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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada is on schedule for developing new emissions standards for heavy trucks, although the draft regulations will not be ready until later this year, the environment minister said on Friday.
Canada and the United States both unveiled plans on Friday to set efficiency targets for heavy-duty vehicles ranging from large-sized pickup trucks to tractor trailers used in long-distance hauling.
Ottawa expects to release draft regulations this fall that will spell out the requirements for heavy-duty vehicles and engines, starting between the 2014 and 2018 model years, Environment Minister Jim Prentice told reporters.
Officials said in April that Ottawa expected to release details of the proposed rules in late spring, but Prentice said the government was still on schedule with its plans to reduce vehicle emissions.
"These are complicated regulations," Prentice told reporters, adding later that they dealt with "heavy-duty vehicles that are at the very heart of our economy."
Big trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles accounted for 6 percent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, Prentice said.
He added that while the Canadian and U.S. rules would be harmonized they would not be identical, reflecting national differences, such the fact that Canadian transport trucks usually carry heavier loads.
Environmentalists have accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government of lagging other countries in developing programs to fight climate change.
"Again, it's just rubber-stamping what the Americans are doing.", said John Bennett, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, adding that the rules were something Ottawa could have pursued two or three years ago.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance said any new rules must reflect the impact on fuel efficiency caused by the differences in terrain and cargo that truckers across North America face.
The alliance also wants the federal governments to address sometimes conflicting provincial and state rules on equipment that could increase fuel efficiency.
"We interpret today's announcement as opening the door for a meaningful dialogue on how we can move forward on this issue," the trucking group said.
There was a major style difference in how the two countries made their co-ordinated announcements on Friday.
President Barack Obama made the U.S. announcement at the White House with representatives of the major truck and auto companies watching. Prentice made Canada's announcement to reporters in front of a tire display at an autoparts store in Vancouver.
Prentice said that while efforts to develop "continental" emission standards for North America now involved only Canada and United States, both counties expect Mexico to eventually become involved.
"I think it is fair to say that we are further along in working together on a U.S.-Canada basis because we are so similar and our countries are at a similar state of development on the transportation system," he said.
Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson