Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Air - NSW overview

Frequently asked questions

Am I wasting my time reporting smoky vehicles?

No. The EPA currently receives a large number of smoky vehicle reports from members of the public. Appropriate action is taken when all the required details are included in the report and can be matched to a vehicle registration. The action includes issuing an advisory letter to the registered owner of the vehicle reported.

Why do I have to provide my personal details when making a report?

When the motor vehicle pollution reporting service was first established, some anonymous reports were found to be vexatious. Eliminating anonymous reports helps to reduce these vexatious reports, which makes our system more efficient.

Will my personal details be passed on to the owner of the vehicle?

No. Personal details of reporters are protected under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.

See your privacy rights

Why does so much detail need to be included in reports?

The EPA insists both the description and registration number of the observed vehicle be included in the report. The registration number is necessary to identify the registered vehicle owner. Including a description of the vehicle helps reveal any mistakes, such as a registration plate number being misread or mistyped, by cross-checking the two pieces of information.

What happens to a smoky vehicle 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 issues an advisory letter to the owner. It prompts them to have the vehicle checked and outlines the penalties associated with using vehicles emitting excessive smoke.

The EPA may take further action, depending on the vehicle's and/or vehicle owner’s history. If a vehicle is subject to multiple reports from members of the public, the EPA may require that the owner present the vehicle to a licensed motor vehicle repairer for diagnosis and repair of any mechanical faults, that may be causing the vehicle to emit excessive smoke.

If a vehicle is reported by an authorised officer, the EPA will issue a penalty notice.

Will the owner of the vehicle be fined?

No. The EPA will only issue a penalty if the vehicle is observed emitting excessive air impurities by an authorised officer.

Can I report interstate registered vehicles?

NSW EPA can action reports of vehicles registered in:

  • NSW
  • ACT
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Victoria.

For Northern Territory, Tasmania or Western Australia registered vehicles, contact the relevant state agency.

The problem is too big, so what difference does my reporting make to the environment?

Every report achieves something. Every vehicle owner who receives a letter is informed there are good legal, economic and environmental reasons for ensuring their vehicle does not emit excessive smoke.

Why does the vehicle have to be smoking continuously for more than 10 seconds?

This is a legal requirement. It is the relevant time frame for a vehicle to be emitting visible smoke continuously before the emission is considered to contain excessive air impurities.

Ten seconds has been chosen as the appropriate time because some diesel vehicles will smoke for a short period of time under varying circumstances (particularly pulling up a hill, accelerating or changing gears). It is considered only defective vehicles emit smoke continuously for more than 10 seconds. Four-stroke petrol or LPG vehicles in good condition should not emit smoke at any time.

Why is the smoke colour important?

The colour of smoke can help indicate what is wrong with the vehicle that is causing the smoke emission.

During 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 the visible emission could be due condensation.

Why do incidents have to be reported within 14 days?

Reporting within 14 days of observing a smoky vehicle allows the EPA to contact vehicle owners in a timely and efficient manner.

NSW legislation requires that fines be issued within a given time from an incident and the EPA applies similar criteria to advisory letters.

Can I report by fax or email?

Yes. However, reports lodged online or via the mobile app reduce the processing time, improve the accuracy of the report details and increase the effectiveness of the smoky vehicle compliance program.

If you wish to submit a report by fax or email, contact Environment Line
By phone: 131 555
By email: info@environment.nsw.gov.au
By fax: 02 9995 5911

Can I make a report from my mobile phone?

Yes, you can use Report to EPA to report smoky vehicles, litter from vehicles and noisy exhaust from your mobile device.

Get more information about the app

Who can I contact if I have additional questions?

Contact Environment Line
By phone: 131 555
By email: info@environment.nsw.gov.au

Was this page helpful?

Thank you for your feedback.

Would you like to tell us more?

Share this

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter More...
Page last updated: 28 October 2016