Skip to navigation Skip to content

News  •  3 min

Four solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trucks in Montreal

Published on 

“If you got it, a truck brought it to you.” – Jimmy Hoffa

As explained in this simple quote, freight transportation plays an unexpectedly important role in our lives. And with the explosion of online shopping because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become all the more significant. An increasing number of deliveries leads to more traffic congestion, more noise and, inevitably, more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Since June 2020, Équiterre has been working with the Pembina Institute and Jalon on a report to propose solutions to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from delivery trucks in the greater Montréal area.

“The City of Montreal has announced that it wants to reduce its emissions by 55% by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050,” explains Andréanne Brazeau, Équiterre’s Mobility Analyst. “But meanwhile, emissions from the transportation industry continue to rise.”

The statistics are indeed troubling:

  • The transportation industry is responsible for 39% of GHG emissions in Montreal, more than any other industry;
  • Carbon emissions from freight transportation in Quebec rose by 190% between 1990 and 2018 - even before the explosion of online shopping;
  • During this same period, from 1990 to 2017, the number of heavy vehicle licenses in the region of Montreal increased by 16%;
  • In Canada, emissions from freight transportation are on track to exceed those of passenger vehicles by 2030.

The combined effects of this perfect storm are already being felt in Montreal. A recent study estimated that 3,000,000 working hours have been lost every year by the Montreal population as a result of road congestion.

Mobilizing to find solutions 

Faced with this growing problem, the Pembina Institute, Jalon and Équiterre have identified solutions to reduce GHG emissions from freight deliveries in Montreal.

“Our goal was to equip the City of Montreal and to help it to implement concrete measures in the short, medium and long term to decarbonize freight transportation,” explains Andréanne Brazeau, who led the study at Équiterre.

After more than a year of research and meetings with 35 stakeholders in the transportation sector, including businesses and cities, the group released a new report, “Reducing truck emissions in Montreal: Guiding principles and a policy toolbox for low-carbon urban freight,” which proposes four concrete solutions for helping the city to reduce emissions related to freight transportation.

1. Increase the use of electric-assist cargo bikes and mini-hubs
A cargo bike allows for 15% more delivery points per hour than a traditional truck. Compatible with pedestrian areas, cargo bikes can use bike paths, are easy to park, and can even make deliveries in the winter. The creation of strategically located mini-hubs in the city can be used for trans-shipment, as well as transferring merchandise from a larger sized truck to smaller vehicles including cargo bikes.

2. Optimize urban delivery systems and logistics
Reducing the number of partially filled delivery trucks and shifting delivery hours and routes in the city to reduce congestion during morning and evening rush hours are just a few ways to optimize operations.

3. Increase direct delivery to customers through parcel lockers
A system already in place in some Montreal suburbs, this solution reduces trips made by delivery trucks to home addresses, therefore allowing for more deliveries in one place. Using parcel lockers can also contribute to reducing the number of failed deliveries and consolidate shipments and returns in one place.

4. Accelerate the deployment of zero-emission delivery vehicles
Zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which include using battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, reduce pollutants and are relatively quiet, allowing for deliveries in residential areas during off-peak hours without noise being a concern. This solution, however, needs to be supported by increasing the ZEV supply, the financial support offered to businesses, and building out the charging infrastructure in the city.

A progressive but structured approach 

In addition to these four solutions for the trucking industry, the report also proposes strategic tools to help the government implement them, notably through regulatory incentives and deterrents, including tax relief and green taxation.

“We suggest adopting a progressive approach, in which all levels of government play a proactive role and show leadership to create a favourable environment for the implementation of these solutions,” explains Andréanne Brazeau. “To this end, businesses must be offered concrete and persuasive incentives during the initial transition period to quickly boost the affordability of the proposed solutions.”

What we can do

While waiting for the implementation of these solutions, we can all do our part to reduce the GHG emissions from freight transportation:

  • Shop locally and in-person and choose zero-emission transportation options;
  • If you shop online, try to group your purchases as much as possible;
  • Better yet, if you are not in a hurry, choose a later delivery in order to optimize logistics and reduce transportation. 


Learn more

Financial support

The Pembina Institute, Jalon and Équiterre wish to thank the Trottier Family Foundation for its financial support of this project.