Documents considered by the Committee on 29 October 2014 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

3 Non-road mobile machinery: emission limits

Committee's assessment Legally and politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information awaited
Document detailsDraft Regulation on emission limits for non-road mobile machinery
Legal baseArticle 114 TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Document numbers(36367), 13690/14, COM(14) 581

Summary and Committee's conclusions

3.1 Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter from the non-road sector contribute significantly to overall air quality problems in the EU, and Directive 97/68/EC (as amended) regulates their emissions from engines for installation in non-road mobile machinery, which includes medium sized diesel engines for construction machinery, mobile generators, railcars and locomotives, inland waterway vessels, and from small petrol engines for use in applications such as chainsaws. However, the Commission points out that not all engine categories are covered, that the emission stages in place no longer reflect the current state of technology, with there being a mismatch between the emission limits for certain engine categories. In addition, it says that there is recent conclusive evidence of the adverse health effects of diesel emissions, especially particulate matter.

3.2 The Commission has therefore now brought forward this proposal, which would replace the existing Directive with a Regulation, intended to simplify the legislation, to make it easier to enforce, and to introduce new emission limits. Many of the elements simply carry forward the technical requirements in the existing legislation, and are in consequence unlikely to be controversial, but some are either new or modified in form, and give rise to policy issues which the Government will wish to consider (as well as, in certain cases, competence creep).

3.3 The EU legislation in this area is extremely complex, both in terms of its content and the numerous amendments which have been made since the introduction of Directive 97/68/EC, and, insofar as the Commission's proposal would replace it by this new Regulation (and in the process introduce new emission limits which better reflect current technology, whilst retaining many of the existing elements), it is to be welcomed.

3.4 Having said that, it is also clear that there are a good number of detailed points which the Government wishes to explore further, and that it also has concerns about the possibility of "competence creep" in certain areas. In addition, we note that it will be carrying out a public consultation on the proposal, and that an Impact Assessment is under preparation. In view of this, we think it right to draw this proposal to the attention of the House, but to hold it under scrutiny pending further information from the Government on the various points which we have highlighted.

Full details of the document: Draft Regulation on requirements relating to emission limits and type-approval for internal combustion engines for non-road mobile machinery: (36367), 13690/14 + ADDs 1-2, COM(14) 581.


3.5 Emissions from the non-road sector contribute significantly to overall air quality problems in the EU, accounting for approximately 15% of the oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and 5% of the particulate matter emissions. Initially, Directive 97/68/EC regulated emissions of air quality pollutants from the exhausts of compression ignition (diesel) engines with a power output between 18 and 560kW for installation in non-road mobile machinery, which includes engines for construction machinery, mobile generators, railcars and locomotives, and inland waterway vessels. However, the measures were subsequently extended to small petrol engines below 18kW for use in applications such as chainsaws, and have become progressively more stringent.

3.6 However, the Commission points out that not all engine categories are covered, that the new emission stages introduced when the Directive was amended in 2004 no longer reflect the current state of technology, and that there is a mismatch between the emission limits for certain engine categories. In addition, it says that there is recent conclusive evidence of the adverse health effects of diesel emissions, especially of particulate matter, and that it is necessary to tackle, not just particle mass, but their number as well.

The current proposal

3.7 The Commission has therefore considered ways in which this problem might be addressed, notably alignment with standards set by the United States as regards both scope and emission limit values; moving the emission limit values for the most significant sectors towards those for road vehicles; and a combination of the more stringent emission limits from the first two options with enhanced monitoring provisions to ensure compliance of engines in service. It has now brought forward this proposal, based on the last of these options, and replacing the existing Directive with a Regulation, intended to simplify the legislation, to make it easier to enforce, and to introduce new emission limits.

