Shift of Freight from Truck to Rail would be Bad for Environment
Mar 17, 2001 12:00 PM
A new study published last month for environment ministers in the three North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) countries, shows that governments and environmental groups are barking up the wrong tree by calling for more use of rail as compared to trucks, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA). The study was conducted for the North American Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC), whose governing body is composed of the environment ministers of Canada, the United States and Mexico.
The study’s chief finding is that by 2020, due to the large expected reduction in emission rates for trucks, total trade-related emissions of two of the most dangerous pollutants in terms of human health–nitrous oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM-10--will decline or remain constant compared to current levels. This will occur despite trade volumes that grow by two to four times. In the US-Canada corridors, truck emissions of NOx and PM-10 per ton-kilometer will drop to about one-tenth their current levels.
Lower emission rates also are expected for railway locomotives, but the rates are not expected to decline as rapidly as truck emission rates because standards will not be as strict and because vehicle turnover is less rapid. Consequently, in corridors with higher trade growth, like Toronto-Detroit, Vancouver-Seattle and Winnipeg-Fargo, NOx and PM-10 emissions from rail will increase 50% to 100% by 2020. In all corridors, because of the decline in truck emissions, rail will contribute a much larger share of trade-related NOx and PM-10 emissions.
Rail and trucking now contribute roughly equal amounts of NOx and PM-10. But, a shift to rail would increase NOx and PM-10 emissions in most corridors.
David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, says the perception "that our environmental problems could be solved by shifting freight from truck to rail is so wrong, yet a surprising number of people in the policy arena and the environmental community appear to have bought into the fantasy." He cites strict regulation of truck engine and fuel standards, combined with a faster turnover of old equipment, as the key reasons why "trucks have gone from the belchers of black smoke of yesteryear, to the green machines of today."
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