EPA proposes repeal of Phase Two glider kit rules

By Mike Kastner, NTEA Managing Director

This article was published in the January 2018 edition of NTEA News.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice (82 FR 53442) proposing to reverse its Phase Two greenhouse gas rule decision on glider kits. In the notice, EPA said that its original interpretation of the Clean Air Act has changed and, as such, new glider kit regulations should be revoked.

A glider kit is a tractor chassis with frame, front axle, interior and exterior cab, and brakes. A used/rebuilt engine and drivetrain components are added to complete the vehicle. Traditionally, a few hundred such vehicles were produced per year, usually to reuse an engine and drivetrain from an otherwise damaged tractor.

Glider kit sales surged to more than 20,000 in 2015. These vehicles typically match an older pre-emissions engine with a new glider kit. In the Phase Two rule, EPA estimated by 2025, glider vehicles would compose about 5 percent of heavy-duty tractors on the road, but would be responsible for approximately one-third of all NOx and PM emissions from heavy-duty tractors.

The Phase Two final rule (now subject to possible revocation) would have phased-out the use of older engines in glider kits by 2021. In 2017, glider vehicle builders’ production was to be capped at the manufacturer’s highest annual production of glider kits and glider vehicles for any year from 2010–2014. Any production beyond that limit would need to use engines certified as legal for the same year as the glider kit is built.

Under the previous rules, in 2018, engines in glider vehicles would have to meet emissions standards corresponding to the year of the glider vehicle (however, there would be a limited small-business exemption). The exemption would have allowed certain businesses to produce up to 300 glider vehicles or their highest annual production volume for calendar years 2010–2014, whichever is less, with older engines.

Phase Two rules specified by January 2021, the 2018 small-business exemption would end and all glider vehicles would need to meet the Phase Two GHG vehicle standards.

New EPA glider kit proposal
Based on petitions for reconsideration of the Phase Two final rule, new data and revised interpretations of the Clean Air Act, EPA proposed it does not have the statutory authority to regulate glider kits.

Under this proposed interpretation: (1) Glider vehicles would not be treated as “new motor vehicles,” (2) glider engines would not be treated as “new motor vehicle engines,” and (3) glider kits would not be treated as “incomplete” new motor vehicles.

EPA is proposing to repeal those provisions of the Phase 2 rule applicable to glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits.

If the interpretation being proposed were to be finalized, EPA’s authority to address heavy-duty engine rebuilding practices would not be affected.

EPA questions
In its notice, EPA identifies options if the new interpretation is not adopted. For instance, if it were not to adopt the interpretation that it lacks authority to regulate gliders, should it revise the “interim provisions” of the Phase 2 rule to increase the exemption available for small manufacturers above the current limit of 300 glider vehicles per year? Further, should it consider extending the date for compliance for glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits set forth in the Phase 2 rules if the interpretation is not adopted. 

Based on similar petitions for reconsideration and EPA’s preliminary notice, we expect to see a notice concerning trailers in the near future. It would seem likely EPA would apply similar logic to its authority to regulate trailers and perhaps propose to repeal the Phase 2 rules applying to trailers.

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