Editorial Comment: Is Ontario ready to allow larger trucks?
April 1, 2007
The Ontario trucking industry treads very softly around the issue of the use of long combination vehicles (LCVs) - vehicles where the number of trailers and/or length of the vehicle exceed normal limi...
The Ontario trucking industry treads very softly around the issue of the use of long combination vehicles (LCVs) – vehicles where the number of trailers and/or length of the vehicle exceed normal limits.
And who can blame it?
Overtly calling upon government to allow for the widespread use of longer and larger tractor-trailer configurations would open the industry up to a maelstrom of criticism from the general public, most of which already fears the trucks it shares the roads with today. Most four-wheelers will tell you trucks are big enough as is, but those same people will also complain there are too many trucks on the road.
Allowing LCVs is an effective way of reducing truck traffic while also reeling in greenhouse gases and other emissions. With the environment on the forefront of everyone’s minds lately, perhaps the time is ripe for some serious discussions about the use of LCVs in Ontario.
While there’s been little to suggest the province is serious about allowing larger trucks on its roads, some work has been quietly going on in the background that would hint at a possibility for change. According to this month’s cover story by Ingrid Phaneuf, a study by Natural Resources Canada is closely monitoring the environmental benefits of LCV use.
“According to NRCan’s Lynda Harvey, even midway through the study the data was making a strong case for LCV use in Ontario and elsewhere,” Phaneuf writes. “Harvey says early indicators showed an average saving of up to 28L/100km (2 MPG) for the turnpike doubles against tractor-trailers for fleets surveyed. This could produce a savings of up to 1.8 billion kilometres of truck travel annually, and generate energy savings that could reach 260 million litres of fuel annually – amounting to a reduction of 730 kilotonnes of GHGs per year.”
Those preliminary results will be difficult to ignore for governments that realize any move that reduces emissions so substantially has to be explored.
However, opening Ontario’s roads to bigger trucks will not necessarily be a popular move with the majority of voters.
While the public is increasingly cognizant of the importance of reducing pollutants, it is also inherently fearful of trucks.
Allowing LCVs will deliver many benefits, including making Ontario a more appealing hub for shippers, reducing road traffic and cutting down on fuel use and associated emissions as well as alleviating driver shortage problems for carriers.
But in order to gain the acceptance of the public, any effort to allow larger trucks will have to be accompanied by a masterful public relations campaign.
One only has to look west to Alberta for a model that has proven successful. There, only the most experienced drivers are licensed to operate LCVs, they cannot drive them during peak travel times or in bad weather and only certain corridors allow for their use. Consequently, LCVs have a proven track record of being the safest vehicles on Alberta’s highways and their use has helped contribute to that province’s thriving economy. The same can be achieved in Ontario if executed properly.
However, the public will have to be educated about the benefits of LCVs and their proven safety record. The question is, will they care to listen?