Fees for older vehicles may rise
Licence fees for more than 30,000 commercial vehicles may rise under a proposal that aims to encourage the replacement of polluting vehicles older than 15 years, according to the environment watchdog.
The new rule would affect all types of commercial vehicles regardless of their fuel types and emission standards, but Environmental Protection Department officials gave no figures on fee increases they might be considering as enough to deter the continued use of old vehicles.
Officials said in a paper submitted to the legislature yesterday that the proposal was intended to be introduced by 2010, when the HK$3.2 billion subsidy for the replacement of the old diesel commercial vehicle fleet expired.
Launched last year, the scheme has been regarded as a failure as only 23 per cent of pre-Euro and 14 per cent of Euro I vehicles have been replaced with newer Euro IV models, which are up to two times cleaner than the old models.
The term Euro refers to a set of standards defining the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of new vehicles sold in European Union member states.
The paper said older vehicles tended to have more breakdowns and tailpipe emissions of up to four times higher than a new vehicle.
Officials believed that a vehicle age of 15 years - and all pre-Euro standard vehicles will reach that age by 2010 - was the right threshold to trigger the fee increase.
There are about 30,000 vehicles registered on or before 1995 on the road, including more than 1,720 that are at least 20 years old. They are charged a licensing fee of between HK$1,289 and HK$8,429 each year.
Lai Kim-tak, spokesman for the Medium and Heavy Truck Concern Group, opposed the scheme, which he said would increase truck operators' financial burden amid a serious business downturn. He said the government should buy old vehicles, similar to the chicken industry buyout.
But Friends of the Earth director Edwin Lau Che-feng said the proposed 15-year threshold was too lenient; the cut-off should be 10 years and made specific to each Euro-model standard.
He called for a double-digit fee rise and said the government could consider using vehicle mileage as one of the parameters to determine the level of the increase.