Let me declare February official ‘Beat up on Government Month.’
After reading the columns from Lou Smyrlis, Bruce Richards and Joanne Ritchie, which collectively heaped some much-deserved criticism on the MTO after a scathing report from Ontario’s Auditor General, I was hesitant to pile on. But I simply must – although, I’ll take aim at an altogether different target.
We gave considerable praise to an Ontario rebate program for ‘green’ commercial vehicles and anti-idling technologies when details emerged late last year. Ontario’s Green Commercial Vehicle Program promised to refund up to a third of the cost of an APU or cab heater. (The bulk of the funding was earmarked for fleets to put towards the purchase of alternative fuel-powered, low-emission vehicles).
But while the premise of the funding program is laudable, it appears the execution is laughable. I’ve been hearing from owner/operators who have been stymied for a multitude of reasons, as they’ve attempted to take advantage of the program.
For starters, owner/operators must run 20% of their annual kilo-metres in Ontario in order to qualify for the funding. Right there, the program excludes the majority of southern Ontario-based operators who primarily run longhaul southbound into the US.
Those who haul locally, or westbound through Northern Ontario, stand a better chance at qualifying for the funding.
However, it’s not slam dunk for those operators either. One owner/operator who does a regular run between Toronto and Vancouver through Northern Ontario called me to complain his application was rejected because his vehicle was a pre-2006 model year tractor.
Sure enough, a look at the fine print reveals the following eligibility requirements: ‘For applications submitted between Nov. 28 2008 and Jan. 31, 2009, be a 2006 model year and onwards; For applications submitted after Feb. 1, 2009 be a 2007 model year and onwards, and be a 2010 model year or onwards if an application is submitted in 2010.’
While idling late model trucks is still wasteful, idling an 07 model year or newer tractor doesn’t churn out nearly as much pollution as older vehicles.The advent of particular traps coincided with 07 model year tractors and by 2010, Class 8 vehicles will be essentially smog-free. While using anti-idling systems to limit idle-time still has merit, it’s more of an economical consideration than an environmental one as we begin operating cleaner and greener vehicles. But isn’t this an environmental program, with environmental objectives? Why then, are older model trucks – the biggest polluters – excluded from the program?
I hope that some of you fit into the province’s narrow window of eligibility and will be able to take advantage of the Green Commercial Vehicle Program. But I fear the restrictions will rule out the vast majority of interested owner/operators and that the funding will be for naught.
I hope the province proves me wrong, and that the full allocation of funds finds its way to deserving candidates.
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