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October 25, 2021 5:30 PM, EDT

EPA Chief Michael Regan Touts Collaborative Approach of SmartWay Program

Michael Regan Michael Regan by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency praised the collaborative work between the trucking industry and his department on a federal program that has helped pave the way for cutting fuel consumption and reducing the carbon footprint across the transportation landscape.

Administrator Michael Regan, in an interview with Transport Topics, emphasized the benefits that can be realized through the agency’s longstanding SmartWay Transport Partnership.

“It’s really critical that we get the innovation of our industries excited and wanting to share that with EPA, but do it not just through a regulatory lens, but through a voluntary mechanism as well,” Regan said Oct. 25 at American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition. “So it really gives us a nice one-two punch.”

As part of the program, EPA collaborates with freight companies to reduce emissions. Over the years, SmartWay has been praised by industry leaders, myriad stakeholders and transportation agency officials, among others.

SmartWay logo

 

“We’re seeing more emissions reduction because of the direction that the rules are taking,” Regan continued. “This industry reminds me a lot of our agriculture industry. You have so much innovation and creativity, and just thinking about attempting to develop regulations to try to solve all the problems — it just won’t work.”

He added, “When you can really harness the excitement, the innovation, the enthusiasm of an industry like the trucking industry, the sky’s the limit.”

Specifically, EPA noted SmartWay “provides a comprehensive and well-recognized system for tracking, documenting and sharing information about fuel use and freight emissions across supply chains [and] helps companies identify and select more efficient freight carriers, transport modes, equipment and operational strategies to improve supply chain sustainability and lower costs from goods movement.” Additionally, SmartWay has contributed to saving 336 million barrels of oil, which is equivalent to eliminating annual electricity use in more than 21 million homes, according to EPA.

At MCE, Regan joined ATA President Chris Spear for a panel discussion about the supply chain. Regan acknowledged areas for agencies and stakeholders to adopt flexible approaches. As he put it: “Let’s think about compliance, and compliance in a way that provides flexibility to an industry that faces an unforeseen event. And I think what you’re seeing is an EPA that’s willing to engage with our industries and look for those flexibilities or compliance as we work our way through these supply chain situations.”

Spear and Regan

Regan (left) and Spear discuss industry issues at the conference. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Spear emphasized the industry’s contributions during national supply chain concerns. “It’s been the topic du jour,” Spear noted. “We’ve been all on the news, doing our part as the industry moving 71% of that freight to really do everything possible to alleviate the pressures we’re seeing on the supply chain. EPA, obviously has a role in that as we try to balance that with our obligations to the environment.”

Separately, the EPA administrator told TT he met with freight executives at the ATA conference to listen to their perspective regarding supply chain concerns at commercial ports.

Regan said President Joe Biden’s agenda entails a whole-of-government approach in which his agency engages with the U.S. Department of Transportation and other federal departments and agencies to outline strategies meant to address economic concerns.

“We’ve been dealing directly with the manufacturers and we’ve been dealing directly with certain states as it relates to [these] supply chain shortages. And the potential impacts of compliance of this industry, we’ve got workarounds: ways that we can continue to preserve the environmental integrity that we want, but understanding that there’s an interruption in our supply chain,” the administrator said. “We want the industry to be able to keep moving forward.”

Acknowledging consumer demands linked to the freight and logistics industries, especially during the holidays, he added: “We’re working with our states and with the manufacturers directly to think about some compliance flexibility that allows for the industry to continue to move forward without sacrificing environmental integrity.”

He emphasized, “That’s what we have to do, whether it’s supply chain issues or any other issues.”

The Biden White House announced directives and proposals meant to improve how freight is transported. This includes relying on 24/7 operations at the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. On Oct. 27, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki offered reporters an update, “We’ve seen some signs of improvement throughout the supply chain, not just at ports, but also railroads, which are reporting reduced congestion and higher capacity at key hubs.”

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