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Environment program aims to reduce impact of transportation industry

TROIS-RIVIRES, Que. -- The federal government is launching the ecoFreight program, a series of initiatives total...

TROIS-RIVIRES, Que. — The federal government is launching the ecoFreight program, a series of initiatives totalling up to $61 million in funding aimed at reducing the environmental and health effects of freight transportation.

The ecoFreight program is made up of six initiatives, two of which specifically focus on the trucking industry, through the removal of regulatory barriers and the reduction of fuel use and emissions.

“Canada’s new government encourages the freight industry to join the effort as we all have a role to play in the reduction of emissions from transportation sources, and the development of cleaner transportation systems, practices and technologies,” said Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

The other initiatives target all four modes of transportation (air, rail, road and marine), as well as users of the freight system by establishing a Freight Technology Demonstration Fund, providing cost-shared funding, building and maintaining partnerships and demonstrating the potential of shore-based power.

These initiatives support the government’s ecoTransport Strategy, which is aimed at improving the health of Canadians and the environment by reducing the environmental impacts of transportation; securing Canada’s future prosperity and competitiveness by making transportation infrastructure sustainable, both economically and environmentally.

“Initiatives like these are a part of this government’s ambitious and realistic agenda to protect our environment and the health of Canadians, as well as to promote economic growth,” said the Honourable John Baird, Minister of the Environment. “We will continue to take real action to protect the health of Canadians and the environment by helping make freight transportation more environmentally friendly.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has welcomed the initiative, but is giving the announcement a cautious thumbs up.

“From what we can glean, today’s announcement may be a good first start in the adoption of CTA’s 14-point action plan for a Made-In-Canada Clean Air Act for trucking,” said David Bradley, CEO of the CTA. “The dollar numbers are very modest, especially when most of the programs are spread over all the freight modes – truck, rail, air and marine – but to the extent that the program recognizes the legitimacy and potential of the CTA plan and the principals behind it then that is half the battle and perhaps we can build from there.”

While details are scarce at this time, CTA anticipates that this will include most of the proposed measures identified in CTA’s 14-point environmental action plan for a Made-In-Canada Clean Air Act such as the mandatory activation of speed limiters and weight or dimensions allowances to accommodate wide base single tires, alternative power units to eliminate truck idling and aerodynamic fairings such as boat tails.

“At the end of the day, all of these measures fall under provincial jurisdiction, so the more we can harmonize the better. We don’t know at this time how the money is to be used, but the principle is right,” noted Bradley.

Among the initiatives to be shared with the other modes of most interest to carriers is likely to be a $10 million initiative to help defray the costs of purchasing and installing proven emission-reducing technologies. Again, while details are sketchy this might include a re-instatement of rebates or grants for in-cab heaters – a measure contained in CTA’s environmental action plan.

“$10 million over four years across all modes could be gone very quickly; so we are anxious to learn more about which technologies will be eligible and what amounts will be available to each of the modes,” said Bradley.

This new funding will be contained in the upcoming budget and is a part of the actions to be taken on the fiscal imbalance. It will be available as soon as Parliament approves the budget.

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