A couple of months ago in this space, I took aim at the federal Liberals over their misguided carbon tax policy which would’ve cost truck fleets and owner/operators thousands of dollars per year.
Since that time, the Liberals have been soundly defeated in a federal election – may we never hear the term ‘Green Shift’ again.
In all fairness, I should also applaud their Ontario counterparts for a recently-announced funding plan that will help offset the cost of hybrid commercial vehicles and anti-idling systems. Ontario’s Dalton McGuinty Liberals, cash-strapped as they are, announced the $15 million plan last month.
Beginning Nov. 28, fleets and owner/operators will be able to apply for funding to help pay for ‘green’ technologies. This carrot – rather than the stick approach federal Liberal leader (what’s his name again?) was endorsing – is exactly what the industry needs.
Because the Canadian trucking industry needs a nudge in adopting costly new technologies that will significantly reduce fuel consumption. It’s a show-me industry, and most fleets are reluctant to shell out thousands of dollars up-front for something that may save them money down the road.
Hybrid commercial vehicles have proven to deliver enormous cost savings in the right application. But their uptake here in Canada has been slow – mostly due to the higher up-front cost.
A medium-duty hybrid truck can cost $30,000 or more than a comparable traditional drive vehicle.Who’s going to make that kind of investment without first seeing proof that the technology will do what it is said to do? South of the border, federal and in some cases state, rebates have resulted in some large volume orders of hybrid commercial vehicles, which will help bring down production costs and consequently the purchase prices of these vehicles.
Those participating in the Ontario grant program will have to monitor their fuel savings and that data will be shared with the industry. It’s already been proven that in the right application, hybrid trucks can deliver a payback even without government incentives.
This program will help increase confidence that this is the case, and should result in the more widespread use of hybrid vehicles.
Anti-idling systems, such as auxiliary power units (APUs) will also be covered by the program. This is a great chance for owner/operators to offset the cost of technology that will greatly reduce their idling time and improve their profitability.
It’s not the first time a government funding program has been geared towards anti-idling systems such as APUs. The feds had a rebate program from August, 2003 to March, 2006 which refunded 20% of the purchase price.
It was a great program – but it may have been underutilized. One retailer of cab comfort systems told me that based on the number of claims versus the number of units sold by manufacturers, only about 25% of customers took the time to apply for the rebate. This retailer filled out the rebate form for every customer, but others couldn’t be bothered to take the time to apply for the rebate.
Hopefully, participation in the Ontario program will be greater. The trucking industry isn’t often the recipient of government assistance. Let’s remember those famous words: Use it or lose it. •
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