India may scrap trucks over 15 years old to ease air pollution

The government proposes to order scrapping of all commercial trucks that are more than 15 years old from April, to check vehicle emissions, as part of its efforts to curb soaring urban air pollution, a senior transport official said on Thursday.

This could affect an estimated 2.7 million trucks that were registered in 2000 that would go off the road from April next year once the plan to make 15 years the end of life for vehicles carrying goods is implemented.

''We are going to make 15 years the end of life for all commercial vehicles,'' reports quoted Vijay Chhibber, secretary, ministry of road transport and highways, as saying.

The government can impose the ban by amending the Motor Vehicles Act and the Central Motor Vehicles Rules and an order is expected to be made public within 10 days and the ban enforced from April 1 next year.

In addition to addressing the issue of pollution, the decision would create incremental demand for new trucks. The domestic market for large commercial vehicles is quite big.

The move comes after smog blanketed the Indian capital this week amidst a global climate summit that began in Paris, which forced the government to take active measures that would help India achieve economic growth and prosperity without pollution getting worse.

Simultaneously, diesel car owners in the National Capital Region may have to comply with stringent regulations in the coming days since the Delhi High Court is in favour of barring diesel cabs from plying on the NCR roads. This would also make private diesel cars "a bit unattractive."

A Times of India report on Thursday said, the court has asked the central government to explore the possibilities of banning diesel-run cabs from plying on the NCR roads.

The court wanted an overhaul of the government's transportation policy. ''It was high time they "revolutionized the transport sector" by reducing diesel-run vehicles in general,'' the court observed.

The court wants the entire fleet of cabs in the national capital to be shifted ultimately to CNG and asked the centre and Delhi government to explore feasibility of setting up a panel comprising union cabinet secretary, secretaries of environment, transport and petroleum ministries to hammer out a plan to make NCR diesel-free for cabs.

The World Health Organization said last year that India had 13 of the 20 most polluted cities on the planet, including the worst offender, New Delhi.

Fumes spewed by a multiplying fleet of commercial vehicles, many of them old and badly maintained, are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution nationally: the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) think-tank estimates their share of vehicular emissions at 60 per cent.

Last week, the government advanced the implementation of higher emission norms by two years.

Experts said implementing the law will be a challenge unless accompanied by a scrapping policy and associated incentives to owners whose vehicles are crossing the deadline.

In addition to addressing the issue of pollution, the decision would create incremental demand for new trucks. The domestic market for large commercial vehicles is quite big.

The industry welcomed the proposal. Vinod Aggarwal, chief executive officer, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, said, ''These vehicles have lived their lives. Most of them do not comply with any emission norms. The move will create incremental demand for vehicles and address the issue of pollution to a large extent.''

''The industry had suggested to the government to introduce an incentive scheme for owners whose vehicles are being scrapped so that they can buy a new one,'' said Aggarwal.

Truck owners, however, are unhappy with the proposed ban.  ''We are going to oppose this. You cannot have age as the criteria to remove a vehicle from road. Every year vehicles go for a fitness test at the RTO,'' said Bal Malkit Singh, managing director, Bal Roadlines, Mumbai.  His company has a fleet of 400 trucks.

Singh added: ''I may have a vehicle that runs for 30,000 km a year while someone else may have a vehicle that runs 90,000 km. We cannot equate the two just by age. It is like killing a person after he or she attains a specific age.''