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How green is your valley?

Q Is the government providing enough incentives for the trucking industry to go green?...

Q Is the government providing enough incentives for the trucking industry to go green?

Brigitte Rivard, manager, freight and environmental initiatives, Transport Canada, notes there are a couple of programs offering cash incentives to the freight sector to try out “greener” technologies or best practices.

“We have two programs that will give money away: the freight sustainability demonstration program open to all the modes and shippers. We give money away for companies that want to try new technology and best practices out in a real operation. What we learned when we started the program was that while some technologies and best practices have been available for some time, some companies do not want to be the first to test them in their operations on a daily basis. With this program, up to $250,000 is available to them to do a demonstration so that the financial risk isn’t all on them.

We have selected more than 30 products right now in all the modes. In return we ask for some kind of report back to share with the industry, if a technology or best practice shows potential. Another program we have is the freight incentive program, which helps a company purchase technology that they have tested and found to be working. It’s available for rail, marine and aviation and goes up to $500,000. The process to submit proposals is a competitive process and requires a lot of information about how they plan to use the technology, but we are always there to help applicants in the process. We are at the end now of an existing program, completing projects we have right now but not going to start new ones until we have clear direction from the federal government on where they plan to go next.

According to David Bradley, Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO, while the advent of the smog-free heavy truck is happening, “the key will be to accelerate the penetration of these vehicles into the total fleet.”

To this end, CTA is asking the federal government to do so by giving tax incentives to trucking companies who adopt smog-reducing technology. CTA is also seeking government’s support to increase the installation of auxiliary power units to reduce truck idling, and wants all ministers of transportation from across the country to endorse a CTA proposal to require the speed limiters on all trucks to be activated and set at no more than 105 km/hr. Bradley says the CTA would like to see government support a new generation of single, wide-base tires, which offer significant fuel economy savings, but which are presently limited by restrictions on truck weights and dimensions standards developed in the 1980s. “The same standards also act as an obstacle to incorporating non-payload aerodynamic improvements and other vehicle design enhancements. There are challenges and some obstacles to doing what needs to be done – not the least of which is that the federal and provincial governments have split jurisdiction over trucking regulations,” says Bradley. CTA also calls upon governments to more clearly define which biodiesel blends are being considered for trucks, to run joint pilot programs to ensure that operational concerns associated with using biodiesel in the new smog-free trucks in Canadian conditions are addressed, and to introduce and enforce stringent biodiesel quality, manufacturing and testing standards, before considering a mandate for biodiesel use in commercial trucks. Finally, CTA is proposing that other freight modes – rail, marine and air – should be subject to the same type of stringent fuel and engine emissions standards as trucks, given that they too affect air quality and produce greenhouse gas emissions.

Q Can speed limiting in trucks help the environment?

Claude Robert, chairman, CTA, president, Robert Transport “Speed limiters are going to accomplish a number of things-most important, all the issues dealing with safety. Safety is non-negotiable and reducing the speed of the vehicles on the road will contribute to improved safety on all Canadian highways. This is my number one concern. Number two is everything which is pertinent to fuel economy. The faster you go, the more fuel you use, and in the past, some carriers have been inclined to go faster to compensate for a lack of revenue due to delays at customers’ loading docks. We ran a survey across the country and everybody was invited to express their opinion, but over 80% of respondents (across provincial trucking associations) were in favour of limiting the speed, and a majority agreed on a speed of 105 km/h, and hopefully to be able to improve the fuel consumption throughout the industry by probably 1/2 mile or 3/4 mile a gallon, representing at the end of the year millions of gallons less of fuel into the environment. We believe that we, the trucking industry, need to support the public’s preoccupation with environmental issues, but don’t believe it’s against our own interests, because if we want to be able to maintain a competitive price in the future, unless we protect the price of fuel, and reduce our fuel consumption, we will never get there, and the reason is, all the new engines that provide less pollution, are using more fuel. I’m not sure our customers down the road will accept dealing with carriers that do not pay attention to their fuel consumption. Unless the industry gets together to try and protect our future, there won’t be any future in long-distance trucking. Often, drivers don’t realize that. Our worst enemy is ourselves and our attitude driving the vehicle.”

Joanne Ritchie, executive director, Owner Operator’s Business Association of Canada The proposal to require the speed of trucks to be limited to 105 kilometers per hour underestimates the role of the driver in the equation. “Since the driver has the greatest impact on fuel efficiency, maintenance, and safety, more thorough driver training relating to proper driving speeds should have a positive effect on the speeds actually driven,” says Ritchie. “Technology cannot take the place of a well-trained driver, nor should it take away control of the vehicle from a well-trained driver.”

OBAC says there are other effective speed management options available to carriers, such as paying bonuses or increasing per mile pay for compliant driving. Reduced fuel consumption is also achievable without government regulation.

“OBAC is a strong advocate of fuel conservation as a wise business choice. We support a number of initiatives that stress speed management and operational discipline as a means of conserving fuel, saving money, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Q Are shippers as involved as they should be in promoting green initiatives with their carriers?

Bob Ballantyne, president, Canadian Industrial Transportation Association “There probably is not enough awareness among shippers of the programs that do exist. We’ve been undertaking a benchmarking survey of our membership over the last two years, and we’ve worked with Transport Canada in obtaining responses from our membership on ‘going green’ issues. Transport Canada is looking at the responses from that survey to see where there are gaps they could help fill. (This year’s results to be completed by September)

I would say in the medium to long-term (involvement in green initiatives) will become a condition of doing business. Certainly in any large group of people you’ll get a wide variety of awareness or concern.

Speed limiters are somewhat controversial among several segments of carriers and shippers. Certainly the shipper community supports green efforts and from the shipper point of view they would like to see, if there are going to be speed limiters, that they be applied very broadly at roughly the same time. They do have some concerns if Ontario were going to go ahead with it but other jurisdictions were not doing it.”

Phil Cahley, president & CEO, Canadian Courier & Messenger Association “I guess
the gap is the medium to smaller type of firms that don’t have the working capital that allows them to invest in these expensive technologies. The customer could get involved in encouraging government to offer greater incentives to those smaller companies, tax credits, funding for testing and prototyping these technologies, etc. When you look at the customer out there, more and more customers are very savvy and aware that their buying power can influence the future, and investment in leading edge environmental technologies. We’re seeing more of an environmental awareness among customers. The messenger firms, the small to regional firms who get a package across town in an hour, they use bikers and walkers in the downtown core. They use the public transit system to walk a package across one area of town to another. With regard to shipper involvement, a savvy customer could become more vocal with government to suggest incentives to invest in fuel-efficient technologies, the customer could check out websites, and ask sales reps what the company is doing with regard to green initiatives.”

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