OTTAWA – Last May, US president Barack Obama announced that his government would be introducing a regulation to establish fuel efficiency/GHG reduction standards for heavy trucks. On the same day, Canada’s environment minister announced that Canada would essentially move in lock-step with the Americans. Last month, the US federal government issued its six hundred page proposed final rule. Although the first draft of the proposed Canadian regulation governing fuel economy/GHG emission standards from heavy trucks is not expected until early 2012, the Government of Canada kicked off its official consultation process by issuing a short discussion paper from Environment Canada and setting a deadline for comments of September 9, 2011. The discussion paper provides an overview of the regulatory direction set by the United States and discusses possible options for the Canadian rule.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is one of the key industry organizations to provide its comments. Central to CTA’s response is the suggestion that the regulation – which will be imposed at the manufacturer level and will only apply to new tractors and engines starting in 2014, is likely to have a modest impact on reducing GHG emissions from trucking compared to what would be possible if the regulation were accompanied by a complementary program of tax and other incentives to encourage not only accelerated investment in the new “GHG-compliant” tractors, but also for the installation of market-ready fuel economy devices and technologies on new trailers or as retrofits on the existing fleet of tractors and trailers.
“Unlike previous regulations governing heavy truck emissions which prescribed that smog-causing pollutants from heavy trucks had to be eliminated and the consumer had no choice in terms of the new equipment they could buy, this time around as it concerns the GHG regulation motor carriers and owner-operators will still have plenty of choice as to what they purchase,” says the CEO of the trucking alliance, David Bradley. “That is not inherently a bad thing as the trucking industry is not homogenous in terms of the type of equipment used to transport various commodities, the terrain, etc., but it does mean that more substantive reductions in GHG could be delayed when the industry would be prepared to invest in market-ready technologies now if the proper incentives – like those already provided to the rail and manufacturing sectors – were extended to the industry.”
Not only does CTA believe that by adopting such a program would the environmental benefits come quicker and be more substantial, but it would also limit the exposure of motor carriers to less proven technologies down the road when regulators seek more aggressive GHG reductions if the current regulation falls short of expectations.
“The US and Canadian rules are focusing exclusively on new tractor engine and cab design to reach 20 per cent GHG reduction targets sometime between 2014-2018. Under our plan, the industry would easily be able to surpass that target, reducing the need to be tempted by unproven, perhaps not ready for primetime “bleeding edge technologies” that would be more costly and more risky down the road.”
Also, while CTA says there are obvious benefits and realities associated with Canada trying to harmonize as much as possible with the US rules, it cautions that there are sufficient differences between the vehicle configurations and operating conditions that exist in the two countries so that the US rules cannot simply be superimposed on the Canadian industry. Moreover, it feels that Canada should consider its own path in determining what credit to give for GHG reduction strategies such as speed limitation, alternative fuels and automatic transmissions which it feels are somewhat downplayed or overlooked in the US rule.
“The political and other considerations that went into the development of the US rule are not always identical to the Canadian situation and while the technical standards and overall framework might be the same or close to it, there is nothing to stop Canada expanding the solutions it sees as contributing to the continued greening of the industry,” says Bradley.