Author Archives: Alice Henderson

Public speaks out against Pruitt’s effort to reopen a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks

Public health experts, freight truck manufacturers and truck dealers sent a shared message to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt at a recent public hearing – don’t reopen a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks.

Glider trucks are new freight trucks that have used engines installed in them. Those older engines emit harmful soot and smog-causing pollutants at rates dramatically higher than trucks that comply with current emission standards.

Glider trucks, with their older engines, emit high levels of pollutants like cancer-causing diesel particulate, as well as oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter – which have been linked to severe human health impacts, including increased asthma attacks and exacerbation of heart disease.

Pruitt has proposed reopening a loophole in our national Clean Truck Standards that would allow glider trucks to pollute without restriction. This proposed rollback of common sense pollution limits is a slap in the face – not only to American families, who deserve clean air to breathe, but also to the heavy duty trucking industry, which has invested in cleaner technologies for years.

Freight truck leaders voice concerns about glider truck loophole

Volvo senior vice president Susan Alt testified at the public hearing that Pruitt’s proposal “makes a mockery” of their responsible investments in pollution control equipment and clean technologies.

Representatives from the American Trucking Associations, the Engine Manufacturers Association, and the Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group echoed concerns that the proposed rollback would undermine their investment decisions for the past decade, upend the level playing field the industry needs for the well-being of their businesses, and jeopardize the regulatory certainty upon which they rely.

Freight truck dealers underscored that they hire and employ skilled technicians — in communities all across the country — to service and maintain modern, cleaner engines. Their businesses, and their employees, will be at risk if the loophole for glider trucks is reopened.

Pruitt issued his proposal based on flawed, incomplete information

EPA estimated in 2016 that glider truck emissions were as much as 40 times higher than modern engines.

The agency recently undertook more emission testing to refine its data. But Pruitt issued his proposal to repeal the glider provisions before EPA’s testing could be completed.

Instead, Pruitt’s proposal highlights poorly supported assertions from Tennessee Tech University, which conducted testing on glider trucks that found much lower emissions of oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter than EPA’s estimates.

Last week, EPA released its new, updated testing data, as well as a memo with further details about the Tennessee Tech findings that show flaws in the university’s analysis. This new information confirms the serious threat to human health posed by glider trucks.

EPA’s new test data suggests that the estimates it relied on before closing the glider truck in the first place may have been too conservative:

Under highway cruise conditions, [oxides of nitrogen] emissions from the glider vehicles were approximately 43 times as high, and [particulate matter] emissions were approximately 55 times as high as the conventionally manufactured tractors. (emphasis added)

EPA identified a number of deeply troubling flaws and biases in Tennessee Tech’s methodology, facilities, and equipment used to generate their data. Most notably, Tennessee Tech’s assertions that the tested glider trucks met EPA’s 2010 emission standard for particulate matter and performed equally as well as modern trucks were not based on any actual measurement of the pollutant – just visible inspection, a practice abandoned decades ago as wholly inadequate for measuring particulate matter from diesel engines.

Equally alarming, as the Washington Post has reported, the EPA memo acknowledges that Tennessee Tech has a financial relationship with a major glider manufacturer – Fitzgerald Glider Kits – that is pushing for EPA to roll back the pollution protections for its product. The testing facility used by Tennessee Tech is owned by Fitzgerald.

Pruitt puts clean air at risk

These documents reinforce what has been clear since Pruitt took office – the Administrator is ignoring his agency’s own science and expertise, and putting the health of American families at risk, with an onslaught of attacks against vital pollution protections – attacks that are endorsed by politically connected major polluters.

Diverse voices turned out in full force at the public hearing to rebuke the most recent example of this pattern of practice:

  • Terry Dotson of heavy-duty truck dealer Worldwide Equipment Inc. testified that his company could build glider kits, but chose not to because “we choose to do the right thing.”
  • Blanca Iris Verduzco, on behalf of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, spoke as a resident of South East Los Angeles, an industrialized community exposed to a lot of freight transportation pollution. She urged EPA to protect her community from health dangers, and not to roll back protections.
  • John Calvin Doub with TMI Truck and Equipment expressed concern for his three grandchildren, and talked about the breathing difficulties caused by air pollution. He cautioned EPA that until you have witnessed a child having an asthma attack, you don’t understand the full impacts of pollution from trucks.

EDF was represented at the hearing by Martha Roberts, Erin Murphy, Surbhi Sarang, and John Bullock. Their full testimonies are available here:

EPA is still accepting public comments on the proposed rollback of safeguards against glider truck pollution. You can send your comments through January 5th.

