Emissions standards should apply to older trucks too

Over the past few years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen about the environmental leaps and bounds being made by the trucking industry. I am always quick to point out that it takes 60 2007 trucks to create the emissions of just one truck built in 1988.
I point out that the insides of smokestacks on new trucks are in some cases corroding because there’s no soot buildup to protect the steel. I tell them about the ‘hanky test’ I performed on several new trucks and how I wouldn’t hesitate to use the same handkerchief I held over the smokestack to wipe my hands with after lunch. I tell them that before long, trucks in some urban centers will be churning out cleaner air than they take in!
It’s a remarkable achievement, and it’s still ongoing with another generation of heavy-duty engine technology slated to hit the market in 2010. This is something the industry should take great pride in, and it should be doing more to educate the public about its environmental accomplishments.
For whatever reason, it seems people who aren’t connected to the industry still perceive trucks as major polluters that are solely to blame for the smog-filled air that hangs like a sickening cloud over the GTA every time there’s a heat wave.
I believe part of the reason the public is either: a) uninformed, or b) uninterested in this great story we have to tell, is that there’s still too much evidence to the contrary. There are still far too many trucks puffing big clouds of black smoke into the air, and I cringe every time I see it happen. It belittles everything the industry has done to clean up its image. The biggest perpetrators of this are older model dump trucks – it’s amazing how many of these trucks built in the 70s and 80s are still in service.
B.C. and California have proposed requiring older model trucks to be retrofitted with emissions-reducing devices such as diesel oxidation catalysts. The cost to the owners of older equipment would be substantial – but so would the environmental benefits. Sixty tonnes of particulate matter can be removed from B.C.’s air each year as a result of that province’s proposal, according to government officials.
I was initially surprised to see the B.C. Trucking Association endorsed the provincial proposal to limit the emissions of older trucks. But on further thought, I can concur with their position. The rest of the industry, most notably the over-the-road sector, has incurred enormous costs to invest in new, environmentally-friendly equipment. Why should companies that continue operating older technology get a free pass? I say: Make the polluters pay!
Let’s rid our roadways of these smoke-belching machines of yesteryear and kill the lingering perception that big trucks are big polluters.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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