The conference Board of Canada recently released their report on “Pathways to Reducing GHG Emissions from Trucking”. http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=9596. The report reviews the Trucking Industries share of GHG’s and provides insights into ways emissions can be reduced from this segment of Transportation. In the research document there were many valuable tips as to how we, as an industry, can reduce our carbon footprint. The report was an interesting read and can be valuable tool for government and industry to consider.
First some facts: In 2015 the Transportation sector was responsible for 24 percent of Canada’s national total for CO2. From 1990 to 2015, the share of Transportation emissions from freight increased from 28% to 44%. Trucking’s share of this increased from 61% to 82% during this time frame. Looking at these numbers, as an industry we clearly need to look into ways of reducing our footprint, and we have. Trucks today burn cleaner than they ever have before, and new fuel efficiency standards have just been released by Transport Canada. These new standards effect trailers manufactured after January 1st of 2020, and start with Heavy duty engines in 2021, and increase in stringency up to2027. The industry has invested heavily over the years, with increases in Truck prices directly attributable to new clean technology rising over 20% in the last 20 years. Our investment is even higher when one considers the unreliability of some of these new technologies that lead to significant increases in downtime. We take our responsibility seriously and will always do what we can and invest to do our part to clean the environment, however the investments we make must be sustainable, reliable, and not drive us out of business with increased costs. Their has to be a balancing act.
The increase in emissions from our segment is all contributable to the fact that the use of Trucks to move freight has increased substantially over the years, mainly as a result of the flexibility and efficiencies of the Truck Transportation Network as opposed to other modes (marine, rail and air). While rail may be the cheapest mode, the first and last mile will almost always need land transportation. The conference board report points out infrastructure investment for other modes of transport, and incentives can increase use of other modes and reduce the reliability on land. Better co-operation and sharing of modes is always something we have been in support of, however government incentives to increase capacity and reliability/competitiveness of other modes will be needed, as the report indicates.
Increasing fuel efficiency in Heavy Duty diesel engines and reducing drag on the truck and trailer while moving is the most effective way to reduce GHG’s. This in one area the industry and government have been working together on for years, and great strides have been made, with more on the horizon. Incentives are important to continue this progression; however, we must always ensure that we do not force regulations onto manufacturers and thus have technologies introduced into the equipment that are not ready for prime time. This can in fact have the reverse effect of what is intended, as the reduced reliability can lead to inefficiencies in transportation, which can in fact lead to increased costs and GHG output. Transitioning away from diesel engines is also always considered a pathway to reduce emissions. While different engine modes are important, and all have a role to play (electric, natural gas, hydrogen, propane etc.), these technologies and are not suitable for all types of operations, and building up of infrastructure is still needed in a lot of cases, which if the government wants increased adoption of some of these technologies, significant investment and incentives are needed. As the report indicates, not one solution can be utilized, but rather all types of solutions have their pro’s and con’s, and all have a role to play.
The report also suggests “Automated vehicles and platoons” could reduce fuel consumption by up to 5.9 percent. While this may be true, under test conditions, how these vehicles, especially in the case of platoons, would interact and operate in high traffic situations, is still widely untested and unknown. One thing we at the PMTC are highly against is the driverless truck notion. We feel this is not in our near future, and that a driver will always be needed. Their role may change, as a plane pilots role has changed over the years, but a driver needs to be in the seat for the foreseeable future. We are however in favour of more testing and wider adoption of active safety controls in vehicles, and mandates that will introduce some of these technologies, once proven to be effective and reliable. The report shows Canada as being last of all the G7 countries when it comes to support research, development, policy and regulatory framework. Canada is falling behind the rest of the world in this department, and something that needs to be stepped up significantly to ensure we stay on the leading edge of technology and it’s possibilities. The PMTC is currently working with the Province of Ontario on a road safety strategy, and this in one of several topics in the framework.