Will this be on your summer reading list?

Trailer/body Builders June 2015 editorial

THOSE with a stake in the truck trailer industry will have quite a reading assignment this summer. And if you are involved in medium and heavy trucks, you may have a little reading to do, too.

At some point, perhaps by the end of June, The Federal Register will contain a 1,000-page tome spelling out a proposed Phase 2 of greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards. If you derive your living from truck trailers or if you install truck bodies and accessories on Class 2 and 3 vans, heavy-duty pickups, or medium and heavy trucks, this read is for you. The 1,000+ pages only cover regulations for the commercial truck industry. Power plants, commercial aircraft, and other proposals that have appeared in the news recently are completely separate.

This issue seems like a saga. Bits and drabs have emerged, and Trailer/Body Builders has run multiple stories as regulators have shared their thoughts on what this significant regulation will entail. Yet it has been only a year and change that President Barak Obama held a photo op and directed both the EPA and NHTSA to reduce fuel consumption—and therefore greenhouse gas emissions—for America’s commercial vehicles.

 “Heavy-duty trucks account for just 4% of all the vehicles on the highway. I know when you’re driving sometimes it feels like it’s more, but they’re only 4% of all the vehicles,” President Barak Obama said last year in ordering this regulation. “But they’re responsible for about 20% of carbon pollution in the transportation sector.”  

Personally, we think that 20% is commendable given that trucking moves 70% of the nation’s freight. Nevertheless, in February 2014 the president directed the Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx and Gina McCarthy, the administrator of EPA to develop Phase 2 of its fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty trucks. And because trailers affect the fuel economy of the tractor, they will be part of the mix as well.

The proposal was originally scheduled to be published in March and a final rule effective in March 2016. The March 2015 deadline came and went, but that is understandable given the complexity and scope of this proposal. Plus, EPA and NHTSA have had working relationships with truck manufacturers for many years. The trailer industry is new territory for environmental regulations. Effective rulemaking requires understanding on the part of both parties. That takes time.

As a result, regulators spent considerable time meeting with key stakeholders in the trailer business. For example, representatives from NHTSA and the EPA met Gwen Brown, executive director of the National Trailer Dealers Association, to discuss the trailer portion of the proposal. They also wanted to hear from trailer manufacturers. Although no official rulemaking is out yet, TTMA President Jeff Sims was impressed with the regulators he has met this past year.

“We met with them several times,” he says. “They also talked to several of our members and with other organizations. We have spent a lot of time providing information to them. I think they did a gallant job learning about the trailer industry.”

TTMA invited regulators to the association’s summer engineering committee in 2014. Most recently, EPA representatives presented details on the proposal they sent for review by the Office of Management and Budget (see story, Page 34).

Regulators also will attend this year’s summer engineering committee meeting July 23. If all goes as planned, the proposal should be public by then. Trailer manufacturers would have an opportunity to hear details of the regulation directly from regulators, to ask questions, and to provide input. And if the regulation is published by the end of June, the meeting will be held well within the public comment period. The meeting also would offer a platform for regulators to hear directly from the industry before the final rule is issued.

For their part, EPA also is planning its own meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The date, however, cannot be set until the agency learns when the proposal will be published. EPA staff, including the agency’s compliance division, is expected to provide input in what is expected to be an extended question and answer session. ♦

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