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.
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.
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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