicle warms up, it does not trail back very far from the vehicle exhaust and water droplets can be seen falling from the exhaust pipe outlet. You should not report a vehicle if you think that the visible emission could be due to condensation.
Your health and safety are always more important than reporting a smoky vehicle. If you are driving, ask a passenger to record the details.
If recording the required details affects your concentration or driving, wait until next time to report a smoky vehicle. If a smoky vehicle is being driven on the road, it is only a matter of time before it is observed and reported by another member of the public, the police or an authorised officer.
After the report
The EPA will attempt to match the vehicle description provided in the report with the registration details. If the observed vehicle’s details are matched with a vehicle registration, the EPA will issue an advisory letter to the owner. The letter suggests the vehicle be checked and advises of the penalties associated with using vehicles emitting excessive smoke. The EPA may take further action, depending on the vehicle owner’s history for this particular offence.
Legislation and enforcement
Smoky vehicles are covered under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010.
Authorised officers from the EPA, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), local council and local police who are trained in smoky vehicle observation and reporting regularly patrol streets and highways in NSW. An enforcement officer may automatically issue the owner of a smoky vehicle used for commercial purposes with a $400 fine.
More information about smoky vehicle legislation
Frequently asked questions
View all FAQs about smoky vehicles
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Page last updated: 07 November 2012