Ontario environment commissioner’s report contains mixed bag for truckers: OTA

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TORONTO, Ont. — The annual greenhouse gas progress report, issued yesterday by Ontario’s environmental commissioner, Gord Miller, has produced a mixed reaction from Ontario trucking companies, according to the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA).

In his report, the commissioner talks of the need to expand the province’s toolkit for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) referring to current efforts as “unambitious and uninspiring.” Among the things he’d like to see introduced are specific GHG reduction targets for individual sectors of the economy.

The OTA says that this may in and of itself not be problematic, but some of the measures he proposes to meet these targets are of great concern to the trucking industry, such as the commissioner’s call for a road pricing system, via either a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax. The OTA says it finds neither methodology particularly palatable if applied to goods movement.

“Economists or people who think they understand economists can talk all they want about road pricing, but what it comes down to is a cash grab to pay for more spending on transit or non-starters like high speed rail,” said OTA president and CEO David Bradley. Bradley contends that the correlation between increased spending on transit and reduced congestion or emissions is murky at best. “Besides, you can’t shift truck freight to transit,” he says.

However, the OTA said it found two suggestions made by the commissioner to be of particular interest: a recognized need for incentives for the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles; and the environmental benefits of Ontario’s law requiring the mandatory activation of speed limiters.

While not directly addressing the federal government’s proposed fuel economy/GHG reduction standards for heavy trucks, the commissioner does say that with regard to the light-duty vehicle program, the “Ontario government should reexamine financial incentives for highly fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel vehicles. While performance based standards, such as federal GHG emission requirements, force the adoption of newer technologies, they provide no incentive for vehicle manufacturers to exceed minimum requirements.” He does take note of the fact that programs like the Green Commercial Vehicles program “quietly came to an end” and lists consumer incentives such as tax credits and rebates as things that need to be considered.

Under the enviroTruck banner, both OTA and the Canadian Trucking Alliance have been calling upon both levels of government to introduce financial incentives to stimulate voluntary investment in fuel-saving technologies and devices for both new and existing tractors and trailers which will complement the regulated standards and accelerate the reduction in GHG emissions.

“If governments want meaningful early returns from the heavy vehicle emissions regulation, they need to work with industry on complementary, voluntary measures,” says Bradley. “The regulations, which deal only with new tractors and engines and where all the credits go to the manufacturer, will have some impact but there is so much more that can be done by working with the trucking industry.”

The commissioner says Ontario’s speed limiter law “ensures that heavy trucks do not operate at higher – and less fuel efficient – speeds” and indicates that by lowering the current non-compliance rate (which he says is 13.6%) further, the GHG benefits can be maximized. Bradley agrees and says OTA has been working with MTO and other enforcement agencies to improve compliance further.

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