EPA reverses course on glider enforcement

July 27, 2018

Mark Schremmer


The Environmental Protection Agency is reversing its previous decision to not enforce a cap on glider vehicles, the agency announced Friday, July 27.

On July 6, the EPA announced it had decided to delay through 2019 the enforcement of a cap that would limit the number of glider trucks that could be built. The agency said the delay was intended to reduce the impact on the industry until a resolution could be reached.

However, environmentalist groups filed a lawsuit on July 17 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against the EPA over its decision not to enforce the regulation. The environmentalist group also motioned for an emergency stay on the decision until the court made a ruling. The court granted the stay on July 18.

In response, the EPA opted to pull back the decision made by Scott Pruitt, the previous administrator.

“The EPA is withdrawing the no-action assurance for glider manufacturers and their suppliers,” the EPA said in a statement. “After consulting within EPA and in light of the pending administrative and judicial petitions and motions, as well as the application of agency guidance regarding no action assurances to these particular facts, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler found that the application of current regulations to the glider industry do not represent the kind of extremely unusual circumstances that support EPA’s exercise of enforcement discretion.

“EPA will continue to work expeditiously to finalize a solution that provides regulatory relief and prevents any inadvertent economic harm to the glider industry while maintaining important air quality protections.”

Based on the Obama-era regulation, glider manufacturers will be limited to building 300 trucks in 2018. Backing off enforcement would have meant that glider manufacturers could have produced as many gliders as they did in 2017, when they were limited to the number of gliders they built in their biggest production year between 2010 and 2014.

In November 2017, the EPA proposed to repeal emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits. The proposal was met with opposition from environmentalist groups and has yet to become a final rule.

A study conducted by EPA researchers said that nitrous oxide emissions were 43 times higher on glider vehicles than they were on new heavy-duty trucks. Meanwhile, a Tennessee Tech University study concluded that gliders have similar emissions.

Both studies have been met with scrutiny. Several members of the House committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently requested information from Wheeler regarding allegations that EPA employees colluded with Volvo representatives to prohibit the use of gliders. In February, the Tennessee Tech president asked the EPA to withhold use of the study until a peer review was conducted.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the glider industry, contending that gliders give small-business truckers an affordable option when compared to new trucks.

The decision not to enforce the cap was Pruitt’s final act as EPA administrator. He announced his resignation on July 5. Wheeler will serve as the agency’s leader until President Donald Trump appoints a successor.