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Press release  •  3 min

New report on large vehicles in Canada: Équiterre issues an urgent call to action

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MONTREAL, October 20, 2021 – Équiterre has released a report sounding the alarm on a major threat to Canada’s and Quebec's climate targets: the proliferation of light-duty trucks on our roads.

The report, The Rise of Light-Duty Trucks in Canada: Reversing the Trend - Synthesis, features eight studies co-authored with CIRANO, HEC Montréal and the Mobility Chair of Polytechnique Montréal. Among other things, the report sheds light on the impacts of Canadians’ growing preference for oversized, fuel-inefficient vehicles, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

“It’s simple: if all levels of government want to be taken seriously in the fight against the climate crisis, they need to tackle the problem of light-duty trucks, because their proliferation is undermining all our efforts at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and at electrifying the transportation sector,” explains Andréanne Brazeau, Équiterre's Mobility Analyst.

“Aside from fossil fuel use, decarbonizing our vehicles will likely be the largest climate challenge in the coming decade. As things stand today, Canada’s GHG emissions will continue to rise, largely because of tothe normalization of light-duty trucks, as evidenced by the 306% increase in the number of these vehicles on our roads between 1990 and 2018,” adds Brazeau.


In addition to the environmental impact of these vehicles, the report also notes significant impacts with regards to the space they take up, traffic, road safety and personal finances.

Climate and environment

Between 1990 and 2018, GHG emissions from light-duty trucks rose by 161% (3,580 to 9,338 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent), while those from gasoline-powered cars declined by 9% (10,649 to 9,664 kt of CO2 equivalent).

Even with government subsidies, electric vehicles captured a minuscule 6% market share in 2019, versus 69% for light-duty trucks. That same year, around 11 light-duty trucks were sold for each electric vehicle sold.

​Space occupied

In nearly 20 years, the total space occupied by passenger vehicles in the Greater Montreal area increased by 45.5% (from 1,338 to 1,948 hectares) because of the combined effect of the increased number of vehicles per household and the increased presence of larger vehicles in the automobile fleet. This is the equivalent of some 17 Lafontaine Parks that were lost.

Road traffic

The longer the dimensions of the average vehicle on our roads, the less fluid our traffic becomes. If all the vehicles on our roads were Ford F-150s, around half the vehicles would be needed to reach the congestion threshold than if they were Smart Fortwo, and it would take them 2.2 times as long to travel 5 kilometres.

Road safety

The literature indicates that the heavier a vehicle is, the higher the frequency of collisions and the higher the risk of death for those involved in a collision. According to 2019 SAAQ data, the severity of pedestrian injuries appears to be influenced by the type of vehicle involved in a collision: for crashes that result in at least one person injured, there is a greater proportion of pedestrians seriously injured when an SUV is involved (10.6%) compared to when no light trucks are involved (6.7%).

Statistics seem to show that individuals hit by pickup trucks are more likely to succumb to the injuries caused by the collision than those hit by other types of vehicles.

Personal finances

Compared to regular cars, light-duty trucks cost 40% more to purchase. They cost nearly $10,000 more to buy, and 15% more to fill up at the pump, thus adding to the already significant expenses incurred by households for their personal transportation.

Between 1981 and 2019, these expenses rose by 58%, from $6,159 to $9,766 (+3,608 in 2012 constant dollars). This is attributable to the increase in the number of vehicles per household and in the size of these vehicles.

The 7 recommendations made by Équiterre

The report lays out the key recommendations made by Équiterre to the federal government to reverse this dangerous trend:

  1. Recognize the rise of light-duty trucks in Canada as a public health and safety issue
  2. Form an independent advisory committee to better advise and assist the government
  3. Record road accidents according to vehicle type
  4. Put measures in place to lower the supply of large vehicles
  5. Implement measures to reduce the demand for large vehicles:
    1. Establish a feebate system
    2. Continue to increase the price of carbon
    3. Introduce a national vehicle scrapping program for gas-guzzling vehicles
  6. Gradually expand the regulation of automobile advertising. A few examples:
    1. Require that CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data be shown in vehicle ads
    2. Require that clear and simple language on a vehicle’s negative impacts be provided, as is done by the tobacco industry
    3. Restrictions on the depiction of natural features and the use of environmental values
    4. Require an increasing share of advertising dollars be spent on ZEVs
  7. Roll out campaigns to promote sustainable mobility

To read the complete report »


For further information:

Anthony Côté Leduc, Media Relations, Équiterre
514 605-2000,