Truck News


Industry Issues: Political temperatures rising over environment, energy

The environment and the associated issue of energy conservation, whether out of concern over the increasing levels of smog that overhang our major cities, climate change, or the simple desire to reduc...

David Bradley

David Bradley

The environment and the associated issue of energy conservation, whether out of concern over the increasing levels of smog that overhang our major cities, climate change, or the simple desire to reduce our dependence on oil in the face of ever-escalating prices, is likely to loom large in upcoming federal and provincial elections.

The current political climate is such that all levels of government seem to be competing with each other over who is more concerned about the environment and who has the best plan to clean the air, stop climate change and break society’s addiction to oil.

Whether the Harper government is in or out of Kyoto is pretty much a moot point at this stage. The fact is that the Conservatives are in the midst of developing what has been dubbed a Made-in-Canada Clean Air Act which is to be unveiled this fall.

That has not detracted several provinces from forging ahead on their own. Quebec, where support for Kyoto is strongest, recently unveiled its climate change action plan. Most other provinces, including Alberta, are also working on plans. Like extra-provincial trucking regulation, the environment is a matter of split jurisdiction.

When you add it all up, what is likely to emerge is a much more concerted series of action to reduce air pollution, GHG emissions and energy consumption than anything we have seen up until now.

Transportation, including (perhaps particularly) the trucking industry will not be immune. We can sit back and wait for the governments to tell us what they are going to do to us (carbon/fuel taxes, heavy vehicle use taxes). Or we can be proactive and take the issue to government in the hopes of ensuring practical, effective and reasonable measures.

CTA and the provincial associations have chosen the latter approach and have recently unveiled a 14-point action plan containing a mixture of federal/provincial tax incentives and regulatory initiatives to encourage faster uptake of the 2007-10 truck engines and to allow carriers to invest in more fuel efficient wide-base tires, anti-idling devices and aerodynamics – without compromising service or productivity.

And yes, the plan does include the mandatory activation of speed limiters. In total, we estimate the impact of these measures, if implemented, would be the equivalent in terms of air quality of removing about 200,000 heavy trucks from Canadian roads – without any negative impact on service.

More than ever, the government’s desire to tackle environmental problems should be consistent with the industry’s desire to improve fuel efficiency.

The trucking industry has a good news story to tell. We are literally on the cusp of a new generation of smog free engines and fuels. How many of our legislators are even aware? Shouldn’t they be working with the industry to accelerate the penetration of the new vehicles into the total fleet as quickly as possible in order to reap the environmental benefits sooner?

While the combination of the new engines and cleaner fuel (i.e., ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel) represent an incredible leap forward in terms of reducing smog emissions, they are less helpful when it comes to reducing GHG, which is a function of fuel efficiency. How is the industry going to make up the fuel efficiency penalty associated with the new engines and diesel fuel? Does it make sense to ask carriers who are prepared to invest in auxiliary power units to reduce idling, or fuel efficient wide-base tires, or non-payload aerodynamics to have to reduce payload in order to comply with weights and dimensions rules that were developed over 20 years ago when no one had heard of climate change? Are the governments prepared to work with the industry?

The CTA plan contains measures that can and should be implemented now. But, there is more. We need to know more about how biodiesel at what blends will impact the new engine technology. We need strict manufacturing and quality standards before contemplating a mandate for biodiesel. We need to look at expanding the LCV network. And, we need to require all modes – e.g., rail, marine and air – to meet the same rigorous emissions standards as trucks.

So far, CTA is the only industry group in the country to come forward with a plan for how its industry can contribute through practical and meaningful measures to protecting our environment. Governments would be very unwise not to take CTA and the provincial associations up on its plan.

– David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

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