By Jami Jones, Land Line senior editor
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association threw a curve ball in a recent congressional oversight hearing on the recently unveiled fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks.
When asked to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, the Association’s leadership looked at its extensive membership lineup of potential witnesses and tossed the ball to Scott Grenerth.
Grenerth is a 10-year trucking veteran whose passion is environmental stewardship. Before moving into trucking, he worked for years in environmental education. He and his wife were married on Earth Day in 1995, and to show their commitment to the planet they changed their last name to Grenerth – pronounced “green earth.”
It wasn’t 15 minutes into the opening statements of the early October hearing that Grenerth zinged the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks.
“While trucking is my career, environmental stewardship is my life’s passion,” Grenerth said. “So you might assume that I support the Heavy-Duty Truck Rule. However, I am strongly opposed to this one-size-fits-all regulation and the mandates it places on trucking.”
Grenerth educated committee members on the realities that small-business truckers face. He said that compared to large trucking companies, small-business truckers and owner-operators have a very different reality when it comes to fuel efficiency.
“Simply put, with diesel at close to $4 a gallon, if I do not drive in a fuel-efficient manner, I will be driving myself out of business,” he said.
After setting the stage for committee members, Grenerth challenged the covert way the EPA went about coming up with the new standards.
“Considering that small businesses are the vast majority of trucking companies, it’s hard to understand why the agencies chose not to tap into the collective knowledge of truckers like me on how to improve fuel efficiency. They did not speak to a single truck driver,” Grenerth said.
No two trucking operations are the same, and that is something the EPA would have learned had the process been transparent and all inclusive in arriving at the standards, he went on to explain.
To illustrate that point, Grenerth compared his flatbed operation that hauls primarily aluminum and steel in the Midwest to another small-business trucker who pulls reefers part of the year and flatbeds the rest.
“His tractor has a roof fairing that improves fuel efficiency while he is hauling produce. When he is not using his box trailer, he removes the fairing because it actually decreases fuel efficiency with his flatbed,” Grenerth said. “Under this new rule, removing the fairing and improving fuel efficiency this way will be a violation of federal law.”
Yet the regulation mandates that all trucks must meet arbitrary standards that carry a hefty price tag without regard to the type of operation and the efficiencies required to be successful.
Grenerth pointed to the recent increase in truck prices and the costs of extended warranties.
“We’re talking about $50,000 being added to the cost of the vehicle,” Grenerth told the committee in closing. “That’s a huge problem for someone who is a small-business owner.”
When Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-OH, asked Grenerth for a closing comment, the OOIDA member didn’t mince words.
“EPA’s attitude in this on not including truck drivers, to me it’s as if your doctor is giving you a drug without consulting you. They are trying to force us to take this medicine, if you will, and we have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s unproven technology we are being forced to rely on, and that could be fatal to my business.”
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