The biggest gas guzzlers on the road will have to be sleeker and more energy efficient under regulations to be developed this year in Canada and the United States.
These will be the "new emission standards for the heavy trucks that are such a crucial part of our export-driven economy," Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Friday in an announcement timed to coincide with a similar statement by U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.
"Just like passenger vehicles, manufacturers of heavy-duty trucks operate in an integrated North American market - so a closely harmonized approach makes sense for them," Mr. Prentice said.
The new fuel-efficiency standards will apply to full-sized pickup trucks, delivery vehicles, buses, freight vehicles, garbage trucks, dump trucks and tractor trailers. They will be implemented between the 2014 and 2018 model years.
Although, pound for pound, heavy trucks are more fuel efficient than passenger cars, their emissions increased more rapidly than emissions from any other source between 1990 and 2007. They are the source of 6 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse-gas output.
Industry experts said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation have been talking about a 20-per-cent improvement in fuel efficiency for the heavy vehicles - though that is likely to vary according to the type of truck and the purpose for which it was built.
Joe Suchecki, director of public affairs for the Truck Manufacturers Association in Chicago, said the industry believes it can adapt to new regulations with existing technology.
"There are things out there now that can be applied to the whole fleet of new trucks that should be able to meet those new standards," Mr. Suchecki said. A 20-per-cent improvement to fuel efficiency should be attainable through better engines and tires, more aerodynamic truck cabs and other modifications, he said.
But John Bennett, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said that means these types of improvements could have been done years ago.
"They are going to announce regulations for transport trucks that will come into effect in four or five years," Mr. Bennett said. "There is no new technology here that couldn't have been imposed in 2002, and this would have all been done by now had the Conservative government not cancelled all climate projects when it came to office."
While the Canadian regulations will be harmonized with those of the U.S., Mr. Prentice said his government will make sure it takes into account certain uniquely Canadian considerations, including safety standards. "For example, as a general rule, Canadian trucks carry heavier loads. This will be factored in to the design of our regulations," he said.
In April of this year, the federal government announced new rules to improve the average fuel efficiency of automobiles and light trucks sold in Canada by 25 per cent by 2016, compared to 2008 levels. That was also done in concert with the U.S.Report Typo/Error