During the 2015 legislative session, Nevada’s legislators passed AB 146, requiring the Advisory Committee on the Control of Emissions from Motor Vehicles to complete a study on the inspection and testing of motor vehicles and emissions-control systems in Nevada. This study included an overview and analysis of the legislative history of the Classic Vehicle program and its current status with respect to emissions testing. It further provided recommendations to address the loophole that allows owners of motor vehicles that would not normally be considered classic vehicles, but nevertheless meet the statutory requirements necessary to obtain special license plates (Classic Vehicles, Classic Rods, or Old Timer), to obtain these plates in order to be exempt from emissions-testing requirements normally applied to model year 1968 and newer vehicles.
NAC 445B.592 exempts model year vehicles that are 1968 or older from emissions testing requirements. Nevada’s selection of 1968 as the threshold year for vehicle inspections was based on the requirements set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 40 CFR 51.351(a), (g). The EPA’s selection of 1968 as the threshold year was based on congressional passage of the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965, which amended the Clean Air Act (CAA) and established the first federal vehicle emissions standards beginning with 1968 model year vehicles.
There are, however, three categories of older vehicles, having model years of 1968 or newer, that can also be exempt from emissions testing. These vehicles are identified as:
- Old Timer vehicles, which are any motor vehicles manufactured more than 40 years before the date of application for registration (NRS 482.381);
- Classic Rods, which are any passenger cars or light-duty commercial vehicles with a manufacturer’s rated carrying capacity of 1 ton or less that were manufactured at least 20 years before the application for registration (NRS 482.3814); and
- Classic Vehicles, which are any passenger cars or light-duty commercial vehicles with a manufacturer’s rated carrying capacity of 1 ton or less that were manufactured at least 25 years before the application for registration and contain only “original parts which were used to manufacture the vehicle or replacement parts that duplicate those original parts” (NRS 482.3816).
These three categories of vehicles are often collectively referred to as “classic vehicles,” even though only one of the three categories officially carries a “Classic Vehicle” designation. To avoid the ambiguity created by the collective use of the term and its statutory definition, these are referred to collectively as either “Classic and Old Timer” or “special license plate” vehicles.
The 1997 Nevada legislative session created a program that would allow an owner of a “restored” vehicle exemption from emissions-testing requirements. As the bill worked its way through committees, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) expressed concerns about creating an emissions-exemption program that might produce a loophole for old, unmaintained vehicles utilized for general transportation, which were also gross emitters of pollutants. Subsequent changes made during the 2011 legislative session created such a loophole. In that year, AB 2 was passed that allowed vehicles that would otherwise be subject to the Inspections/Maintenance (I/M) program, but had obtained special license plates, to avoid the requirement that they pass an initial emissions test.
In 2015, Clark County issued 19,805 and Washoe County issued 6,758 special license plates for Classic Vehicles and Classic Rods. This represents significant growth occurred as a result of the legislative changes made during the 2011 legislative session. To a lesser extent, Old Timer vehicles also experienced a similar growth pattern.
Nevada could reduce the emissions impact of these vehicle types by:
- Providing a general definition for Classic Rods, Classic Vehicles, and Old Timer vehicles that is utilized by the Western states surrounding the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV);
- Requiring owners applying for Classic Vehicle or Classic Rod special license plates to first pass an emissions test at the DMV prior to issuance; and
- Requiring owners of Classic Vehicles and Classic Rods to have their odometer readings annually certified at a Nevada Licensed Emission Station prior to obtaining a special license plate renewal sticker.