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EPA Plans to Revisit Emissions Rule on Trailers, Glider Kits

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The Environmental Protection Agency will revisit provisions in its Greenhouse Gas Emissions, or GHG, Phase 2 rule for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, specifically trailers and glider kits.

In August 2016, federal regulators issued new GHG Phase 2 standards that will force manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions from a wide range of commercial vehicles, buses and cargo vans in three phases by 2027.

“The EPA is charged with setting nationally applicable standards,” EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham told Trucks.com. “The actions yesterday announce intent to revisit certain provisions of the heady-duty rule. California, industry partners and other stakeholders will all have an opportunity to provide input.”

“We look forward to their comments,” she said.

In light of the significant issues raised, the agency has decided to revisit the Phase 2 trailer and glider provisions, said Scott Pruitt, administrator for the EPA.

Glider kits allow big-rig owners to reuse many of the major components from an existing vehicle or remanufactured engine to save money.

“We intend to initiate a rule-making process that incorporates the latest technical data and is wholly consistent with our authority under the Clean Air Act,” Pruitt said.

Regulating trailers under the Phase 2 rule is a “grand example of regulatory overreach,” said Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs for Western States Trucking Association.

“The California Air Resources Board worked closely with U.S. EPA in crafting this aspect of Phase II since they originated the tractor/trailer GHG rule in this state, and in Phase II you basically saw the federal adoption of what CARB mandated,” he said.

The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Assn., or TTMA, says it’s been caught in the crossfire over the new Phase 2 rules because the Clean Air Act refers to a motor vehicle, as being “self-propelled,” which trailers are not.

A few months ago, TTMA, along with the Racing Enthusiasts Suppliers Coalition, filed suit against the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seeking to be exempt from the new standards. Their petitions were consolidated into one case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in January.

“The EPA’s reconsideration of the GHG Phase 2 rule is a big step toward resolving the trailer industry concerns,” Jeff Sims, president of TTMA, told Trucks.com.

In April, the EPA and NHTSA asked the federal appeals court in Washington to place a 90-day pause on the lawsuit filed by TTMA and the Racing Enthusiasts Suppliers Coalition, challenging the stringent GHG emissions standards on heavy-duty trucks enacted by the Obama administration last year.

However, the EPA has decided to revisit the Phase 2 trailer provisions in general, and the issue of the EPA’s authority to regulate trailers in particular, Pruitt said.

“We intend to develop and issue a Federal Register notice of proposed rule-making on this matter, consistent with the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” he said.

However, one trade association, the American Trucking Assns., opposed efforts to reopen the rule on trailers and glider kits.

“EPA has opened the door to California taking the lead, and a more aggressive track in setting trailer standards,” said Chris Spear, president and chief executive of ATA.

Since the EPA has only announced a review of specific parts of the Phase 2 standards, the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, said, “It’s premature to discuss something that may or may not happen.”

“California is on track with development of state rules, which largely harmonize with the federal Phase 2 standards,” Dave Clegern, public information officer for CARB, told Trucks.com.

“There are areas where California Phase 2 may differ from federal Phase 2. California differences are to facilitate enforcement, align with existing California programs and provide additional incentive for advanced technologies,” Clegern said.

Regarding the EPA’s reexamination of glider kits, Dave Cooke, senior vehicle analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said it’s a poor decision to reopen after the rule was heavily reviewed and had a lot of participation from the industry.

“The impact that glider kits have on pollution is tremendous, so it’s important that the EPA recognizes that and works on a rule because these trucks no longer meet the standards of a truck today,” Cooke said.