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US EPA issues proposed rule to repeal emission regulation of glider kits

14 November 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rule to repeal the emission standards and other requirements for heavy-duty glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits that are part of the Pase 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles adopted in 2016 and applicable to model year 2021-2027 vehicles.

In the proposal, the EPA changes its interpretation of the US Clean Air Act (CAA), so the agency would lack the authority to regulate glider vehicles. Under the proposed interpretation: (1) glider vehicles would not be treated as “new motor vehicles,” (2) glider engines would not be treated as “new motor vehicle engines,” and (3) glider kits would not be treated as “incomplete” new motor vehicles. Based on this proposed interpretation, EPA would lack authority to regulate glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits under CAA section 202(a)(1).

This proposed interpretation is a significant departure from the position taken by the EPA in the Phase 2 rule, which considers glider vehicles and glider engines to be “new motor vehicle” and “new motor vehicle engines”, respectively. Based on this interpretation, emissions from glider vehicles and their engines must be regulated under the CAA.

The proposal has been issued in response to a petition by members of the glider industry, received by the EPA after the promulgation of the Phase 2 rule.

A glider vehicle is a truck assembled from newly manufactured kits that include the vehicle’s frame and cab, but utilizes a previously owned powertrain—including the engine, the transmission, and usually the rear axle. Under the Phase 2 rule, gliders would have to meet the applicable GHG and fuel economy requirements.

In addition, the Phase 2 rule introduced certain requirements for engines used in glider vehicles, intended to reduce PM and NOx emissions from gliders. The EPA regulations before the Phase 2 GHG rule allow used engines to be installed into new glider kits without meeting currently applicable standards. These glider engine requirements were tightened by the Phase 2 rule that allows only engines that: 1) have been certified to meet standards for the model year in which the glider vehicle is assembled; 2) engines certified to earlier model year standards that are identical to the current model year standards; and 3) engines that are still within their useful life (i.e., 10 years for the heavy heavy-duty engine category).

These Phase 2 requirements for engines installed in new glider vehicles would disallow the use of the pre-2002 (non-EGR) engines that are currently being used in most glider vehicles—because they all would be outside of the 10-year useful life period—and effectively require that all glider engines be equipped with diesel particulate filters (DPF) which have been used on all heavy-duty engines since model year 2007.

Under the proposed amendments, gliders would be allowed to continue to use engines without emission controls (non-DPF, non-EGR, non-SCR engines), leading to a disproportionate contribution to emissions from heavy-duty trucks. According to an EPA estimate in the Phase 2 rulemaking, glider trucks would comprise only 5% of the freight trucks on the road in 2025 but—if their engines remain uncontrolled—they would account for one third of all NOx and PM emissions from the heavy truck fleet.

The American Trucking Associations said the proposed repeal would be a mistake from an environmental perspective, and cited the success of its members in adopting the latest emissions-reduction technology. The proposal has been also criticized by environmental groups.

The public comment period for the proposal will be open through January 5, 2018.

Source: US EPA