3.8 Many of the elements in the proposal simply carry forward the existing technical requirements, and are in consequence unlikely to be controversial, but some are either new or modified in form. The principal of these are as follows:

Emission limits for engine power categories previously out of scope

There are currently no emissions limits for non-road diesel engines rated power categories below 19kW or above 560kW (except where the engines are for railway or inland waterway vessel use), and the proposal would now include these within the scope of the legislation, as well as introducing emissions limits for non-road petrol engines with rated powers above 19kW. The emissions limits proposed for the power bands brought into scope would be in broad alignment with the new limits being proposed for the engine categories currently included, and the proposal would for the first time set emission limits for engines for snowmobiles, small all-terrain vehicles, and "side-by-side" vehicles.

New emissions limits for future engines

The Commission proposes to introduce new emission limits (which would be phased in for engines placed on the market between January 2019 and January 2021 depending upon their power category or specific application, in order to spread the burden on manufacturers). For the majority of diesel engines, the most significant change would be the introduction of a more strict particulate matter limit, accompanied by a particle number limit, intended to force the adoption of wall-flow particulate filters, and so ensure that particulate emissions are effectively controlled. However, this particulate matter limit would not be imposed upon the engine categories newly brought within scope, and the changes proposed for petrol engines would be limited to reductions in the combined emissions of hydrocarbons and NOx from engines not intended for hand-held applications.

In order to reduce compliance costs, the new emission limits are intended to broadly align with those which will be current in North America, and the emission limits for diesel railway vehicles would be unchanged from those in the current legislation, apart from the addition of a particle number limit for future railcar[12] engines so as to force the adoption of wall-flow diesel particulate filters. However, in order to facilitate the entry into the market of dual-fuel engines running on both diesel and natural-gas, engines running on natural gas would be permitted to emit higher levels of hydrocarbons than those running solely on diesel (with the higher level being set on a sliding scale, depending on the proportion of the energy produced from the gas, and reflecting the relatively high methane emissions which are a feature of dual fuel engines using the currently most widespread technology). New emission limits are also proposed for engines for inland waterway vessels which reflect the Commission's ambition to achieve a rapid transition of that sector to the use of natural gas, rather than diesel.

New transitional arrangements

The proposal would replace the existing transitional arrangements, which exist to assist manufacturers in managing the change from one emissions standard to the next (and comprise "end of series" provisions, "sell-off" provisions, and a "flexibility scheme") with a single "sell-off" scheme. In broad terms, this would permit any engine produced before the effective date for a new emissions standard to be placed in a machine for up to one year after that date (or for up to two years in the case of a machine builder producing fewer than fifty machines per year).

Specific exemptions for "ATEX" engines

The proposal would introduce for "ATEX" engines, certified for use in explosive atmospheres, specific emission limits equivalent to an earlier, largely superseded standard in the current legislation, thereby recognising that, in the current state of technology, later standards require exhaust after-treatment systems which become too hot for use in explosive atmospheres.

Field testing of prototypes and shipment of engines and exhaust after-treatment systems

The proposal contains provisions which address industry concerns by explicitly permitting the testing of prototype engines under real-world conditions. Explicit provision is also made for the shipping of engines and the exhaust after-treatment components associated with them to machine builders in separate packages for reasons of logistic convenience.

Central database of type-approval information

The proposal would require the Commission to set up a central database ("Union central administrative platform and database"), where information on type-approvals would be held, and through which the type-approval authorities of Member States could communicate with one another and with the Commission. The database would be extended, in time, to permit communication with and between manufacturers and technical services, and to permit public access to the results of tests on engines.

Responsibilities of importers and distributors of engines

The proposal would introduce definitions of an importer and of a distributor for the purposes of the non-road legislation, and would explicitly set out their responsibilities. Its aim is to avoid uncertainty about where responsibility would lie in cases where, for instance, non-compliant engines were being produced and sold into Europe by a manufacturer beyond the jurisdiction of the courts of EU Member States.

