Clean air standards caught in Canadian jurisdictional limbo
The heavy truck air quality regulations culminating in the 2010 truck engines have been heralded by governments and industry alike as among the most important clean air initiatives in history.
The regulations (which were introduced in the US and Canada) have been credited with reducing the incidence of asthma and lung cancer. They are held out as an example of international cooperation and harmonization.
Getting there was no easy feat. In order to comply with the law, engine manufacturers invested billions of dollars in research and testing. Customers paid an premium on the purchase price for the new equipment. They also saw fuel economy decrease (a tradeoff for cleaner air) and maintenance costs rise.
These additional costs were and are painful. But, most people in the industry have taken the view that the emissions standards are the right thing to do for the planet, for our children; and, ultimately for the industry which has for too long been a convenient whipping boy and easy target for environmentalists and politicians.
The pain that individual companies felt was mitigated in part by the fact that everyone was supposed to be in the same boat; that your competitor was going to have the same challenges as you in trying to get your customers to pay more to cover the increased costs. It was supposed to be a collective pain.
However, there are always those who will seek to get a leg up on everyone else by trying to find a way around the rules.
By now most people in the trucking industry have at least heard about the repair shops and garages that seem quite happy to dismantle or otherwise tamper with the new trucks air quality controls for a fee. Some of the people involved in this activity are doing so on the quiet, under the noses of the regulators. Others are more brazen and are taking out advertisements or promoting their on the Web in plain view of the regulators.
Surely, the regulators especially Environment Canada, which introduced the regulations in the first place don want to see people tampering with the engines in a blatant attempt to get around the emissions standards. Surely, they have some mechanism for actually enforcing their own law. You think?
When CTA brought this issue to Environment Canada attention, we thought they be all over it. Instead, we were told that the regulations do not apply to modifications to vehicles after their first retail sale even though it is acknowledged what these shops are doing affects emission performance, it falls under provincial/territorial jurisdiction.
So, CTA next step was to contact the provincial departments and ministries of transportation and offer to work with them to develop a strategy to target those facilities that are circumventing the emissions standards. Current provincial efforts are focused on perhaps tackling the issue through the periodic mandatory vehicle inspection. We see.
The incessant pingpong between the feds and the provinces is commonplace. Look at our industry experience with the federal hoursofservice regulations, for example. A disjointed approach to national standards and the enforcement of them is as Canadian as Hockey Night in Canada.
But that doesn make it right. We hear a lot from governments these days about how they want to reduce red tape to make things better for the business community. That a good thing.
But, in the trucking industry as big or bigger concern than tape is the lack of harmonization both in terms of regulations and their enforcement across the country and the resulting distortions visited upon the marketplace. A lack of enforcement of federal standards, in this case the emissions regulations, not only denigrates the credibility of those standards, it also tilts the playing field in favour of those who don comply.
In part the problem is constitutional. Other times it administrative or just the way things have always been done. It doesn matter. Not to mention the amount of coolant that these engines seem to ‘consume’. We are just now beginning to see the long term effects of recirculating exhaust gases on a diesel engine, and the lifespan of the engine is shortened significantly.
These costs are incurred by the truck owner, and to say they can be passed onto the trucking companies customers is a farcewe all know that trucking is a cutthroat business, and when you combine these extra costs with the amount of downtime experienced with the new engines, it has put many operators in a dire financial position; in some cases owners have been put out of business.
Huge price to pay, for a marginal improvement in air quality??
Posted February 14, 2013 10:29 AM
Post A CommentDisclaimerNote: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that Truck News has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of emails we receive, not all comments will be published and those that are published will not be edited. However, all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.