EPA Proposes to Reopen Loophole for Super-Polluting Trucks

Decision Would Put Americans’ Health at Risk, Lead to Thousands of Premature Deaths

November 9, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington D.C. – November 9, 2017) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed to reopen a loophole that allows the sale of freight trucks with old, dirty engines that do not meet modern pollution standards.

EPA estimates that just one year of unrestricted sales of these super-polluting “glider trucks” would lead to as many as 1,600 premature deaths. 

“Reopening this loophole would allow the unrestricted sale of trucks that belch soot and smog into our communities. It would risk thousands of lives, and penalize responsible manufacturers who have invested in clean technology to reduce pollution and are complying with current health protections,” said EDF Senior Attorney Martha Roberts. “This is the latest in a series of deeply concerning actions taken by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that undermine common sense public health protections to benefit politically connected industries.”

EPA will now accept public comments on the proposal through January 5, 2018. EDF will strenuously oppose this dangerous rollback, and will continue to defend the Clean Trucks Standards. 

Under the current Clean Trucks Standards, engines used in “glider trucks” must meet pollution standards corresponding to the truck’s year of assembly. Older engines may still be installed as long as they are retrofitted to meet modern pollution standards.

Today’s proposal would roll back this common sense protection. It would allow the sale of super-polluting glider trucks that emit as much as 40 times the pollution of modern trucks. 

EPA itself has estimated that, if this loophole stays open until 2025, glider trucks would comprise only five percent of the freight trucks on the road but would account for one third of all nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions from the heavy truck fleet. Those two types of pollution cause severe health problems, including increased asthma attacks and other heart and lung ailments.

Today’s proposal acknowledges that: 

“[T]he Emission Requirements for Glider Vehicles, Glider Engines, and Glider Kits was anticipated to lower ambient concentrations of PM2.5 … Some of the benefits for children’s health … would be lost as a result of this action.”

Freight truck leaders have invested in, and now sell, cleaner freight trucks and engines. Many of these companies publicly supported the provisions in the Clean Trucks Standards that ended the “glider truck” loophole — companies including Cummins, Navistar, Nuss Truck and Equipment, Truck Country, GATR Truck Center, Worldwide Equipment Enterprises, and Volvo. Reopening the loophole that allows for the sale of dirty glider trucks would put their innovative investments — and their employees’ jobs — at risk. 

For example, Nuss Truck and Equipment noted that:

“Dealers such as ours have been subject to a growing unfair competition from this rapidly expanding market of non-compliant vehicles” and “[t]he original intent of selling gilder kits has moved from a rebuilding mechanism to now mainly evading diesel emissions EPA mandates.” 

Reopening this loophole would give the glider industry special treatment over responsible trucking companies at the expense of American families’ health.

EPA provided a comprehensive discussion of its legal authority related to glider trucks when it finalized its most recent Clean Truck Standards in October 2016. The agency’s authority to address pollution from glider trucks was never challenged, even though the glider industry had every opportunity to do following publication of the rule. 

Instead, Administrator Pruitt granted a glider industry request to reconsider the standards after a meeting with a major glider manufacturer on May 8, 2017 – the same manufacturer who prominently hosted an event for then-candidate Donald Trump early in his presidential campaign.

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