Commission delegated and implementing acts

The proposal would confer upon the Commission the power to produce delegated acts and implementing acts in support of the main text of the proposed Regulation. The former would include measures to refine some of the definitions; the parameters constituting an engine "family" for the purposes of the type-approval; detailed technical provisions to prevent tampering with emission control systems; the procedures and test cycles to be employed at type-approval and during subsequent checks upon the conformity of production of engines; and the conditions under which parts could be replaced on engines already placed on the market. Delegated acts would also be used to specify the alternative approvals to be considered equivalent to those granted under the terms of the proposed Regulation, and to define the information on correct engine information and operation to be passed to machine builders and machine operators by the engine manufacturer. The power to produce delegated acts would, however, be limited in duration to five years from the entry into force of the proposed Regulation.

Implementing acts would be used to define the information to be included with an application for type-approval, the formats of data sheets, certificates, and numbering systems, and the format of test procedures. They would also be used, as and when required, to authorise the use of new technologies which would otherwise be effectively prevented from entering the market by the proposed Regulation.

Technical services

The proposal would set out, for the first time, the levels of technical competence and standards of impartiality to be expected of technical services involved in the type-approval process, as well as their obligations and responsibilities.

Market surveillance

The proposal would require Member States to carry out market surveillance and checking activities on engines for non-road mobile machinery in accordance with the requirements of European Regulation 765/2008.

The Government's view

3.9 In her full and helpful Explanatory Memorandum of 15 October 2014, the Minister of State at the Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) says that the Government is still considering the policy implications of this proposal, but says that it has a number of initial comments.

3.10 The Government is content that the proposal should be in the form of a Regulation, rather than a new Directive, believing that this is supported by all Member States, and it is equally content to see the legislation simplified, as the existing Directive has been frequently amended, and is now difficult to follow. The Minister also says that the proposed delegated and implementing acts all deal with aspects which would formerly have been dealt with by the comitology process, and that all of the matters in question appear to be appropriate, notably the use of implementing acts to authorise the use of new technologies which would otherwise be forbidden simply because they have not currently been envisaged (thus avoiding the legislation becoming a barrier to innovation).

3.11 The Minister notes that the Commission has said that it intends to concentrate on achieving air quality benefits, rather than setting ambitious emissions standards for their own sake. She welcomes this pragmatic approach which she says is demonstrated in several elements of the proposal, but adds that it is not yet clear whether this will be confirmed by detailed analysis. She also comments on the fact that the Commission has, on cost-benefit grounds, not set a particle number limit for the engine power categories brought within scope for the first time (and so not forced their adoption of diesel particulate filters), and points out that, although the UK's initial analysis suggests that such engines represent about a quarter of all non-road diesel engines sold, the Commission has claimed that their overall contribution to emissions of particulate matter is relatively small. She says that, if this is the case, the Commission's approach may be justified in the context of NOx now being the pollutant of most interest.

3.12 However, the Minister also goes on to identify a number of points of possible concern:

·  She suggests that the proposal relating to engines for inland waterway vessels appears likely to have unintended consequences in terms of its impact upon operators in the sector and manufacturers of the engines concerned, and will require careful scrutiny. Thus, the proposed emission limits will encourage the building of vessels with two smaller engines, rather than one large one, despite the fact that they are likely to be less economical to operate, in addition to which the limits are out of alignment with those applied or proposed elsewhere in the world, and would thus make the EU a niche market for inland waterway engines from which some manufacturers may well withdraw.

·  The Commission's recognition of the problems faced by builders of machines for use in potentially explosive atmospheres, such as are found in the petroleum sector and many process industries, is welcome, particularly as the UK has a number of companies with interests in this sector. However, the omission of any allowances for engines used in the specialised vehicles used for the launch and recovery of lifeboats is a matter of some concern as their supply is important for the limited number of users, and the UK has what is believed to be Europe's only builder.

