Government giving greenbacks for greenhouse gas reductions

by Carroll McCormick

QUEBEC CITY, Que. – Determined to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG), Quebec is busy putting its money where its mouth is: $27 million dollars is up for grabs for Quebec-registered trucking companies that install approved equipment that reduces fuel consumption.

Here’s the deal: if a trucking company will invest in such equipment, Transports Quebec will pay one-third of the cost. By the end of November 2010, over 700 companies had submitted 720 requests for subsidies, 500 of those requests had been assessed and 441 files, worth $1.8 million in subsidies, had been approved. Only 40 requests have been refused.

Transport Gilmyr, located 80 kilometres east of Quebec City, got a $55,545 subsidy to help purchase 95 on-board computers. They allow Gilmyr to compare drivers and examine the driving behaviour of the best ones.

The computers collect data on variables such as idling time and fuel consumption, idling time in traffic, miles per gallon, acceleration and braking, progressive shifting and excessive speed. “We closely follow the behaviour of our drivers. With the information from the computers we have pushed our drivers more and more to lower consumption; for example, reduce idling,” explains Claude Boucher, director general, Gilmyr.

Gilmyr is also using the computers to determine whether drivers are taking the shortest routes. The data collected from the drivers with the best techniques are also guiding Gilmyr in educating drivers to good and bad driving practices that affect fuel consumption.

Transports Quebec is committed to spending the whole pot, according to Benoit Cayouette, director of the freight motor carrier division.

“The objective is to give the money to guys and reduce greenhouse gases. All my staff have instructions to help carriers fill out the form. Put the toll-free number in your article.” (Okay, Benoit. Dial 877-635-8239. See also Programmes d’aide/Assistance programs on the Transport Quebec Web site).

The program is called “Programme d’aide gouvernementale a l’amelioration de l’efficacite energetique dans le transport des marchandises” (PEETM), or Government Assistance Program for Improving Energy Efficiency in Freight Transportation. It is part of a massive plan Quebec developed to reduce GHG to 6% below 1990 levels, or by 14.6 megatonnes by 2012.

“The private sector wants to save fuel and the government wants to cut GHG,” Cayouette says.

PEETM was launched back in June 2009, so clearly, trucking companies need to shake a leg and get with the program. Cayouette insists that it is an easy-terms process designed to make it easy for companies to qualify. Restrictions are few: companies have to be registered in Quebec and they must have a satisfactory rating with the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec.

PEETM has a helpful list of approved equipment, manufacturers and models, all of which has been demonstrated to lower fuel burn by at least 3%. The first category is on-board computers: 27 models from 19 manufacturers. “We were hesitant about helping carriers with electronic on-board recorders, but we decided that if we didn’t help, no-one would,” Cayouette says.

The second category is heating systems: 33 models from 12 manufacturers. Category three is auxiliary power units: 22-plus models from 14 manufacturers. The last category is trailer skirts, with six approved manufacturers.

So there’s plenty of pretty colours to choose from and all the products have been blessed by FPInnovations for their fuel-saving ability. Before PEETM was launched, Transports Quebec contracted FPInnovations to test about 100 products; Transports Quebec recognizes Energotest as a third-party tester.

Transports Quebec is also cautiously keen to help roll more diesel-electric hybrids onto the roads, but first it wants to find out whether these expensive creatures are worth the stiff premium.  So, PEETM gave FPInnovations two $50,000 grants: The first is to compare the fuel consumption of a hybrid delivery truck with its diesel equivalent. The second is to uncover the most effective driver techniques so that owners can take full advantage of hybrid technology. Transports Quebec expects FPInnovations to deliver its first report this February.

In return for subsidies, carriers have to help Transports Quebec learn whether the equipment is working for them.

“Transports Quebec will take samples from some carriers,” Cayouette explains. “We have some numbers, such as hours per week of reduced idling due to the installation of a heater. If a carrier refuses to give us the numbers, we can take back the subsidy. Carriers have to keep data; for example trailer mileage. They just have to tell us how many kilometres the trailer did last year. We will use Energotest data to get an estimate of fuel savings.”

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