Yet more Republican members of the House of Representatives have fired a broadside at the Volvo Group, as well as at the Engine Manufacturers Association, in the ongoing congressional questioning of the legitimacy of a study on glider kit regulations conducted recently by the Environmental Protection Agency.

On July 12, the Republican leadership of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee sent a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting information on the study, which was conducted by the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory.

Released in 2017, the study compared emissions from glider trucks to non-refurbished or unmodified or, simply put, conventionally manufactured trucks. In the report, EPA testing found that the NOx levels of glider vehicles are four to 40 times higher than that of current powertrains and that associated particulate matter levels are 50 to 450 times higher.

What the committee’s letter questions in no uncertain terms is whether the study was put together objectively, as would be expected. “Documents obtained by the Committee indicate that representatives from Volvo and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association engaged in what appears to be a concerted effort with EPA staff at the NVFEL to shape the study’s design to achieve a desired outcome,” the committee alleges in a press release on the letter.

“In one email, the representative from Volvo lays out the ‘ideal’ test program for the NVFEL, listing specifically the test articles to use and the schedule by which the test program should be conducted,” the committee’s letter states. 

“These documents raise serious questions as to the objectivity and legitimacy of the NVFEL study,” the letter continues. “To better assist the Committee in understanding how EPA intends to uphold scientific integrity and how it undertakes decisions to perform scientific studies underlying regulation, we request a briefing for Committee staff by the appropriate EPA officials who are familiar with this matter.”

The committee also requested all documents related to the NVFEL glider study.

The letter was signed by Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Abraham, MD (R-LA), Oversight Subcommittee Vice Chairman Clay Higgins (R-LA), Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-TX), and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL).

Commenting on the July 12 letter from the Science, Space, and Technology Committee leaders, Volvo Group spokesperson John Mies told HDT that, “Like most of the trucking industry, the Volvo Group for several years now has argued that the improper use of glider kits is bad for the environment and unfair to manufacturers who have invested in the latest environmental controls.

“All our communication and cooperation with the EPA on this issue has been an entirely appropriate part of a broad trucking industry advocacy effort – we did nothing improper,” he added.   

Earlier this month, two other letters were sent to EPA — one sent jointly by four House GOP members and the other by the Republican chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment— alleging that Sweden-based Volvo Group (parent firm of both Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks) had undue influence with some employees at the agency, provided glider kits for the testing, and that the study was done without the approval or knowledge of EPA leadership. The letters also asked EPA to look into a potential lobbying violation by the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association.

The back story to all the back and forth on glider kits is this: In October 2016, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued the final GHG/Fuel Efficiency Phase 2 rule. Among other things, this rule required engines in new “glider” vehicles to meet the emissions standards for the year the vehicle was assembled, rather than the year the engine was manufactured.

In July 2017, after glider kit-maker Fitzgerald Glider Kits petitioned the agency to do so, EPA announced it intended to revisit the glider kit provisions. In November, it issued its official proposal, which would repeal emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits. The repeal proposal has yet to become a final rule. 

The proposal to allow a glider kit loophole to the GHG/fuel economy regulations has drawn criticism from environmental groups, truck and engine makers, the American Trucking Associations, some large fleets such as FedEx and PepsiCo, two former EPA administrators, some state attorneys general, and some Democratic senators, among others.

The most recent development came on July 9, when EPA said it will not enforce for 2018 and 2019 a 300-unit production cap put in place on the manufacture of glider kits that do not comply with Phase 2 GHG emission rules.

EPA said this action is being taken because it is working to finalize its proposed rule to repeal “certain emission requirements” on glider kits that were imposed under the Phase 2 rules. News of the enforcement loophole was broken by The New York Times one day after the resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on July 5.

Related : EPA Will Not Enforce 300-Unit Limit on Glider its through 2019

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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