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August 30, 2018 5:00 PM, EDT

DOJ, Trailer Manufacturers Argue Over Regulations

Trailer Manufacturers A C.R. England Inc. trailer. (Stemco)

Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice and trailer manufacturers are sparring in court over just how much information the government should provide in a lawsuit about whether truck trailers should for the first time be subject to federal emissions requirements.

The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association in late 2016 asked an appeals court to block a provision in the Obama administration’s Phase 2 greenhouse gas emissions rule that includes trailers. Now, the group has complained that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have been dragging their heels in reporting to the court their progress and timeline for making a decision on whether to keep the rule intact or repeal it.

Trailer Manufacturers

EPA and NHTSA issued the rule regulating trailers.

This month, Justice Department attorneys complained in court documents that the trailer manufacturers are unfairly trying to speed up the rule-making process.

“First, the agencies cannot provide the kind of detailed report to satisfy petitioner’s curiosity without revealing protected deliberations,” lawyers for EPA and NHTSA said in a response to the court.

“Second,” they added, “a litigant’s mere dissatisfaction with the pace of a discretionary administrative proceeding is no reason for the court to order relief.”

TTMA told the court last month it is dissatisfied with the slow pace and lack of transparency by attorneys for the federal agencies.

Trailer Manufacturers

Outside the courtroom, the agencies have told manufacturers they don’t believe they have the authority to regulate trailer manufacturers, according to TTMA President Jeff Sims.

In the end, that could make the lawsuit a moot issue.

“EPA has written us a year-and-a-half ago that they agree trailers are not supposed to be in it, and said ‘we’ll get you out of it,’ ” Sims told Transport Topics, referring to the regulation. “We got a carbon-copy letter from NHTSA also. So they have both agreed they don’t have the authority to regulate trailers and they’re working to get us out of it. But they’re not doing it very fast. We just want closure on this thing.”

In court filings, the association said it is merely asking this court to compel respondents to “comply meaningfully with the court’s order to file status reports, by substantively addressing the status of their progress and providing a timeline for completion of their administrative reconsideration processes.”

Despite delays in the lawsuit, trailer orders reached a record high of 29,300 in July, shattering the previous high of 28,058 for the month that had stood for 24 years, ACT Research Co. reported.

Dry vans and refrigerated trailers paced the overall performance, closing the month with backlogs that now stretch into March of next year, ACT recently reported.

“After a steady June [20,048 orders], fleets came roaring back into the market in July. Trailer makers had their strongest July net order volume in history, breaking a record that was set in 1994,” Frank Maly, ACT’s director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research, said in a statement. He said while strength was evident across all industry segments, it is noteworthy that cancellations remain low, indicating strong fleet confidence.

Glen Kedzie, energy and environmental affairs counsel for American Trucking Associations, said ATA does not support elimination of the trailer provision.

“It is never prudent to threaten the Department of Justice or EPA’s internal administrative regulatory timelines and priorities, especially given that the 2018 trailer requirements under Phase 2 are not currently being implemented by stay of the court.”

Kedzie added, “Given the wide-range of proven fuel-efficient technologies for trailers that are readily available in today’s marketplace, as well as the marginal 2018 fuel efficiency milestones under Phase 2, it would not surprise me if the initial greenhouse gas targets for trailers are being met in the absence of the rule being implemented.”