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An overhauled Detroit 60 series engine from Fitzgerald Glider Kits.

Gliders: A loophole for ‘dirty trucks’ or savings for truckers?

Environmental Protection Agency holds public hearing for its proposal to repeal emission standards for heavy-duty glider vehicles.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got an earful during its Dec. 4 public hearing on its proposal to exempt heavy-duty glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits from the Phase 2 greenhouse gas emissions rule.

During the earlier part of the daylong hearing, those who oppose the move referred to it as a loophole for “dirty trucks.” But advocates of repeal touted savings for smaller trucking businesses.

Steven Cliff, deputy executive officer of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), called the proposed repeal illegal, adding it would have a “profoundly harmful impact on public health.”

“The repeal would effectively place thousands of outdated, heavy-duty engines that do not meet modern emissions standards that have been in effect in the last decade on our highways,” he said. “In short, a repeal puts our most disadvantaged communities at risk by walking away from the commitment to reduce their exposure to smog forming and toxic pollutants that impact public health, leading to additional hospitalizations, asthma cases, lost work and school days, and premature deaths.”

Modern trucks that meet current emissions standards come with diesel particulate filters to capture toxic diesel particulate matter (PM) and selective catalytic reduction systems to NOx emissions. Cliff emphasized that reducing diesel PM is important to cut cancer and other health risks.

“Glider builders have been circumventing the requirements for these important emissions controls by using pre-2007 remanufactured engines, misusing a loophole in the provisions to sell thousands of dirty trucks each year with completely uncontrolled emissions,” Cliff pointed out.

He also noted that a Tennessee Tech University (TTU) study that depicts gliders as clean is “invalid and lacks scientific credibility.”

According to Pat Quinn, executive director of the Heavy-duty Leadership Group, whose members include Cummins, Pepsico, FedEx, Eaton, Wabash National Corporation and Waste Management Inc., “making modifications to the glider kit provision would undermine investments made in the industry, encourage the use of older, less efficient technologies and increase smog-forming pollution that harms public health.”

The group worked closely with EPA in the development of the Phase 2 rule, providing technical input with the goal of informing a policy that the group endorsed in its final form.

EPA has said that gliders should not be regulated as “new motor vehicles” or “new motor vehicle engines” under the Clean Air Act. In November, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt signed legislation to repeal emissions standards for glider kits, stating gliders provide a more affordable option for smaller owners and operators.

That is why glider builder and Farrell “Dale” Clark Jr., president of D & B Trucks, said he fully supported the proposed repeal.

“Glider engines, glider kits and glider vehicles are used parts that still have adequate life in them,” Clark explained. “By recycling gliders, we can further the life of the existing parts that are so costly to buy new.”

In his comments, Clark stressed that the only new parts in a glider kit are the cab and the hood; the remaining parts of the truck are all used parts, he noted.

“In no way should a glider be considered a new truck, subject to the new emissions rules set forth in August 2016 because all major components are used and already exist,” he explained.

Clark referenced a TTU study comparing NOx levels in older engines versus new engines. He said the study found that older engines are just as clean – and some even better – than the new ones today, mainly due to cleaner sulfur content.

He also cited a Nov. 15 statement released from Pruitt that encouraged Americans to recycle more. Clark claimed that according to most recent data from 2007, recycling and reclaimed and reused activities created more than 750,000 jobs and $6.7 billion in tax revenues.

“We really should be thanking our glider builders,” he urged. “We should be encouraging every trucker in this country to use a glider, or should I say a recycled truck. This is exactly what we do in our business. We recycle old trucks, not only do we create hundreds of jobs, we save our trucking industry thousands of dollars.”

In addition, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) supports the reconsideration of the of the Phase 2 emission requirements for gliders.

“OOIDA welcomes the recent announcement to consider repeal of the Phase 2 rule on glider kits, which are often favored by the small trucking businesses we represent because of their affordability and reliability,” the association said in a statement. “Small trucking businesses comprise roughly 96% of all U.S. motor carriers, making them a significant and crucial component of the American trucking industry.  As owner-operators, our members understand the financial impact a new truck purchase will have on their bottom line. They recognize excessive and costly federal regulation of vehicles can dramatically alter their ability to purchase new or recently owned trucks.”

EPA estimates that about 10,000 gliders are manufactured annually and make up about 5% of the entire Class 8 truck market. However, the agency previously said gliders could account about one-third of all nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions from the sector.

Written comments regarding the proposed repeal will be accepted until Jan. 5.

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