GOOD NEWS: Environment Minister Laurel Broten made a surprise announcement that could save the trucking industry a lot of dough.
TORONTO, Ont. – The Ontario trucking industry stands to save $5 million per year thanks to changes to the province’s Drive Clean program, Environment Minister Laurel Broten has announced.
Thanks to the revisions, only vehicles five years old and older will require Drive Clean certification. Previously, vehicles three years old and older had to be tested. Broten, however, said the majority of those newer vehicles passed the inspection.
“We’re shifting our focus to the vehicles that are most likely to pollute,” Broten told delegates at the Ontario Trucking Association’s (OTA) annual conference.
The $5 million in savings for the trucking industry will be realized as a result of fewer testing fees and less downtime, Broten said.
“Newer vehicles were passing Drive Clean more than 99 per cent of the time,” she said. “By focusing testing on vehicles most likely to pollute, we are protecting the air we breathe and improving the program’s efficiency and effectiveness.”
Broten also announced that as of Jan. 1, 2006 it will be a criminal offense to create, distribute or display false Drive Clean passes.
The OTA applauded the move to exempt trucks that are four years old and newer from Drive Clean testing.
“It takes some courage to stand up and say that an environmental program is not working effectively and needs fixing,” OTA president David Bradley said, following the announcement. “The MOE is responding appropriately to the fact that the average pass rate for heavy trucks five years or newer is 98 per cent – even with the toughest opacity test in North America. Current vintage trucks are much cleaner than they were even just 10 years ago.”
Bradley pointed out the Drive Clean program was launched before the latest generation of clean engines came to market and testing newer vehicles is a waste of time and money. He said it’s important the program recognizes that by 2007, heavy-duty truck engines will be essentially smog-free.
“We will be suggesting further refinements to the program during the next round of consultations, for example to see if the testing exemption for the new smog-free engines can be stretched further,” said Bradley.
The OTA has voiced its displeasure over the Drive Clean program in the past.
The association says Ontario-plated trucks are at a competitive disadvantage versus out-of-province trucks that don’t require regular testing.
“This has never made much sense to us from either a competitiveness or an environmental point of view,” he said. “On any given day 30 per cent of all the heavy trucks operating on Ontario highways are from outside of Ontario. There are buses and trucks that are based in Ontario, but plated somewhere else that are exempt from the program.”
The recent change (which comes into effect Jan. 1) was also applauded by owner/operators and owners of small fleets.
Five-truck owner Dale Holman said “With fuel, insurance and other costs on the rise, I cannot afford to take my trucks out of service and then pay for a test when I know they are going to pass with flying colours. It’s about time this change was made.”
Gord Grant, president of Grant’s Transport in New Liskeard, Ont. added the changes are especially welcomed by northern Ontario fleets, as there are fewer test sites in the North.