Viewpoint: There’s Gold in Going Green

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One Canadian carrier is investing in automatic transmissions for better fuel efficiency. Another is using a logistics loading system that allows it to double the amount of freight it can carry in the trailer for some clients, with no damage by crushing.

There’s an operator who has turned to “mother earth” to warm and cool its office and warehouse, installing a geothermal system that allows it to totally heat and air condition its 63,000 sq.-ft. office/warehouse structure.

And there’s a carrier who can now boast of being the first Canadian fleet to be awarded the US Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Environmental Excellence Award, which recognizes freight industry leaders that have made significant contributions to protecting the environment.

It got the award thanks to an environmental record that includes being the first Canadian fleet to fully install in-cab heaters and subsequently recording significant reductions in idling, analyzing fuel optimization from all angles, running a progressive shifting course that has deliverd fuel efficiency improvements from every driver that has graduated, and making a commitment since 2002 to purchase highway tractors with automatic transmissions.

It’s nothing short of amazing how fast global warming has gone from a confusing issue shunned by politicians and the public alike to an issue that may very well decide the next election. And the examples cited above are a clear indication that Canadian transportation companies are now starting to do exactly what businesses, municipal and state governments in the US started doing a few years ago: namely, take matters into their own hands as a response to the shameful lack of leadership at the federal level.

It’s a wise approach for two reasons. First, considering transportation activities generated more than one-quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2004 and accounted for 28% of their growth from 1990 to 2004 (during which time GHG emissions from transportation increased 30%) it won’t be long before transportation captures the attention of politicians, lobby groups and the public. And trucking is the mode most likely to go under the magnifying glass, largely thanks to its success. From 1990 to 2003, the amount of freight carried by the for-hire trucking industry grew nearly three times faster (75%) than all other modes combined (up a collective 27% over the same period). The popularity of “just-in-time” freight delivery also contributes to GHG emissions because trucks are making more trips.

If as a country we are going to get serious about bringing our GHG emissions under control, obviously transportation, and trucking in particular, will have to play a large role. All options for reducing trucking’s GHG footprint should be considered based on their individual merits.

The second reason why taking a close look at their environmental footprint makes sense for carriers is simple: it makes damn good economic sense. Not only are the fleets mentioned above saving money through their environmental initiatives but some of continent’s largest buyers of transportation services – Wal-Mart is the best example – are starting to give such carriers preferential treatment.

– Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at

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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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