New glider kit fitted with pre-2002 engine .  Photo: Tom Berg

New glider kit fitted with pre-2002 engine. Photo: Tom Berg

The Environmental Protection Agency has begun the formal process to launch a rulemaking that would eliminate provisions affecting glider kits within the Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards, which start to take effect in January.

The new rules as written call for allowing glider kits only for their original purpose, which was seen as reclaiming powertrains from wrecked trucks and reusing them in new bodies and chassis. This restriction is to become effective in January of 2021.

Back on August 17, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would address concerns about the GHG Phase 2 rules raised by stakeholders in the trailer and glider industries by initiating “a rulemaking process that incorporates the latest technical data and is wholly consistent with our authority under the Clean Air Act.”

As far as trailers go, a court decision has outpaced any reform action by EPA. On Oct. 27, a court granted a motion by the Truck Trailer Manufacturers' Association that sought to stay the trailer provisions of the GHG rule until ongoing litigation regarding the rule ran its course and the agencies that jointly promulgated the rule (EPA and the National Highway Transportation Administration) determined their course of action.

That court ruling only pertains to the conflict over trailers, but now EPA has moved forward on its stated intention to strip the glider kit restriction out of the Obama-era GHG rule by initiating a highly targeted rulemaking.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, on Oct. 20 it received the proposed rule to repeal the glider , RIN #2060-AT79, titled “Repeal of Emission Requirements for Glider Vehicles, Glider Engines, and Glider Kits.” However, the OMB website indicates that the rule’s text cannot be viewed as it “has not been published in a Unified Agenda” yet.

Though glider kits account for a small percentage of total new truck sales, the older-model diesel engines they are powered by produce far more exhaust emissions than current engines, contended EPA during the Obama administration.

At the time, the agency had become concerned at a surge in sales, from a few hundred per year 10 to 20 years ago to more than 20,000 in 2015. Most of those were highway tractors, and were undisguised efforts to get around modern emissions limits and the expensive engines needed to meet them, the agency claimed.

As currently written, the glider kit restrictions will phase out gliders over the next four years. Beginning this January, volume production and sales of gliders using “pre-emission” diesels will be greatly curtailed. But low-volume builders, including individual truckers, may continue to buy and assemble glider kits using older engines until 2021.

For major truck makers, the battle over glider kits may amount to fighting the last war and therefore it is a conflict they may well prefer to sit out. Consider what Daimler Trucks North America President and CEO Roger Nielsen told HDT recently about glider kits. “Regardless of what happens with the glider rule, we’re going to keep to the [Phase 2] rules we agreed to. We have moved on, so in our business plans, we took it as certain that this would happen. That phase-out of gliders, that’s our course.

Nielsen added that “it’s interesting to watch the discussion,” noting that there are “not too many left providing gliders. There are certainly cases where customers need remanufactured engines to help replace wrecks, but the direction we are taking, and [at this point] still is the rule, that’s the path we’re going to take."

HDT's Deborah Lockridge and Tom Berg contributed to this report.

Related: Phase 2 GHG Rules to Curtail Use of Glider Kits 

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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