EPA proposes dropping emissions rules for rebuilt glider trucks

Departments - Regulations

December 6, 2017

Truck dealer Triad Freightliner in Greensboro, North Carolina, offers 2018 glider versions of Freightliner Coronado trucks using 1998-era Detroit Diesel engines. The Obama administration had recommended forcing gliders to meet new truck emissions rules, but the Trump-era EPA is moving to reverse that rule.

In a potential rollback of an Obama-era emissions rule, President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed dropping regulations on gliders – large commercial trucks that use new bodies and trailers but older engines and transmissions.

As emissions standards have tightened for commercial trucks, costs for new, cleaner engines have climbed. Truck buyers are responding by choosing gliders, which are less-expensive and use older engines that aren’t subject to stringent regulations. EPA officials have estimated the glider manufacturing jumped from fewer than 1,000 per year before 2007 to about 10,000 per year since 2014.

During the Obama administration, the EPA had argued that allowing companies to reuse older, dirtier engines in new truck bodies was a loophole to dodge tighter restrictions, and rules set for January would have forced gliders to meet the same standards as new trucks.

“Current standards for nitrogen oxide (NOX) and particulate matter (PM) (which began in 2007 and took full effect in 2010) are at least 90% lower than the most stringent previously applicable standards, so the NOX and PM emissions of any glider vehicles using pre-2007 engines are at least 10x higher than emissions from equivalent vehicles being produced with brand-new engines. However, most gliders being produced today use engines originally manufactured before 2002,” EPA officials said in a 2016 filing justifying treating the rebuilt trucks as new models.

In that analysis, EPA scientists estimated that 70 to 160 people would die prematurely for every 1,000 gliders allowed on the road after 2017, mostly from respiratory diseases.

In a regulatory filing on Nov. 9, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recommended reversing that decision, saying rebuilt trucks are not new vehicles and shouldn’t be treated as such.

“EPA now believes that, in defining ‘new motor vehicle,’ Congress did not intend that a vehicle comprised of a new outer shell conjoined to a previously owned powertrain should be treated as a ‘new’ vehicle, based solely on the fact that the vehicle may have been assigned a new title following assembly,” EPA regulators said in the filing.

The more recent filing did not include a mortality projection.

Regulators are set to hold a hearing on the matter on Dec. 4, 2017. Official comments will be accepted through Jan. 5, 2018. www.epa.gov