Industry stakeholders bend government’s ear on plans for GHG emissions regs

WINNIPEG, Man. — Ottawa has encouraged industry feedback on its proposed legislation mirroring the US mandate to reduce heavy duty truck GHG emissions and government officials got an earful here today at a conference hosted by the University of Manitoba Transport Institute.

Canada’s proposed regulations are designed to reduce emissions from the whole range of on-road heavy-duty vehicles and engines, including large pick-up trucks, short/long-haul tractors, cement and garbage trucks, buses, and more, for the 2014 model year and beyond. As a result of implementing the proposed standards, Ottawa anticipates that greenhouse gas emissions from 2018 heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by up to 23% from those sold in 2010.  By the year 2020, GHG emissions from Canada’s heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by 3 million tonnes per year. This is equivalent to removing 650,000 personal vehicles from the road, according to Ottawa.

Both the Canadian and US regulations do not include the trailer in their legislation, however. Industry stakeholders attending the Heavy Duty Vehicle GHG Emissions and Fuel Efficiency in Canada Conference took issue with that.

“Without the trailer the rules are actually meaningless,” said Dr. Siddiq Khan, a senior researcher at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy in Washington, DC.

Louis-Philippe Gagne, the lead engineer working on the development of regulations to limit GHG emissions from new on-road heavy duty vehicles with Environment Canada, explained there were two reasons for keeping trailers out of the legislation this time around. One was the decision to align Canada’s legislation with that of the US and the Americans decided not to address trailers.

“That said, the US is going to look at trailers in the next round.” Gagne added.

The second reason he gave was that the Canadian trailer industry is very complex with hundreds of manufacturers.

“We have to see this as a first step and it’s a step in the right direction. Vehicles made here are sold in the US and vice versa. It’s important not to have standards that would impede Canada-US trade,” Gagne said.

Jairo Viafara, research associate with the Transport Institute and organizer of the conference, wasn’t completely buying into that argument. He pointed out that although Canada’s trailer market does indeed include many small operators, the largest number of trailers come from a small group of manufacturers.

Claude Robert heads up Groupe Robert, one of the most environmentally progressive fleets in Canada. He wasn’t buying into all the logic behind the government’s plans either.

“The world is a little larger than Canada and the US. Other countries are using different environmental technologies and have been doing it for years,” he said pointing to much greater fuel efficiency gains realized on European trucks.

“Why should we try to reinvent the wheel? Why not standardize with the world? What are we trying to prove? That we are 2nd, 3rd or 4th best?”

The new standards are quite modest because they are focused on using existing technologies, acknowledged  Stéphane  Couroux, acting chief, Greenhouse Gas Regulatory Development and Marine Analysis Section Transportation Division, for  Environment Canada.

But he also pointed out that European truck technology while better in terms of reducing GHG emissions is not as stringent as North American standards on nitrous oxides. He also emphasized the cost of a “made in Canada” approach.

“If we were to go ahead of the US, that means truck manufacturers would have to certify their vehicles for Canada and the US. That would be very expensive,” Couroux said.

Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, also stressed the need for harmonization of regulations between the two countries in his presentation. He argued  that the Canadian market is not large enough to warrant a uniquely Canadian approach without great cost to manufacturers, which would get passed on to purchasers.

“North American based vehicle manufacturers are global companies. Harmonization of vehicle legislation is very important to them. A patchwork of regulations is not only too complex but more importantly it will delay implementation of new technologies,” he said.

Robert, however, pointed out that Canada should be just as concerned about harmonizing legislation among the provinces as it is between Canada and the US. Differences in provincial legislation on items such as wide base single tires and LCVs remain a thorn in the side of trucking companies wanting to use environmentally sustainable practices on a national level, he said.

Gagne acknowledged that was a valid point but said he believes the provinces are supportive of Ottawa’s plans on GHG legislation.

Canada’s proposed GHG regulations for heavy duty trucks have been published in the Canada Gazette, and are subject to a 60-day public consultation period. That period ends June 13 and Environment Canada is encouraging submissions from all stakeholders.

The Heavy Duty Vehicle GHG Emissions and Fuel Efficiency in Canada conference continues at the Fort Garry Hotel tomorrow.

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