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October 30, 2017 9:30 AM, EDT
GHG Phase 2 Rule for Trailers Put on Hold
Utility trailer Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company

A federal appeals court has temporarily halted implementation of a provision in Phase 2 of the heavy trucks greenhouse gas rule of 2016, which would have regulated trailer manufacturers for the first time beginning Jan. 1.

“The EPA Final Rule on review is hereby stayed insofar as it purports to regulate trailers,” said the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in its Oct. 27 order. “Petitioner has satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.”

The petitioner, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, is claiming that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lacks authority to regulate trailers under the Clean Air Act. It believes that act only grants the agency authority to regulate motor vehicles — specifically “self-propelled” vehicles.

Prior to the stay, the manufacturers had said that with the rule’s effective date fast approaching, the case was “disrupting the normal ordering process and frustrating both customers and manufacturers.”

“Most heavy-duty trailers are custom ordered, and the required lead time for scheduling production means that trailer manufacturers are having to quote orders for 2018 delivery that will force customers to purchase equipment they do not want and that will not produce any fuel efficiencies in the customers’ operations,” the trailer association said in court documents.

The stay was issued more than two months after EPA announced its plans to revisit the Phase 2 trailer provisions on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency for medium-and heavy-duty engines.

“In light of the significant issues raised, the agency has decided to revisit the Phase 2 trailer and glider provisions,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in August. “We intend to initiate a rulemaking process that incorporates the latest technical data and is wholly consistent with our authority under the Clean Air Act.”

The agency did not further explain its specific intentions in pulling the regulation, nor has it provided a timeline for reissuing the rule.

The complex Phase 2 rule from EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was an Obama administration priority finalized in October 2016.

It follows the path of Phase 1 of the regulation, which took effect in 2014 and Jan. 1, tightening emissions standards of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases while ordering manufacturers to produce heavy- and medium-duty trucks that get better fuel mileage.

Trailers were going to be regulated for the first time by EPA, as well as glider kits, which mix refurbished older components, including transmissions and pre-emissions-rule engines, with a new frame, cab, steer axle, wheels and other standard equipment.

In its current form, the Phase 2 rule would start EPA regulation of trailers Jan. 1, 2018. Under the Phase 2 rule, provisions for trucks will go into effect in three stages: 2021, 2024 and 2027.

The rule also requires low-rolling-resistance tires and automatic tire inflation or tire monitoring systems for all trailers.

In the court documents, trailer manufacturers said they were concerned with the impending deadline.

“The reasons for our petitions to these agencies, and our earlier petition in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Dec. 22, 2016, still stand.”

TTMA said it was pleased with the agencies’ progress and looks forward to full administrative review of the trailer greenhouse gas rules.

The government maintains that low-cost measures applicable to trailers — the load carrying half of the tractor-trailer — can provide up to one-third of the emissions reductions from tractor-trailers.

The trailer makers have countered that attempts to artificially divide the tractor from the trailer are faulty.