August 22, 2017

Trucking, environmental groups oppose federal plan to re-think trailer emission standards

EDF says action imperils public health; ATA says it would allow California to craft de facto national standard for trailers.

By DC Velocity Staff

Trucking and environmental interests, which aren't often on the same public policy page, have opposed the Trump administration's plan to revisit the second phase of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for the operation of heavy duty truck trailers.

The groups have different reasons for disputing the decisions, which were announced late last Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a unit of the Department of Transportation. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said the actions would weaken the standards agreed to by multiple stakeholders and ignore the evidence proving the effectiveness of pollution-control technologies on trailer fleets.

The American Trucking Associations claimed that the potential rollback could put California in a position of setting de facto national standards for trailer emissions because the state and federal standards are effectively the same. Should EPA decide not to regulate trailers, California could step in and fill the void, leaving many ATA members not based in California out in the cold, according to the trade group.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB), which crafted the state rules, has said its language does not follow in lockstep with the EPA provisions, according to reports.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday that EPA will look at the impact of the trailer provisions and whether it has the authority to regulate the equipment. The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, which sought the EPA's action, said that truck trailers fall out of the agency's purview because the Clean Air Act—the law that EPA administers—defines a motor vehicle as a "self-propelled" vehicle, and that trailers are not self-propelled.

The trailer trade group added that the equipment that must be installed to reduce GHG emissions would add weight to the trailer, forcing freight to be removed from one trailer and placed on another so the vehicle can stay within the federally mandated weight limits. This would result in more trucks needed to move the nation's goods, and the trucks, on average, would be heavier, the group said.

In October 2016, the Obama administration finalized a second round of fuel and GHG standards for big rigs, to go into effect in January 2018. The proposed EPA-DOT regulations are scheduled to run until 2027, making it one of the longest rule-implementation cycles in trucking history.

The Obama administration projected at the time that, by 2027, big-truck fuel consumption and GHG emission levels would be cut by 32 percent compared to 2017 levels. The rules will be imposed on truck, trailer, and engine manufacturers, but fleets are expected to foot much of the bill as those costs get passed on.

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