By Abby Smith
The regulatory load of truck manufacturers could get a little lighter as the EPA mulls dropping portions of the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas standards in response to an industry request.
The Environmental Protection Agency sent for White House review Oct. 20 a proposal to scrap parts of Obama-era greenhouse gas limits for heavy-duty trucks. The proposal would repeal emissions requirements for glider kits, which are trucks produced without a new engine, transmission, or rear axle. The latter equipment is then installed by a third party and often includes salvaged parts.
Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for the Western States Trucking Association, said the EPA’s move to reverse the glider kits provision represents a “small step” to hold the agency accountable. The association’s 1,100 members include California’s Dalton Trucking.
“It is a breath of fresh air to certainly start to hear a more reasonable approach is going to be taken, at least under this administration,” Rajkovacz told Bloomberg Environment.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in August that the agency would reconsider portions of the heavy-duty truck rule related to both glider kits and trailers. In May, Pruitt had met with Tommy Fitzgerald, founder of Fitzgerald Glider Kits, one of the nation’s largest makers of the equipment, to discuss the rule. During that meeting, Fitzgerald told Pruitt the rule would eliminate hundreds of jobs, according to a detailed calendar of Pruitt’s meetings released last month by the watchdog group American Oversight.
Fitzgerald Glider Kits did not respond to a request for comment.
It is unclear whether the EPA’s proposal also would repeal requirements for truck trailers—though Rajkovacz is optimistic the agency’s glider kits proposal signals it will also move to scrap trailer requirements. The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association has sued the EPA over its decision to regulate trailers for the first time as part of the truck emissions standards.
Nonetheless, some major truck industry trade groups have expressed concerns that the EPA’s reconsideration of the standards could threaten to break up one national program if California maintains its own standards for trailers and glider kits.
The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association declined comment on the EPA’s recent proposal, but a spokesman pointed Bloomberg Environment to the group’s August statement, which outlines such concerns. That association represents more than two dozen companies including major manufacturers Daimler Trucks North America LLC, Caterpillar Inc., Paccar Inc., and Navistar Inc.
The forthcoming fight over the EPA’s efforts to reverse the glider kit provisions will ultimately center around arguments of cost versus public health and emissions impacts.
As part of the EPA standards issued in 2016, classified glider kits are classified as “new” vehicles and required, with limited exceptions, that a repurposed engine be equivalent to the model year of the truck’s framework.
That would effectively eliminate use of glider kits, which are cheaper than new trucks, Rajkovacz said.
“If you’re raising a family of four and your truck is the tool of your trade, you can pencil out to do the glider kit with the older engine. It just doesn’t make environmentalists happy because of the higher emissions,” he said.
But environmental groups that support the Obama-era regulation point to the large emissions glider kits allow. Dave Cooke, a senior vehicles analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg Environment that by 2025, glider vehicles would be releasing more emissions in one year than the entirety of what was released due to Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal.
Paul Billings, vice president for policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association, noted the EPA’s own data said up to 1,600 premature deaths would be avoided by controlling emissions of glider kits.
“This is not an exemption. This is literally a loophole big enough to drive the biggest, dirtiest truck you’ve ever seen through,” Billings said.
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