Making the case for long combination vehicles

by James Menzies

OTTAWA, Ont. – Allowing long combination vehicles in Eastern Canada could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 730 kilotonnes, reduce truck traffic by 10% and save 28 litres of fuel per 100 km, according to a recently released study.

Long combination vehicles (commonly referred to as turnpike doubles) consist of a regular tractor pulling two 53-ft trailers. They are already used in parts of Western Canada and Quebec, where they generally haul freight such as manufactured products, wood and wood products, food products and containers.

The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) has been gently urging the province to consider allowing LCVs along the Quebec-Windsor corridor and other routes. Rob Penner, vice-president of operations for Bison Transport, recently said Ontario’s reluctance to allow LCVs are based on fears that are “strictly visual.”

Motorists already fear big trucks and doubling the length of them isn’t likely to sit well with the public. However the latest study, released by Natural Resources Canada, may provide some ammunition for those who support the use of LCVs.

In short, the report “demonstrates the potential for increased environmental savings through the use of an expanded turnpike double network in Eastern Canada.”

The study found turnpike double fuel consumption averaged 52.23 litres per 100 km. When compared to traditional tractor-trailer fuel consumption, that results in a 28.8 L/100 km savings over two truck trips with single trailers.

“In the case of lightweight freight, this average could be as high as 31 L/100 km,” the report suggests.

An LCV network in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern US could eliminate 905 million vehicle kilometres, the study predicts. That would reduce fuel consumption by 260 million litres of diesel and would prevent 730 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases from being released. Savings in Ontario alone could total 54 million litres of fuel and 151 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases – numbers that are difficult to ignore.

The study suggests about 10% of truck traffic could be shifted to LCVs, resulting in a 10% reduction in overall truck traffic.

Of course, the biggest obstacle to allowing LCVs is the general fear of trucks shared by many motorists. The public is not likely to embrace the notion of sharing the province’s roads with vehicles more than 25 metres in length.

However, the study shows LCVs have a stellar safety record. LCVs are piloted by specially-licensed drivers where permitted. Accident statistics show LCVs have a collision rate of 0.15-0.19 incidents per million vehicle kilometres.

The fleets that took part in the study had an overall accident rate of 0.24 incidents per million miles and the accident rate on Ontario’s 400-series highways is 0.46 per million miles.

Based on those figures, LCVs are two to three times safer than traditional tractor-trailer combinations operating on Ontario’s multi-lane highways, the study reveals.

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