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EPA's Pruitt Tries to Open a Loophole to Allow Super-Polluting Trucks on Our Roads

Have you ever seen a truck belching black soot as you drive on the highway and wondered, “isn’t that level of pollution illegal?”

We see less and less of that these days, thanks to common sense standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that protect us from this harmful, excessive pollution.

But that progress is now at risk. The current EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, is trying to reopen a loophole that would allow the sale of super-polluting trucks that lack modern pollution controls.

The trucks in question are called “glider trucks.” They look new – but their engines are old and polluting. Anyone who likes to breathe air should be concerned.

Loophole would risk as many as thousands of lives a year

Pruitt’s proposed loophole would allow the sale of glider trucks – new trucks with old engines installed in them – without any modern pollution controls.

These super-polluting trucks emit harmful soot and smog-causing pollutants – including oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, and cancer-causing diesel particulate – at a rate as much as forty times that of new engines. By 2025, glider trucks would comprise just five percent of the nation’s truck fleet, but they would cause one third of the air pollution.

Data that Pruitt’s own agency has collected shows that reopening the loophole could result in as many as 6,400 premature deaths by 2021 from oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter pollution. That assessment is actually conservative, as it doesn’t account for the health harms from cancer-causing diesel particulate pollution or from smog formation caused by these super-polluting trucks.

Benefiting the worst polluters at the expense of responsible companies

Pruitt’s action to reopen this loophole goes against the stated wishes of other truck manufacturers and dealers, who responsibly invested in pollution control equipment and depend on a level playing field for the well-being of their businesses and the Americans they employ.

For example, truck dealership Nuss Trucks commented that:

The original intent of selling gilder [trucks] has moved from a rebuilding mechanism to now mainly evading diesel emissions EPA mandates.

Volvo, the manufacturer of MAC Trucks, noted that the availability of “glider trucks” is creating:

an unlevel playing field for manufacturers of new vehicles designed and certified to be compliant to all current emissions, fuel efficiency, and safety regulations.

So why is Pruitt giving the glider industry special treatment over responsible trucking companies — and over the health of American families?

As recently reported by the Washington Post, Pruitt granted a glider industry request to reconsider the standards after a meeting with a major glider manufacturer in May.

That same manufacturer prominently hosted an event for Donald Trump early in his presidential campaign.

Super-polluting trucks are designed to evade pollution controls

Historically, only a few hundred glider trucks were sold each year. They were typically produced by truck repair shops when a customer wanted to salvage the undamaged engine from a wrecked truck by installing it into a new frame.

But after pollution limits on heavy-duty freight engines were updated in 2010, a small handful of companies recognized a loophole – an opportunity to sell old, dirty engines in new frames, and thereby evade modern pollution standards. The result was mass production of super-polluting trucks that do not come close to meeting current emission standards.

Glider truck manufacturers created a market that didn’t exist before 2010. They made a business out of sourcing large numbers of old, high-polluting engines to sell in new trucks, with sales likely surpassing 10,000 a year in the last few years. The pre-2002 engines they mainly use have essentially no air pollution controls, and cause the classic puff of black diesel smoke you hated to be stuck behind in traffic. (And with good reason, as diesel particulate is known to cause lung cancer.)

EPA took action in 2016 to close the loophole and bring glider truck sales back to pre-2010 levels.

The agency took pains to cause as little disruption as possible while still meeting its responsibility under the Clean Air Act to protect public health and welfare. It phased in the glider truck standards over a period of several years, and never outright banned the sale of glider vehicles (since it recognized the benefit to truckers in being able to salvage the engine from a damaged truck).

Under EPA’s common sense actions to close the loophole, beginning in 2018, glider manufacturers must cap production of high-polluting vehicles at 300 annually beginning in 2018. They may continue to produce additional glider vehicles as long as those meet the modern air pollution controls that all other manufacturers already have to meet.

A decision with devastating consequences for our health  

Pruitt announced his intent to revisit the just-closed loophole in August of this year. He has now released a new proposal to repeal emission requirements for these super-polluting trucks, indicating that he is moving forward with his regressive plan to reopen this loophole and put thousands of lives at risk.

Pruitt’s attempt to repeal these important safeguards reeks of political cronyism, and is being done at the expense of public health. Families and communities across America will be exposed to the dangerous pollution from thousands more of these dirty trucks on our highways. We all deserve better – especially from EPA, the agency with the core mission of protecting us from pollution.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy| Comments are closed
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