LCQ21: Reduction of vehicle emissions as well as training for and shortage of vehicle mechanics

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (March 25):


     It is learnt that the lack of proper maintenance will increase the level of emissions by vehicles.  Regarding the reduction of vehicle emissions in Hong Kong as well as the training for and shortage of vehicle mechanics, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that the Government launched the Ex-gratia Payment Scheme in March 2014 to gradually phase out more than 80 000 pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles (DCVs) in Hong Kong, including light buses and non-franchised buses, with the aim of phasing out heavily polluting DCVs completely by 2020, whether the authorities have assessed the effectiveness of the Scheme since its implementation, including whether the targets can be achieved; if they have assessed, of the outcome;

(2) given the comment that the "idling emission test" method currently adopted in the annual examination of DCVs cannot effectively check the emission levels of nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particulates, what improvement measures the Government has in place;

(3) given that the authorities have launched the Tax Incentives Scheme for Environment-friendly Commercial Vehicles to encourage vehicle owners to purchase environment-friendly commercial vehicles with low emissions, whether they have assessed the effectiveness of the Scheme; if they have assessed, of the outcome;

(4) given that the skills and qualifications of vehicle mechanics are classified and standardised under the voluntary registration scheme for vehicle mechanics implemented by the Government, of the respective numbers of various classes of registered vehicle mechanics under the scheme at present; whether it knows the respective percentages of such numbers in the total number of members of the vehicle maintenance trade;

(5) whether it knows the current number of training courses on vehicle maintenance offered locally; whether the Government will provide more resources to the Vocational Training Council to enhance skills training for vehicle mechanics; and

(6) as I have learnt that there has been a shortage of vehicle mechanics in recent years, what measures the Government has in place to mitigate this problem?    



(1) Diesel commercial vehicles (DCVs) are one of the major sources of roadside air pollution in Hong Kong. To improve roadside air quality and better protect public health, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) launched an incentive-cum-regulatory scheme in March 2014 with an aim to phasing out some 82 000 pre-Euro IV DCVs by the end of 2019 progressively. $11.4 billion are set aside for ex-gratia payment to assist the affected vehicle owners.

     The scheme has progressed well since its launch. As at the end of February 2015, about 23 600 pre-Euro IV DCVs (i.e. about 29 per cent of the eligible vehicles) were retired under the scheme. To ensure all pre-Euro IV DCVs will be phased out before 2020 as scheduled, the timetable for not issuing vehicle licenses to the relevant DCVs was stipulated in the Air Pollution Control (Air Pollutant Emission) (Controlled Vehicles) Regulation, which was passed by the Legislative Council on December 18, 2013.  

(2) Owing to technological limitations, smoke emission is still used as indicator to check if DCVs have been properly repaired.  This practice is also implemented in other advanced regions in the world such as North America and Europe. To ensure the testing can reflect the smoke level of vehicles when driven on road, the EPD introduced in 2002, the dynamometer aided procedure for all smoke testing under the smoky vehicle control programme. The Transport Department also samples diesel vehicles to be tested by dynamometer during their annual roadworthiness inspections. The strengthened smoke vehicle control programme has successfully raised vehicle owners' awareness in properly repairing their vehicles and the attention of the society on smoky vehicles such that the number of smoky vehicles is substantially reduced. The number of reported smoky vehicles for smoke testing has been reduced by about 90 per cent, from 46 263 in 2000 to 5 491 in 2014. We will continue to closely monitor the technological development for measuring other pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particulates) and will study the feasibility of implementation when appropriate.

(3) To improve roadside air quality, the EPD launched the Tax Incentive for Environment-friendly Commercial Vehicles on 1 April 2008 by offering tax concession on First Registration Tax to encourage vehicle buyers to choose commercial vehicles with better emission performance. In order to ensure that the tax incentive is available only to commercial vehicles with outstanding emission performance, the EPD reviews the qualifying standards annually in the light of technological advancement and the prevailing statutory emission standards for first registration of vehicles with the outcome being implemented in the following April.

     As the supply of Euro VI heavy duty commercial vehicles (vehicle weight over 3.5 tonnes) is increasing, the EPD has thus tightened the qualifying standards of environment-friendly heavy duty commercial vehicles to Euro VI starting from April 1 this year to encourage vehicle buyers to choose Euro VI heavy duty commercial vehicles with lower emissions and vehicle manufacturers to introduce more Euro VI heavy duty commercial vehicle models into the Hong Kong market. This could help the early introduction of Euro VI as the statutory exhaust emission standard for first registration of heavy duty commercial vehicles.

     By the end of February 2015, some 32 800 applications for tax concession of environment-friendly commercial vehicles have been approved since the launch of the Scheme which represents about half of the commercial vehicles registration during the period.

(4) According to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, 6 511 vehicle mechanics were registered under the voluntary registration scheme as of  March 1, 2015, which was about 72 per cent of the total vehicle mechanics in Hong Kong with reference to a survey conducted in 2014. The number of mechanics registered for mechanical and electrical class under the voluntary registration scheme were 4 629 and 1 007 respectively. Other registered classes include body repair, body painting, motorcycle maintenance, tyre work, battery work, lubrication work, car accessories work, air conditioning work and body building work. The number of mechanics of respective registered classes is provided in the annex.

(5) The Pro-Act Training and Development Centre (Automobile) (Automotive Industry Centre) of the Vocational Training Council (VTC) organised 19 training courses on motor vehicle repair in 2014/15 enrolling about 500 students. Similar numbers of classes and students are expected in coming academic year. If over-subscribed, the Automotive Industry Centre will increase the number of classes to meet the demand of the industry.

     In 2014/15, the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) offers three training courses related to vehicle and motorcycle maintenance,  namely the "Foundation Certificate in Car Maintenance, Beauty & Cleaning", the "Foundation Certificate in Vehicle and Motorcycle Servicing - Youth Training Programme (Teen's Programme)" and the "Foundation Certificate in Vehicle and Motorcycle Servicing - Youth Training Programme (Ethnic Minority Programme)". The ERB may, having regard to demand, continue to offer these courses and determine the number of training places. In 2013/14, the Government injected $15 billion into the ERB to provide sustained and stable financial support for the Board. The ERB may, having regard to the manpower requirements of our community, suitably and flexibly provide different training courses and determine the respective number of training places.

(6) With the funding approval of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in July 2014, the VTC has started to implement the Pilot Training and Support Scheme (Pilot Scheme) starting from the 2014/15 academic year. The Pilot Scheme aims to attract and retain talent for specific industries with a keen demand for labour (including the automobile industry), by integrating structured apprenticeship training programmes and clear career progression pathways. Under the Pilot Scheme, apprenticeship training for targeted industries will be provided to students alongside incentive allowances from the industries and the Government, as well as a salary level guaranteed by the industries. The training generally lasts for four years. The targets of the Pilot Scheme are Secondary 3 to Secondary 6 school leavers and eligible adult learners. It will benefit 2 000 students in total.

Ends/Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:15