·  The provisions which explicitly permit the testing of prototype engines under real-world conditions, and the practice of shipping engines and the exhaust after-treatment components associated with them to machine builders in separate packages, are welcome clarifications.

·  Two elements of the proposal appear to carry with them the risk of "competence creep", namely the power conferred on market surveillance authorities to require companies to provide documents, and the duty placed upon technical services to carry liability insurance. Whilst neither of these is evidently objectionable in itself, both appear to be matters where Member States should put in place the legislation they see fit, and the Government will be examining these elements very closely.

·  Some elements of the proposal may represent extensions of the scope of the legislation beyond that encompassed by the current Directive, and into areas already regulated, or more properly dealt with, by other EU legislation, such as the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC). The areas where this risk seems to exist are the obligations placed upon importers and distributors of engines, and upon the builders of machines into which engines are fitted, since these are not explicitly stated in the current Directive.

·  Whilst the Government is keen to see effective control and enforcement, in the interests both of achieving the intended air quality improvements and the maintenance of a level playing field for industry, it would be very concerned by any extension of the Commission's exercise of competence into new areas. At the same time, it would be very cautious about any extension of the scope, and any potential overlap with the scope of other measures, and would expect to find its position on these matters shared by other Member States.

·  An area of significant concern is the lack of any clear process for permitting the placement on the market of replacement engines, the Government's understanding being that the refurbishment of existing engines would be permitted, but that the production of new engines meeting superseded standards as replacements for broken or worn-out units prevented (on the grounds that replacement engines threaten the achievement of air quality benefits because, once placed on the market, they may be used illicitly in new machines). Whilst sharing the wish that the air quality benefits of the proposal should be realised, the Government considers that the availability of replacement engines is essential, and particularly so for smaller businesses, which are most likely to be operating older machines, and least likely to be able to afford to replace a machine simply because its engine has failed beyond repair. Some arrangement, similar to that in the current Directive, which facilitates the re-engining of railway locomotives and railcars, is also likely to be essential for the UK's rail sector for the foreseeable future. The Government believes that the Commission's position carries the risk of unintended consequences in terms of market distortion and air quality impacts, as it is certain to encourage the repair of engines otherwise considered beyond the end of their economic life, and require a definition of the point a repaired or refurbished engine becomes a replacement engine (which is not a question easily answered in legislation).

·  The Commission proposes to prohibit the current practice of producing and approving engines meeting superseded emissions standards for export to countries outside the EU where these standards are still accepted, on the grounds that engines manufactured to superseded emissions standards might be re-imported to the European Union, and would then threaten the achievement of air quality benefits. The Minister says that this enjoys support from some other Member States, but that the UK believes the argument to be both seriously flawed, and to ignore the interests of EU manufacturers, who will rarely make an engine for sale only in the EU, and will almost always expect to be able to sell it outside. Prohibiting their export would simply encourage manufacturers to ignore the EU approvals procedure, and to produce and approve engines to the equivalent UNECE standards (which will inevitably be recognised as valid by the currently proposed Regulation when it is completed by the delegated and implementing acts): and since such engines are equally likely to be reimported to the EU, prohibiting the use of the EU approvals process would be an empty gesture. It would at the same time ignore the interests of European manufacturers (whose engines are regarded in some overseas markets as of generally of high quality), particularly as the risk of engines being reimported and passed-off as having been properly placed on the market in the EU at some earlier time should be adequately dealt with by the other elements of the proposal designed to make enforcement easier.

3.13 The Minister says that the timetable for consideration by the Council and European Parliament is not yet known, but that the Commission is keen to secure adoption of a final text by the end of 2015, in order to achieve the anticipated air quality benefits, and provide industry with legislative certainty. In the meantime, she says that the Government intends to conduct a public consultation on the proposal, and that an Impact Assessment is under preparation.

Previous Committee Reports


12   The definition of a railcar in the proposal encompasses what in the UK is known as a Diesel Multiple Unit. Back

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