EPA wants input from truckers to shape Cleaner Trucks Initiative

January 6, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Before the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward with a rulemaking for its Cleaner Trucks Initiative, the agency wants input from members of the trucking industry.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Monday, Jan. 6, announced an advance notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at creating the framework for “new emission standards for oxides of nitrogen and other pollutants for highway heavy-duty engines.” The notice, which is set to publish in the Federal Register in the coming days, also describes “opportunities to streamline and improve certification procedures to reduce costs for engine manufacturers.”

“The EPA is seeking input on this effort from the public, including all interested stakeholders, to inform the development of a subsequent notice of proposed rulemaking,” the notice said.

In November 2018, the EPA announced plans to start the Cleaner Trucks Initiative as a way to update standards for NOx emissions from heavy-duty vehicles.

“Although NOx emissions in the U.S. have dropped by more than 40% over the past decade, we project that heavy-duty vehicles continue to be one of the largest contributors to the mobile source NOx inventory in 2028,” the notice said. “Reducing NOx emissions from highway heavy-duty trucks and buses is thus an important component of improving air quality nationwide and reducing public health and welfare effects associated with these pollutants, especially for vulnerable populations and life stages, and in highly impacted regions.”

Shaping the Cleaner Truck Initiative proposal

The EPA said it has assembled a team to gather scientific and technical data needed to inform the agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking.

“We intend the Cleaner Trucks Initiative to be a holistic rethinking of emission standards and compliance,” the notice said.

EPA said it plans to develop its proposal based on the following principles:

  • Our goal should be to reduce in-use emissions under a broad range of operating conditions.
  • We should consider and enable effective technological solutions while carefully considering the cost impacts.
  • Our compliance and enforcement provisions should be fair and effective.
  • Our regulations should incentivize early compliance and innovation.
  • We should ensure a coordinated 50-state program.
  • We should actively engage with interested stakeholders.

OOIDA involved

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been involved in the process to ensure that the voice of small-business truckers is heard before the EPA makes a formal proposal.

“The EPA under this administration has been much more engaged with us as an organization and our membership to understand some of the challenges our members face when emission regulations are rolled out and imposed on our industry,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, during EPA’s announcement on Jan. 6. “We think the conversations we’ve had with EPA over this issue have been very productive. Unlike any other administration, this one has really gone to great lengths to understand the unique challenges of small-business operators and owner-operators.

“We think that will produce, hopefully, a regulation that our members can certainly get behind. Previous emissions regulations have been very hard on our members, specifically a lot of challenges with serviceability of equipment and reliability of equipment. We think the conversations we’re currently having with EPA and hope to continue having with EPA will end with a regulation that our members will find very suitable.”

Considerations

One of the diesel engine technologies under consideration for the Cleaner Trucks Initiative proposal is thermal management “that can be used to better achieve and maintain adequate catalyst temperatures, and next generation catalyst configurations and formulations to improve catalyst performance across a broader range of engine operating conditions.”

EPA said effectiveness and cost will be taken under consideration when considering the addition of a new technology in the proposal.

“From a regulatory perspective, EPA’s evaluation of the effectiveness of technologies includes their emission reduction potential, as well as their durability over the engine’s regulatory useful life and potential impact on CO2 emissions,” the EPA notice said. “The costs associated with the technologies in our demonstration program will also be considered, along with other relevant factors, in the overall feasibility analysis presented in the notice of proposed rulemaking.

“Our assessment of costs is currently underway and will be an important component of the notice of proposed rulemaking.”

‘Affordable and reliable’

When the Cleaner Trucks Initiative was first announced in November 2018, OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh cautioned the EPA that owner-operators shouldn’t be used as “guinea pigs” for new technology and get priced out of the business.

“We appreciate the EPA inviting OOIDA to participate in the roundtable to discuss changes to NOx emission standards for heavy-duty trucks,” Pugh said in 2018. “We are hopeful that the agency understands we bring a unique perspective to the discussion and that the policy makers will embrace the concerns of the owner-operator as they explore updated NOx standards. Clean air is a priority for everyone, but the technology used in heavy-duty trucks to accomplish this has to be affordable and reliable.”

How to comment

After the advance notice of proposed rulemaking for the Cleaner Trucks Initiative is published in the Federal Register comments will be accepted for 30 days. Comments may be made at the Regulations.gov website by entering docket number EPA-HQ-OAR-2019-0055.

OOIDA is encouraging its members to take the opportunity to submit comments and help shape the EPA’s forthcoming proposal.

“It’s imperative our members provide thoughtful comments that include the difficulties they had with previous emissions reduction technology,” Long said. “We will provide more information about the advance notice of proposed rulemaking and how to provide feedback on the Fighting for Truckers website soon.”

OOIDA's Collin Long at the EPA Cleaner Truck Initiative ceremony
Collin Long, director of government affairs for OOIDA, speaks during a ceremony for announcing the advance notice of proposed rule for the EPA’s Cleaner Trucks Initiative.
Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.