How to report smoky vehicles

This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 40.


We’ve all been choked by the smoke from a diesel vehicle, but what can you do? There is a Vehicle Inspectorate hotline; you just have to know how to use it.

What can be reported

  • Buses, lorries and coaches but not light vans, cars or taxis
  • ‘Excessively smoky’ vehicles are those which emit a continuous stream of thick smoke (not just when starting from rest or warming up).

What you need to report a vehicle

  • Vehicle registration number
  • Type of vehicle
  • Date and time vehicle seen
  • If possible the vehicle’s operator (company or owner)

So what happens when a vehicle is reported?

The Vehicle Inspectorate (VI) writes to the operator asking him to investigate the report. The vehicle operator then writes back reporting what action has been taken. If the response is unsatisfactory, the VI can review the operator’s maintenance arrangements or inspect the vehicle themselves. In extreme cases the Inspectorate can remove an operator’s licence. If you write to the Inspectorate you get an acknowledgement, if you phone you don’t, but either way you will not normally be informed of the action taken by the VI. If you still see a problem with the same vehicle it is worth reporting it again. If no action is taken, it may be that the smoke emissions do not break any rules.

So it’s far from ideal: no random testing, no on-the-spot fines, no recourse at all for cars, light vans or taxis and it seems that the level ‘excessive’ is far worse than most people consider unacceptable. We still have a situation where 1 in 40 vehicles produce half the pollution on the road. However, the more people complain, the more seriously will vehicle maintenance and emissions be taken.

One of the best ways to reduce carcinogenic soot particles is to swap to low sulphur diesel. For an additional cost of only a few pence per gallon this reduces soot emission by over 90%. I wonder if the council will ever offer incentives for bus and taxi drivers to use this? Perhaps only allowing clean delivery vehicles into the city centre?

Vehicle Inspectorate Eastern Division
phone 0116 276 2411

RTE Division
Leicester GVTS
40 Cannock Street
Barkby Thorpe Road

Richard Taylor