Industry needs more drastic changes to curb emissions

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Andrew Tam of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation said heavy-duty diesel vehicles are lagging behind light-duty gasoline-powered vehicles when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Tam also said he believes the most effective course of action to lessen emissions from trucks would be to use alternative fuels, moving away from straight diesel.

Speaking during the Canadian Transportation Research Forum (CTRF) conference in Vancouver, B.C., May 27, Tam pointed out that in 2014, emissions from transportation in Canada was 24% of the country’s total output. Trucks carrying freight constituted 33% of the transportation sector’s emissions.

“Over the years, the trucking industry has made improvements,” said Tam. “I’m not going to say drastic, but they have.”

Tam provided an overview of the technologies being used today to help curb emissions from heavy-duty trucks, as well as possible alternative fuels that could be used in the future.

Some of the key devices highlighted during Tam’s presentation included side skirts, which he said provide fuel savings of 5%. Boat tails offer 4% fuel savings, while on the tractor itself, Tam said low roll resistant tires deliver more than 3% fuel saving, as do wide-base single tires, which are becoming more common in recent years.

Low roll resistant tires do have some limitations in that they do not provide good winter traction, come at a premium cost, and have to be replaced more often than other tire treads. Wide-base single tires, Tam said, are sensitive to over- or under-inflation and have no “limp home capabilities” should the tire blow.

Andrew Tam.

Tam offered four alternative fuel sources to diesel he said could moderate the industry’s carbon footprint.

The first, natural gas, Tam said has lower fuel efficiency but also 12% lower tailpipe emissions. He added that natural gas provides similar performance to diesel, lesser fuel costs – though prices are volatile and there are higher engine costs – and there is limited fuel and infrastructure available.

Dual fuel (compressed natural gas and diesel) was another option Tam said has lower tailpipe emissions, comparable performance, and would decrease fuel costs. Dual fuel does require a complex storage system and offers less range.

Hybrid electric trucks would provide reduced emissions, comparable performance depending on battery size, less fuel costs, and no special infrastructure to get going. They would, however, use more fuel in urban operations, come with high incremental and battery costs, and are less beneficial to long-haul operations.

Finally, Tam said electric trucks – battery or hydrogen fuel cell – would equate to zero tailpipe emissions and 45% higher fuel efficiency, but have limited range, heavier vehicle weight, high battery costs, and limited hydrogen infrastructure and connectivity to the electrical grid.

Tam said one of the keys to having more carriers employ the use of new technologies to reduce GHG emissions is that developers make them more affordable.

“The industry will not adopt something unless it helps their bottom line,” he said, “and I think that’s a fair assessment to make.”

With Canada and the U.S. aligned when it comes to emissions standards and regulations, Tam said it should be a shared responsibility between industry, government, and technology developers to continue the push to reduce heavy-duty vehicle emissions.

Canada-U.S. trade

Tam underscored the importance of trade with the U.S., the trucking industry’s role in that effort, and how the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate could impact costs.

He said 74% of all the trade between Ontario and the U.S. flows by truck, with exports and imports going to and from central, south, north-east, and west primary by truck followed in most cases by rail.

By comparison, exports from Alberta to the Central U.S., is shipped by pipeline and rail, as the main products are oil and gas.

Tam said he believes the advent of the Canadian ELD mandate will have a short-term impact on the cost of trucking across Canada, which could affect Ontario-U.S. trade.

Other factors that impact trucking costs and trade, according to Tam, include cost competitiveness, regulatory harmonization, border management, and infrastructure improvements.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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  • Is this guy on drugs??

    They can’t even make the current tier 4 engines in trucks, farm tractors or off road equipment run reliably.
    And he wants to strangle them more and add more sensors and electronics?

  • keep this name in mind : Trevor Milton ……………. PIONEER !

    And stop being so darn primitive ! EVOLVE !

    To quote the Asian sage Confucius :
    “People Who Say It Cannot Be Done Should Not Interrupt Those Who Are Doing It ”

    “When the trucks hits U.S. highways early in the next decade, leases of the Nikola One and Nikola Two are expected to cost 95 cents per mile, though company officials stressed that figure could change.
    However, the lease includes not only the zero emission Class 8 tractor, but also maintenance, tires and fuel.

    “It is the only semi-truck that can beat a diesel in every category,” said Trevor Milton, CEO of Nikola, when speaking about the company’s tractors.”

    And better yet . Canadian Budget 2019

    ” Supporting Business Investment in Zero-Emission Vehicles

    To further support businesses’ adoption of zero-emission vehicles, Budget 2019 proposes that these vehicles be eligible for a full tax write-off in the year they are put in use.

    Qualifying vehicles will include electric battery, plug-in hybrid (with a battery capacity of at least 15 kWh) or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, including light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles purchased by a business.

    This will encourage all businesses to convert to zero-emission fleets and leave more money to be invested in other productive ways. For example, a taxi company or a school bus operator will be able to recoup their investments in eligible zero-emission vehicles in a faster manner. ​

    Immediate expensing will apply to eligible vehicles purchased on or after March 19, 2019 and before January 1, 2024. Capital costs for eligible zero-emission passenger vehicles will be deductible up to a limit of $55,000 plus sales tax. This is higher than the capital cost limit of $30,000 plus sales tax that currently applies to passenger vehicles. This new $55,000 capital cost limit reflects the comparably higher cost of zero-emission vehicles and will be reviewed annually to ensure that it remains appropriate as market prices evolve over time.”

    What better cost reduction and incentive can one possibly ask for ???

    Again , perhaps one should do their homework before expressing oneself before ridiculing themselves due to their ignorance .

    As the saying goes :
    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt”

    In my humble opinion .

    And here is one for the road !

    Keep your eyes on the road ,your hands upon the wheel !

    Yeeeee Haaaaaa !!! Let it roll , baby , roll (wink)

  • Fuel cells & hydrogen appear to be the ultimate answer to eliminate transport pollution, range anxiety, fueling time, additional weight, disposal pollution, rare material availability, trade in value, high power charging facility danger, reduced range with grid lock & weather. I could go on but it would appear the only downside to hydrogen is present limited fueling access & cost.
    It would be interested to know what the cost would be to not zero in on the hydrogen alternative as a national expenditure on fueling facilities may dwarf the ultimate other costs for not taking this approach.

  • Electric trucks will have higher cost right now we are only getting 2 years out of battery’s on truck and 5 years in hybrid Ford product. Natural gas is much better than tire that will have poor traction in snow for Canada. I already use recap trailer tires on drive from April 1 until November. The government needs to push electric plugs for heating and cooling with a natural gas main engine and maybe a small fuel for battery charging and accessory uses and maybe in reefer trailers. We also need to stop bio diesel and corn based gasoline. The foot print to grow those crops for fuel is the same or worse than Alberta crude.