EPA moves to amend big-rig standards
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November 15, 2017
EPA moves to amend big-rig standards

The Trump EPA has issued the first of what is expected to be two proposals to amend the Obama EPA’s 2016 Phase 2 rules governing emissions from medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles. The proposal would repeal provisions in the rule that treat a category of trucks called gliders as new vehicles and, therefore, would exempt these vehicles from meeting the emissions standards.

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In an August 2017 statement and letter to representatives of the trucking industry, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt also indicated that the Agency would “revisit” portions of the Phase 2 rules that regulate most new heavy-duty trailers for the first time.

Issued under Title II of the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Phase 2 regulations were a joint undertaking with emissions standards set by the EPA and mileage standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The regulations cover four categories of heavy-duty vehicles: (1) combination tractors, (2) trailers used in combination with those tractors, (3) heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and (4) vocational vehicles.


The term glider kit is used in the heavy-duty vehicle industry to describe a chassis and cab assembly that is generally produced by a vehicle manufacturer without a new engine, transmission, or rear axle. A third party then typically installs a used engine, transmission, and/or rear axle to complete assembly of the vehicle. The terms glider vehicle or glider are typically used for the completed vehicle.

In the 2016 rulemaking record, the Agency said that gliders emit 20 to 40 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) than new trucks. For years, gliders were relatively scarce on U.S. roads. However, since 2010, when EPA’s current NOx and PM standards for heavy-duty engines took effect, glider sales have increased nearly tenfold compared to the 2004–2006 time frame.

This increase in glider kit sales is a growing environmental concern,” said the Agency. “To give a sense of scale, annual glider sales now represent roughly 2 percent of Class 8 vehicles manufactured annually and yet may account for as much as one-half of total NOx and PM emissions from all new Class 8 vehicles.”

New vehicle?

The CAA authorizes the Agency to regulate only new motor vehicles. In the rule, the Agency argued that the definition of new motor vehicle is based not on the condition of the parts assembled to create the vehicle but rather encompasses the entire vehicle. “Thus, newly created gliders are ‘new motor vehicles’ under the Clean Air Act even if they incorporate some previously used components,” said the Agency.

Under Pruitt, the EPA is now proposing to change its mind. The CAA, in fact, defines a “new motor vehicle” as one with a legal title that has never been transferred to an ultimate purchaser. While the current EPA concedes that gliders may fit this definition, it also contends that when viewed in the broader context of the Act—and also in conjunction with the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958—Congress clearly intended that a new vehicle is one that is “showroom new,” a term that could not be applied to gliders. The EPA argues that the new vehicle definition in the 1958 law was adopted without change into the CAA. On that basis, the Agency proposes that gliders cannot be categorized as new.


In the 2016 rule, the EPA stated that since neither trailers nor the tractors that pull them are useful by themselves, it is the combination of the tractor and the trailer that forms the useful vehicle. The Agency noted that approximately 60 percent of the heavy-duty sector’s total carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption are produced by trailers pulled by Class 7 and 8 tractors.

In his letter to the industry reps, Pruitt said four issues they had raised provided sufficient basis to reconsider inclusion of trailers in the Phase 2 rule:

  • The CAA definition of motor vehicle refers to “self-propelled vehicles;” trailers are not self-propelled.
  • The EPA does not have the authority it regulate truck trailers as incomplete motor vehicles.
  • EPA’s projection of greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel economy benefits is based on a flawed vehicle-speed profile.
  • Pollution control equipment that must be installed in trucks to meet the emissions standards will decrease payload capacity, thereby increasing the number of trucks on the road, which in turn will increase both GHG emissions and fatal crashes.

EPA’s proposal to repeal the glider provisions is here.

Scott Pruitt’s letter responding to industry’s trailer petition is here.

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