EPA's Wheeler reveals Cleaner Trucks Initiative, provides hope for gliders

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | 11/13/2018

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from heavy-duty trucks while eliminating “out-of-date” regulations, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

During an event in Washington, D.C., the EPA unveiled its Cleaner Trucks Initiative.

“What we announced today is we’re going to start a rulemaking process to lower the NOx emissions out of the heavy-duty truck engines,” Wheeler told Land Line Now. “By reducing the NOx emissions from the heavy-duty trucks, we’re going to help a lot of cities across the country achieve the air standards much faster.”

While the initiative aims to reduce NOx emissions, Wheeler said a target goal hasn’t been set.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association attended the roundtable discussion to provide the perspective of small-business truckers.

Wheeler also said the EPA also plans several “cost-saving” deregulatory actions to simplify and streamline certification and compliance requirements.

The areas of deregulatory focus include on-board diagnostic requirements, replacing outdated compliance mechanisms with cost-effective technologies, creating more streamlined testing processes, and eliminating the annual recertification of engine families when the technology has not changed.

“Right now, they have to recertify each year. So if the family of engines hasn’t really changed from one year to the next, then we’re not going to require recertification, because it’s basically the same data. That is going to save the engine manufacturers millions of dollars. So we’re going to reduce the NOx emissions and then take care of some of these out-of-date regulatory initiatives that don’t really clean the air at all. Out of those two efforts, it’s going to save the companies money and, at the same time, produce cleaner air for Americans.”

OOIDA was represented at the event by Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh, who raised concerns over the reliability of the new engines and said he didn’t want owner-operators to be used as “guinea pigs” for new technology and get priced out of the business.

“We appreciate the EPA inviting OOIDA to participate in the roundtable to discuss changes to NOx standards for heavy-duty trucks,” Pugh said. “We are hopeful that the agency understands we bring a unique perspective to the discussion and that the policy makers will embrace the concerns of the owner-operator as they explore updated NOx standards. Clean air is a priority for everyone, but the technology used in heavy-duty trucks to accomplish this has to be affordable and reliable.”

Claims of unreliability in new trucks under Obama-era greenhouse gas regulations have led many small-business truckers to opt for glider trucks, which are remanufactured truck engines in new truck bodies.

However, those same regulations created a cap on the number of gliders that can be manufactured each year. In October, Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., and six other Republican lawmakers told the EPA that the regulation had already cost hundreds of jobs and could cause “financial ruin” to the glider industry. Under the current cap, glider manufacturers are limited to building 300 trucks in 2018.

Last November, the EPA attempted to repeal emissions requirements for gliders, but the proposal received significant opposition from environmental groups and never became a final rue.

Wheeler said he the agency is still working on a way to keep gliders as an option for small-business truckers.

“Gliders make up a small but important part of the trucking industry and we’re continuing to work to address the gliders on a separate regulatory path,” he said. “Our team is developing a legally sound approach to appropriately regulate gliders by working with the industry to improve the emissions profile of their operations and not by putting them out of business as is the case with the existing cap.”

 

 

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