In an affront to the health of all Americans, U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is trying to reopen a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks. This action reflects the worst of Washington politics: a special deal for the benefit of a single company; a sloppy, industry-funded analysis; and a process that shuts out EPA’s own staff expertise.
It has the potential to add thousands of super-polluting trucks to our roads, spewing 40 times more pollution than new trucks and leading to more than 6,000 premature deaths by 2021.
The question every company in America that uses trucking services must ask is: Do you want these trucks backing up to your loading dock?
Reversing health and environmental progress
There is no rational reason for re-opening this loophole. Driving down diesel truck pollution has been a hallmark public health achievement of the past thirty years. Two pernicious pollutants, particulate matter (aka soot) and nitrogen oxides, have been reduced by ninety-eight percent since 1988, in large part thanks to the standards glider trucks would be able to evade if EPA reopens this loophole. But if the loophole is reopened, EPA projects gliders will make up 5% of the nation’s heavy duty fleet, but contribute one third of the pollution.
Newer, better engineered engines have improved durability and performance. 2014 and later engines also have improved fuel efficiency, which drives lifecycle cost savings.
This investment in pollution control has paid major dividends. It’s part of a package of actions that have saved tens of thousands of lives, prevented millions of sick days lost to work or school, and reduced incidents of chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and asthma exacerbation. The benefits of clean air progress exceed costs by a factor of more than thirty to one.
Re-opening a closed loophole
As much progress as we’ve made, further improvements are still needed. Yet, instead of leading us forward to tackle this challenge, Administrator Pruitt is focusing reopening a gigantic loophole for glider trucks. Gliders are trucks with a used engine installed in an otherwise new frame. After pollution limits on heavy-duty freight engines were updated in 2010, glider trucks sold with old engines were dramatically more polluting than new trucks with modern engines.
Sales of glider trucks used to be only a few hundred a year. But after 2010, sales jumped, with industry estimates placing them at over 10,000 a year. The jump in sales reflected glider truck manufacturers circumventing pollution standards by selling trucks with dirty, used engines that did not achieve pollution levels that all other manufacturers had to meet.
EPA took action in the 2016 Clean Truck Standards to close this loophole and require that glider manufacturers meet modern air pollution controls that all other manufacturers have to meet, while providing flexibility for small businesses.
Companies support keeping the loophole closed
A few corporate leaders have already stepped forward to denounce the loophole.
- Volvo, Cummins, and Navistar urged the EPA to leave the glider kit loophole closed.
- The American Trucking Associations noted it was “disappointed in EPA’s decision to modify the glider kit provisions.”
- Several truck dealers raised concerns that the glider loophole will lead to unfair competition.
Two ways to voice your support
Your company needs to be heard on this issue too. Here are two actions you can take now.
- Urge the EPA to close the loophole.
Have your company submit a letter to the EPA before January 5th noting its support maintaining the glider protections as finalized in 2016.
- Tell your transportation partners not to move your goods on a super polluting truck.
Your company can send a clear market signal against super polluting trucks. Ask your transportation providers if they use glider trucks and – if so – how many are operated with pre-2010 engines. Then direct your service partners not to move your goods on those trucks.
No company wants their brand associated with high-polluting trucks. Corporate leadership now will help save lives by keeping these dirty trucks in the scrap heap where they belong.
Follow Jason on Twitter, @jasonmathers
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