EPA nominee shunned small-business truckers during fuel-economy rulemaking

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 3/5/2013

President Obama’s choice to lead the U.S. EPA is the same person who all but shut out small-business truckers during the development of the first ever fuel-mileage and emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

The president nominated Gina McCarthy as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, March 4. Like other cabinet appointees, she is subject to Senate confirmation.

McCarthy currently holds the title of assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. Her department played a big role in coming up with the first ever fuel-mileage and emission standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

The rule, announced in 2010 by President Obama and issued by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Aug. 9, 2011, calls for truck manufacturers to achieve a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions during model years 2014 through 2018.

As the rulemaking process progressed, OOIDA offered to discuss the small-business perspective to the agencies in an effort to point out the dynamics of trucking operations, tractors and trailers within the industry. OOIDA cautioned against a “one size fits all” rule.

But a one-size-fits-all rule is what the industry faces. When pressed by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, McCarthy asserted that the EPA had extensively engaged truckers during the rulemaking process.

OOIDA says there were exchanges but no dialogue on the real issues.

“OOIDA made efforts to become significantly involved with the rulemaking; however, these efforts were rebuffed,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer stated in a letter to McCarthy in October 2011.

OOIDA says the rule lumps large fleets and small businesses together under one umbrella. The Association has said that federal regulations, including the mileage standard, could price new trucks out of reach for many small businesses.

In addition, the rules could force truckers to purchase vehicles based on EPA standards that do not meet the needs or specs of their trucking operations.

“The agency basically told the experts in charge of running their businesses and their equipment as efficiently as possible that their needs to design their trucks for their own businesses are not as important as government regulators and a one-size-fits-all approach,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley said.

Bowley says the EPA and NHTSA are embarking on the next round of rules for heavy trucks beyond model year 2018.

“The next round could go well beyond the tractor, and cover the trailer as well,” he said. “How far into the operations of motor carriers are these rules going to extend in a way where it makes life much more difficult and expensive to operate a successful business?”

“The first rule, which was overseen by Ms. McCarthy, very much favored large motor carriers that have a business model much different than small businesses,” Bowley said.

“These rules will continue to lead to price increases for new trucks far and above the $30,000 to $50,000 that EPA rules in the 2000s added to trucks.”

Bowley points out that the EPA’s two public forums in advance of the first truck rule were held in Cambridge, MA, and downtown Chicago.

“A lot of truckers were not able to attend those forums,” he said. “Not exactly places with lots of truck parking.”

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