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Who’s got gas?

The Ontario government, that's who. How else to explain Ontario's inability to stomach the use of long combination vehicles in Ontario, after Ontario's Ministry of Transport itself participated in a s...

Ingrid Phaneuf

Ingrid Phaneuf

The Ontario government, that’s who. How else to explain Ontario’s inability to stomach the use of long combination vehicles in Ontario, after Ontario’s Ministry of Transport itself participated in a study, released Apr. 25, that confirms LCV use is not only good for the environment, it’s also perfectly safe, safer even than cabs hauling single trailers?

On Apr. 25, Natural Resources Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Trucking Alliance, released the results of its final report on its two-year study of long combination vehicles.

The study collected live operational data from 10 fleets operating turnpike doubles and singles in Western Canada and Quebec, where LCVs are legal. It was conducted by third-party consulting firms and overseen by a large steering committee that included reps from Climate Change Central (set up by the Alberta government in 1999 to manage risks associated with climate change), the Centre for Sustainable Transportation (formed to help overcome the barriers to the attainment of sustainable transportation) Transport Canada (needs no introduction), the Canada Safety Council (a national, non-government, charitable organization) and, surprise, surprise, Ontario’s MTO.

The study calculated the environmental and safety benefits of using LCV configurations and found the following:

* Turnpike doubles are two to three times safer than the overall tractor-trailer population travelling Ontario’s multi-lane highways when measured on a per-vehicle-kilometre-of travel basis;

* Turnpike doubles are estimated to save on average of 28.8 litres of diesel per 100 km of truck travel when compared to single-trailer configurations moving the same volume of freight – a 55% saving;

* Turnpike doubles could reduce the number of trucks on the road by between six and 10%;

* According to the study, an estimated 900 million kilometres of truck travel would be saved annually by an expansion of the turnpike double network in Canada, resulting in a reduction of 260 million litres of fuel and 730 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases per year;

* And in Ontario alone the annual savings would be 54 million litres of fuel and 151 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases.

So, if turnpike doubles are actually safer and greener to run, why has the Ontario government, purportedly a supporter of greenhouse gas reduction, so reluctant to allow LCV usage in Ontario? Why, just two days after the LCV study results were released, did Premier Dalton McGuinty announce Ontario will invest $24 million over the next four years to help homeowners save money and help fight climate change, by giving homeowners $150 each towards the cost of conducting a home energy audit?

“We are building a culture of conservation in Ontario,” said Minister of Energy, Dwight Duncan. “This program will reduce natural gas and electricity consumption, save homeowners money and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 260,000 tonnes.”

Hmm. That’s 260,000 tonnes in four years, at a cost of $24 million, compared to a reduction of 730 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases per year, with an initial investment of the time it would take to implement regulations to govern the use of LCVs in terms of when and where they can be used. Doesn’t seem to add up does it? But that’s not all. The McGuinty government has other “projects” underway to reduce greenhouse gases, including: Awarding 36 renewable energy projects under the Standard Offer Program, including one of the world’s largest solar farms to be built in Sarnia; protecting 1.8 million acres of greenspace in the Greenbelt, providing a safe habitat for 66 species at risk; closing the single largest source of air pollution in the Greater Toronto Area – the Lakeview Generating Station; and requiring that all government employees stop eating beans for a year.

Okay, so maybe I made that last one up. The point being that McGuinty’s so-called efforts at reducing greenhouse gases amount to no more than a lot of hot air when you look at what’s not being done. How embarrassing for the MTO whose hands are tied on this one, given the clear lack of good judgment being shown by the McGuinty government.

But more importantly how is this lack of good judgment on the part of our elected officials even possible?

Lack of public awareness surrounding LCVs and the advantages their use may be giving some provinces over others isn’t surprising, says Ontario Trucking Association spokesman Doug Switzer. The association has been lobbying the government for years to catch up with other Canadian provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Quebec, who do allow for their use.

According to Switzer “the government has to contend with all those people who are already scared of big trucks on the highways, and who will be even more scared to drive beside a truck that’s twice as long.”

Apparently, the Ontario government is more interested in getting re-elected than actually doing the job for which it is being paid, and producing – instead of reducing – some of its very own noxious gases in the interim.

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