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Significant Implications For Canadian Trucking, Trade From California Clean Air Law

The California Global Warming Solutions Act requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to implement programs to reduce GHG emissions from both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles starting in 20...

The California Global Warming Solutions Act requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to implement programs to reduce GHG emissions from both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles starting in 2010.

Regulations have been passed which require heavy truck owners – regardless of domicile -to equip their tractors and prescribed trailers with specific, certified technologies and devices to improve tractor and trailer aerodynamics and with the new generation of fuel efficient truck tires if they want to operate into, out of and within California.

That includes Canadian trucks. In 2008, Canada/California merchandise trade represented over $37 bil- lion, with Canada enjoying a $9.6 billion surplus. Trucking is the dominant freight mode, moving about $18 billion (or 50%) of the trade. Moreover, six other US states (AZ, MT, NM, OR, UT, WA) are signatories to the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), aimed at collective GHG reduction.

Whether any or all of them will follow California’s lead is currently unknown. Regardless, the economic consequences if Canadian trucks and trailers do not comply and are therefore banned from the state are enormous.

For now, the law applies to new and existing long-haul on-road tractors pulling 53-foot van or refrigerated trailers (although the mandate is expected to be expanded over time).A minimum 5% fuel efficiency improvement for van trailers and at least a 4% efficiency gain for refrigerated trailers are prescribed.

To accomplish that, tractors will need to be equipped with a combination of streamlined tractor hoods, roof fairings, gap fairings, fuel tank fairings, aerodynamic bumpers and/or mirrors.

For trailers, that means side skirts, front gap fairings, rear trailer fairings (boat-tails) and/or fuel-efficient, low-rolling resistance tires certified by the SmartWay Transport Partnership. Basically, California is regulating the SmartWay truck. (SmartWay is a collaborative effort between industry and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

CTA is a member of SmartWay and the CARB/SmartWay equipment is consistent with CTA’s enviroTruck initiative which could reduce GHG from the Canadian trucking industry by more than 13.5 million tonnes. CARB will also grant early compliance credits (ie., optional phase-in schedules) for carriers that submit implementation plans in 2010. CARB is hiring enforcement personnel to ensure and maintain compliance.

California has also introduced various programs to provide loan assistance and financial support to California businesses for the purchase of new equipment and the retrofit of existing equipment.

Carriers can buy some time and phase in the re-tooling of their fleets if in 2010 they submit a written plan to CARB as to how they intend to come into compliance over the next few years. Hard enforcement would start in 2011.

The problem for Canadian carriers (in addition to the lack of capital) is that on the whole, Canadian truck weights and dimensions standards in most provinces have not evolved along with environmental considerations and do not currently accommodate some of the California requirements at all (ie. full boat-tails) or without taking a significant productivity hit (wide-base single tires). Canada’s truck weights and dimensions standards were developed in the 1980s when environmental issues were not top of mind as they are now.

While it is true that Canada’s heavier weights in and of themselves have been relative to US weights been environmentally beneficial, unless the standards become more flexible -and soon -to accommodate the new California requirements, Canadian carriers will either have to vacate California/Canada business in favour of US carriers or maintain two separate fleets -one for Canada and one for the US work. Either way, the Canadian industry’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions will be further stymied.

Interestingly, four Canadian provinces (BC, MB, ON, QC) are also WCI signatories. However, how or if they intend to follow California’s lead or develop their own requirements is not known.

However, the clock is ticking. So, CTA recently urged the Canadian Council of Ministers responsible for both transportation and the environment to direct their officials to: Jointly conduct an urgent and immediate review of Canadian heavy truck weights and dimensions regulations that impede the ability to accommodate SmartWay/enviroTruck vehicles; and once having conducted that review, make amendments to the weights and dimension standards in each jurisdiction to accommodate the GHG and smog-reducing equipment and technology; then engage with California to seek reciprocal recognition where those standards may differ modestly and discuss exemptions or transition schedules; and also develop and coordinate a Canadian program of federal and provincial incentives to permit and accelerate investment in the environmental equipment by Canadian truck operators.

The federal government retains constitutional authority over extra-provincial trucking but delegated administration of the file to the provinces contributing to a patchwork quilt of provincial vehicle standards which currently serve as a barrier to the use of some of the key requirements of the CARB regulations -ie., only two provinces (Quebec and Ontario) allow sufficient axle weights for wide-base single tires to be incorporated into Canadian fleets.

Not one Canadian province currently allows for a full rear trailer fairing. It’s in everyone’s best interests to ensure this issue does not get bogged down in process with jurisdictional wrangling between the federal government and the provinces and/or between transportation and environmental departments. To do so would further hamper our efforts to improve our ability to meet our business and economic goals as well as our ability to reduce fuel consumption and therefore GHG emissions.

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

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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