Report looks at ways to reduce trucking GHG emissions

OTTAWA – The transportation of goods is one of the largest contributors to Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and it has increased significantly over the last 25 years. Freight transport currently makes up 10.5 per cent of Canada’s total emissions, with trucking accounting for 83 per cent of that total.

A new report by The Conference Board of Canada examines ways to reduce GHG emissions from Canada’s trucking sector.

“Increased economic activity has spurred the demand for freight transportation over the past decades, leading to more trucks on Canadian roads and a subsequent sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Glen Hodgson, Senior Fellow, The Conference Board of Canada.

“No single technology, regulation or program will be “the magic bullet” to lower emissions from the transportation of goods. Instead, it will require commitment and coordination across all levels of government in all jurisdictions, as well as changes to consumer behaviour.”

Moving goods by truck produces more than three times as many GHG emissions as shipping those same goods by rail. Despite rail being more environmentally friendly and cost effective than trucking, road freight continues to be a crucial and growing part of the transportation system as it does not require additional methods of delivery to get the goods or commodities to their final destination.

The report, Greening Freight: Pathways to GHG Reductions in the Trucking Sector, recommends several ways to help reduce emissions from freight transport:

  • Reduce Truck Travel: The mode of choice for freight is influenced by the cost and speed of transportation; the flexibility, reliability, and availability of the service provided; as well as the nature of the goods and commodities being transported. Priority should be put on promoting and implementing systems where road, rail, and marine work collaboratively to reduce GHG emissions.
  • Adopt Established Fuel-Saving Technologies: Technologies that reduce fuel consumption (and increase fuel economy) have been on the market for some time but, uncertainties about return on investment and performance, capital costs, and availability have hindered their widespread adoption.
  • Explore Adoption of Disruptive and Emerging Technologies: There are many disruptive and emerging technologies, such as electric zero-emission and driverless trucks, that can help further reduce GHG emissions. Previous Conference Board research estimates that electric trucks could reduce emissions from freight transportation by up to 17 per cent from 2020 to 2050, and by close to six per cent from driverless trucks. However, there remains considerable uncertainty around the timeline for getting these vehicles on the road and ongoing labour concerns.
  • Price Carbon and Recycle Revenues to Support Investment: Carbon pricing will help to encourage transformation in Canada’s energy production and use, but previous Conference Board research shows that more than $2 trillion in investment will be required to cut emissions sharply. Revenue recycling from these carbon pricing measures could help support investment.
  • Harmonize Direct Regulations and Standards: Direct regulations in Canada that aim to reduce GHG emissions are regulated by different government departments with distinct differences across the provinces. Disparities in regulations over fuel standards, vehicle dimensions, and weights can discourage the use of fuel-saving technologies for trucking. Harmonization of regulations across jurisdictions is one important measure to ensure the movement of goods across provincial and territorial borders.

The Conference Board of Canada is hosting its Reshaping Energy conference in Ottawa on May 28-29.