Trucking Pulls Ahead in Energy Efficiency

Nov. 1, 2001
A new Canadian federal government report reveals that the trucking industry is leading the way among freight transportation modes when it comes to energy

A new Canadian federal government report reveals that the trucking industry is leading the way among freight transportation modes when it comes to energy efficiency improvement.

The report, entitled Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada 1990 to 1999, was prepared by the Office of Energy Efficiency and released in July 2001 by Natural Resources Canada (NRC). It examined energy efficiency trends in various sectors, including freight transportation.

The NRC report showed that heavy trucks are the single largest contributor to a general increase in energy efficiency in the Canadian freight transportation sector. From 1990 to 1999, the heavy-truck sector recorded a 45.9-petajoule improvement in fuel efficiency. (A petajoule is the energy produced by a power of one watt flowing for one second times 1015). By comparison, the freight rail sector recorded a 22.7 petajoule improvement, while the marine industry improved by 1.44 petajoules.

According to NRC, the fuel efficiency improvement attained by the trucking industry has had the equivalent impact of removing 50,000 heavy trucks (13% of the heavy-truck population) from the road.

NRC attributes these gains in energy efficiency to the industry's ability to consolidate loads, increase backhaul movements, and improve industry practices like maintenance, vehicle specification, and driver skills. The report also highlighted how such energy strategies are key to meeting Canada's commitment to the Kyoto Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions targets.

On a related front, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates harmful emissions from heavy-truck and railway locomotive engines, is reviewing an exemption granted to Canadian locomotives in 2000 for “incidental forays” into the United States. The problem was that the term “incidental forays” was never defined.

The increase in cross-border freight movements and the purchase of US railroads by Canadian railroads has prompted the EPA to reopen the matter. In recent correspondence to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the EPA states it has been “prompted to consider a route or distance standard for determining when a locomotive is imported into the US and must meet EPA standards.”

Currently, the Canadian federal government does not specifically regulate railway locomotive engine emissions or fuel, but has committed to examining the introduction of regulations on locomotive emissions.

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