Bill would exempt county's owners of newer cars from emissions testing

Monday, January 31, 2011 at 4:34pm

Davidson County drivers whose vehicles were manufactured in the past two years could soon receive a pass from annual auto-emissions testing.

A bill sponsored by Metro Council members Rip Ryman and Jim Forkum would amend the Metro Code to exempt vehicles that are two years old or newer from testing requirements. As the code is written, only vehicles manufactured prior to 1975 and new vehicles registered for the first time are excused from testing.

The introduction of the Metro ordinance comes as state Republican lawmakers Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Jack Johnson have filed a bill in the General Assembly with virtually the same intent. Their bill, which would apply to all Tennessee counties that require auto-emissions testing, would exempt vehicles manufactured during the current calendar year, as well as those built in the two previous years. 

Ryman, who represents parts of Goodlettsville, said his proposal is modeled on a similar initiative in Memphis. Under that plan, registered drivers who qualify for the exemption would still have to pay a $3 fee, which would be directed to Metro’s general fund and used for air-quality purposes.

“The way the federal government has put all these restrictions on the manufacturing of new cars, I would say there’s probably a very small percentage of new cars that fail emissions tests,” Ryman said.

“The burden upon citizens to drive to the testing centers and wait in line with their motors running likely outweighs the clean-air benefits associated with the mandatory testing,” the bill reads.

The legislation was scheduled for the second of three council votes Tuesday night, but the vote was deferred to allow for more study.

According to council attorney Jon Cooper, the legislation needs to establish precisely which model years could be eligible for the exemption. Some companies, he pointed out, have already unveiled their 2012 models. Thus, would the bill apply to only 2011 and 2012 models or vehicles built in 2010 as well?

“The way it reads now, it could either be three model years or two model years, depending on where you are in the calendar year,” Cooper said. 

The Metro Health Department, which contracts with SysTech International to carry out emissions testing services, oversaw 577,686 tests last year. Of those, 56,452 were vehicles from the three most recent model years, according to the legislation. Two percent of these automobiles failed the emissions test. Nashville drivers pay $9 per test.

Fred Huggins, the health department’s director of vehicle emissions, acknowledged Ryman’s bill “would make it a little more difficult” for the department, but he said officials could make the proposal work.

“We’re always looking for ways to try to make it better for the customer,” Huggins said. “This may make it better for some of the new car owners.” 

But Huggins pointed out the reason Davidson County’s emissions test exists is to improve the area’s air-quality. In the past, he said Middle Tennessee has failed to meet health-based ozone standards administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Anything that we do to the program that takes vehicles out of the fleet causes emissions to go up slightly,” he said. “So, since we’re relying on this for attainment with EPA’s health-based standards, then we’re going to have to find some corresponding emission decreases to at least equal out the increases caused by taking some vehicles out of the fleet.” 

6 Comments on this post:

By: FANOF711 on 2/1/11 at 7:30

i think this should have been done years ago, but why charge a $ 3.00 fee if your exemp.
metro has just got to get that last dollar out of us poor old nashvillians
we have to pay for karl deans joy ride on nashville i guess !!

By: girliegirl on 2/1/11 at 7:41

The "Fee" is a tax, to be honest, why not still charge EVERYONE the Fee, but not require the newer cars to actually perform the tests?

By: AmyLiorate on 2/1/11 at 9:36

While it is good to save over 50,000 people the yearly waste of time doing the emissions test on brand new cars... why on Earth keep the $3 fee?

Seriously, the car is less than 2 years old, hasn't the owner just paid a thousand dollars or more in taxes to the city/county/state? And they have to grab another $3 for nothing!

It's audacious to admit these cars aren't any serious problem and yet still demand 30% of the fee.

By: Lab on 2/1/11 at 1:01

1975 is the when all new vehicles had to have catalytic converters. One purpose of the cc was to convert CO(Carbon Monoxide) to CO2(Carbon Dioxide), because too much CO is a polutant, and besides it can kill you(suicide in the car in the family garage). CO is not a Green House gas however...which is why that abbreviation has never crossed the lips of Al Gore. The old MARTA score sheet had a CO2 test score column Minimum could exhaust alot more CO2 and no one cared. And then we were told to walk to work because too many vehicles = too much CO2. About that time the Minimum 15% disappeared from the score sheet. I have said for a long time that if CO2 is a problem, then we need to design the converters not to produce it....or design a filter in the exhaust system to trap the carbon and exhaust the O2(oxygen). Ford diesels have a new emmisions system that essentially do that. I do not work for Ford, don't own a truck, and I am convinced that for a long time there have been influences that never allowed the solution to be brought forward. We have only learned that we are an evil, overconsuming people and we must be punished with high prices and the like. When people go to the doctor for their annual physical, they want to go so that the Doc can say, "Everything is fine." When we go to the emissions check, we really want the same diagnosis. When we skip the annual physical, we really do not know how the body is doing. The annual check-up for the car does have a purpose. If new vehicles are built to automatically check and require a mechanic checkup if there is a problem, and I do not mean it simply turns on the "check engine" indicator, then those vehicles could skip the test. On older vehicles I bet there is actually an affordable way to change CO2 to something else.

By: HokeyPokey on 2/2/11 at 8:17


Why should people who can afford new cars be forced to get in line with those of us who can't?

Jeez Louise


By: townsend on 2/10/11 at 1:11

To cut wait times (and emissions) at testing stations, why don't we simply go to a BIannual renewal? It would have the side benefit of cutting the work load at the county clerk's offices significantly, also! if a car is clean enough to pass, then it should remain clean enough for 24 months, not just 12.