Green Groups Ask D.C. Circuit to Uphold Pollution Safeguards for Freight Trailers

May 13, 2020
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718,

(Washington, D.C. – May 13, 2010) A coalition of environmental and public health groups led by EDF is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to uphold pollution standards for the freight trailers that carry goods across America’s highways.

The safeguards are part of the Clean Truck Standards, and most large truck manufacturers are complying with them (in fact the standards were issued with broad industry support). However, the trade group representing freight trailer manufacturers is suing, claiming that EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lacked authority to adopt standards that include common sense requirements for freight trailers.

The green groups laid out their case in a brief filed with the D.C. Circuit last night.

“Tractor trailers contribute significantly to climate and other dangerous pollution. These standards protect Americans from this pollution while saving truckers money. The trailer manufacturers’ arguments that these cost-effective clean air measures should not apply to them is unsupported by the law,” said EDF Senior Attorney Alice Henderson.

“With clean air more important than ever, it’s essential that we take steps to reduce pollution from truck trailers,” said Katherine Hoff, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This lawsuit is a desperate attempt by a handful of profit-hungry truck trailer manufacturers to avoid making modest, easily achieved changes that could protect people’s lungs.”

“The trailer makers’ arguments are so extreme not even the Trump EPA supports it,” said Pete Huffman, a lawyer at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “We intervened in this case in support of EPA to ensure trailer makers do their part to clean up their products. Making tractor-trailers more aerodynamic, with smoother-rolling tires, slashes 18-wheeler carbon emissions while paying for itself in fuel savings.”

“Strong standards to clean up our transportation sector, the nation’s biggest source of climate-disrupting pollution, is critical to the health of our communities,” said Andres Restrepo, a staff attorney for Sierra Club. “Eighteen-wheeler trailers are responsible for huge quantities of emissions, yet the lobbyists opposing the EPA’s standards argue that they have no legal responsibilities whatsoever to curb those emissions, contrary to the plain language of the Clean Air Act. That’s why we intervened in this lawsuit, and it’s why we fully expect to prevail.”

EPA and the Department of Transportation adopted the Clean Truck Standards in August 2016, after extensive public comment and engagement with businesses. The standards will reduce carbon pollution by more than one billion metric tons, will reduce petroleum consumption by an estimated two billion barrels, will provide $400 in annual household savings for the average American family, and will save the trucking industry an estimated $170 billion in fuel costs through 2027.

In defending these common sense standards, the green groups write:

“The trade group representing freight trailer manufacturers … contends that Congress did not permit EPA to regulate the 18-wheeler tractor-trailers that actually haul the nation’s freight, but only the tractor cab where the driver sits … [The trade group’s] argument hinges on chopping the motor vehicle in half, focusing solely on the tractor and ignoring the 8-wheel trailer segment of the 18-wheeler. But a tractor is not designed to transport either persons or property by itself … Both halves of the vehicle are necessary to move freight, and both contribute to the dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that Congress sought to control.” (Brief, page 2, 8, 9)

The Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists joined EDF on the brief. The California Air Resources Board and seven states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – are also defending the trailer standards in court.

You can find more information on EDF’s website.

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