Fleet Management

Tennessee Tech Disavows Maligned Glider Kit Study Pending Review

February 22, 2018

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Tennessee Tech's president has sent a letter to the EPA urging that it not to use the university's glider kit environmental impact study pending an investigation into the validy of its results. Photo: Tom Berg
Tennessee Tech's president has sent a letter to the EPA urging that it not to use the university's glider kit environmental impact study pending an investigation into the validy of its results. Photo: Tom Berg

The president of Tennessee Technical University, Philip Oldham, has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withhold any use or reference to a controversial study the university conducted on the environmental impact of glider kit vehicles until it has fully investigated the validity of the study's results.

The study, titled “Environmental & Economic Study of Glider Kit Assemblers,” came under fire after it was revealed that Fitzgerald Glider Kits funded the research, which was used to counter restrictions on glider kiit mnaufacturing put in plce by the Obama administration. According to a report by The Washington Post, Fitzgerald paid about $70,000 to finance the study and later agreed to build a new academic research center for TTU.

In a Feb. 19 letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt obtained by the New York Times, Oldham writes that “knowledgeable experts within the University have questioned the methodology and accuracy of the report,” and that the university would be pursuing a peer review of the study to assure its validity. He also sent the same letter to Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and to Tommy Fitzgerald, owner of Fitzgerald Glider Kits.

Oldham was under pressure by TTU's faculty to disavow the report and a letter that was sent to Rep. Black who used the information to fight the glider kit restrictions in Congress. The faculty said that the study damaged the university’s reputation and integrity.

A memo from the interim dean of TTU’s College of Engineering Darrell Hoy further detailed the allegations of misconduct in research pertaining to the glider kit study, which are being subjected to peer review. The memo states that no qualified, credentialed engineering faculty members oversaw the testing, verified data or calculations, or reviewed or took part in the writing of the final report that was submitted to Fitzgerald or to Rep. Black.

The results of the study purported to show that glider kits vehicles did not have a significant environmental impact when compared to modern, emissions-compliant trucks and engines. This  contradicted a previous EPA study that found that NOx emissions from glider kit vehicles were around 40 times higher than those from compliant vehicles.

Fitzgerald used the study to support a petition arguing against EPA’s restrictions on glider kit manufacturing, which would have limited the number of glider kits it could produce to 300 per year.  The study was also featured in a recent EPA proposal to roll back the restriction before being subjected to public comment.

In a statement to The New York Times, EPA downplayed the TTU study’s role, saying that it didn’t rely on the study or quote directly from it and that its proposal to reopen the glider kit loophole was based on the notion that the Obama-era EPA overstepped its legal authority to regulate them.

However, in the EPA's Nov. 16, 2017 proposal to repeal restrictions, the EPA mentions that petitions from the glider kit industry, which made extensive use of the Tennessee Tech study findings support one of its primary claims, had “raised significant questions regarding the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate gliders.”


  1. 1. Marvin [ February 23, 2018 @ 05:41AM ]

    Sure looks someone got some serious pressure to reverse this study. Apparently we're to believe that Mr. Oldham, as President, didn't know that this study was taking place and is now taking a stand. Really? Either he's incompetent as President or a greedy political hack. Wonder what he did with the money Fitzgerald put up for the study and the new lab? Maybe he didn't know about that either!!

  2. 2. Tony [ February 23, 2018 @ 07:27AM ]

    Glider kits have a place in the industry; when a late-model, low-mileage tractor gets wrecked, put the drivetrain into a glider. But to use them as a means to circumvent emissions laws or even worse, the ELD mandate, is simply irresponsible. Sorry Fitzgerald.

  3. 3. Richard [ February 23, 2018 @ 08:52AM ]

    Your clueless Tony. Gliders have been around long before the ELD mandate. Most people got gliders because they were a lot cheaper than a new truck and had less trouble with the engine, than a new engine. I guess you have never heard drivers complain about the new engines, how much down-time they have with them. But now it cost just as much for a glider as it does for a new truck, not a whole lot of difference.

  4. 4. CA trucker [ February 23, 2018 @ 10:06AM ]

    I agree with you Tony. The big thing is the emissions loophole. It's a black eye for the industry and the health effects can't be disputed any longer. Build the gliders with emission compliant engines and problem is solved.

    Many writers keep saying fuel economy is worse with new engines. I've been in business since the 1950's and until the 90's I bought old fleet junk and rebuilt it, including the 2000 vintage Cummins and Detroit.

    The economy on today's engines easily exceeds the old Cummins, CAT and Series 60 Detroits.

    Also, we have switched to electronically shifted manuals (Eaton and Volvo Ishift). I credit the automated trans for a big part of the fuel economy gain.

    Also I see a lot of pics of gliders without aerodynamics. The fairings make a major difference if you are pulling a box trailer.

    Fitzgerald needs to incorporate current EPA engines to be a good citizen.

  5. 5. Marvin [ February 25, 2018 @ 01:54PM ]

    How do you figure that the "economy of today's engines easily exceeds......."? A well tuned older engine with properly geared transmission and rears with a proper driver would certainly be as good as any newer engine when factoring the bottom line (ie fuel mileage/cost per mile and repairs/cost per mile and downtime/cost per mile) Anyone not factoring all the affected costs per mile isn't a very good business person. However if everything, including towing, is covered under warranty then downtime is the only factor to consider as a loss. It's still a loss though. Building gliders with emission compliant engines solves nothing! Of course......being a "good citizen" is everything far and above staying in business!


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