Did Canada get it right with GHG regs?

What to make of Ottawa’s recently announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heavy duty vehicles?
Ottawa’s proposed regulations (see our coverage in your upcoming issues of Truck News, Truck West and Fleet Executive) are designed to reduce emissions from the whole range of on-road heavy-duty vehicles and engines for the 2014 model year and beyond. As a result of implementing the proposed standards, Ottawa anticipates GHG emissions from 2018 heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by up to 23% from those sold in 2010.
I’m just back from helping chair a two-conference on heavy duty vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency put on by the University of Manitoba Transport Institute. Based on all that I heard, here’s what I like and don’t like about Ottawa’s plans:
I do like that the proposed regulations are designed to be in alignment with those of the US. They are not as progressive as those being put in place in Europe but it’s hard to argue for a “made in Canada” approach considering how closely integrated our heavy duty truck manufacturing is with that of the US. As Stéphane Couroux, a spokesman for Environment Canada pointed out, if we were to go ahead of the US, that would mean truck manufacturers would have to certify their vehicles separately for Canada and the US. And that gets expensive.
I do like that, according to government estimates, by the year 2020, GHG emissions from Canada’s heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by 3 million tonnes per year by this legislation. This is equivalent to removing 650,000 personal vehicles from the road.
And I also like that the regulations can be met by using existing technologies for fuel efficiency, aerodynamics and idle-reduction. I think that’s a smart way to introduce new legislation and ensure we are getting the maximum benefit of existing technologies.
What I don’t like is that Canada (and the US) have missed an opportunity to encourage even great fuel efficiency. Prime example is that both the Canadian and US regulations don’t include the trailer, which contributes a great deal to loss of fuel efficiency. The US has indicated it will do so in the next round of legislation and I hope Canada does too.
Ottawa can also do more to simplify and speed up penetration of more fuel technologies. The Canadian Trucking Alliance’s recommendations of a labeling system identifying “GHG compliant tractors” and an accelerated capital cost allowance to encourage their purchase are such no-brainers I don’t understand why Ottawa isn’t jumping to put them in place.
Claude Robert also raised a very valid point that while we are rightly concerned about harmonizing legislation with the US, differences in provincial legislation on items such as wide base single tires and LCVs are frustrating fleets wanting to use environmentally sustainable practices on a national level. We’ve got to do something about those and we need to do it in real time not government time.
Reducing GHGs is accomplished through improving fuel efficiency. With diesel prices spiking, it’s safe to say that carriers’ fuel efficiency goals are now in perfect alignment with society’s desire to reduce GHG emissions.
Ottawa needs to be careful not to squander such opportunity.

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With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.

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