This story appears in the May 8 print edition of Transport Topics.
The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association has expanded its offensive against the part of the federal Phase 2 greenhouse gas rule that concerns trailers by asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider a Trump administration executive order intended to prune burdensome regulations.
TTMA already is pursuing a legal challenge to Phase 2’s Section IV before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Attorneys for EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on April 20 asked the court to hold the case “in abeyance for 90 days, until July 20, to give [EPA and NHTSA] time to review a request” for reconsideration submitted by TTMA, the court filing said.
The attorneys said it is important to thoroughly consider the TTMA request. “It is possible that after reviewing the request, the agencies could decide to conduct further rulemaking or undertake other actions that could obviate the need for judicial resolution of some or all the issues raised by trailer petitioner [TTMA],” they said.
An internal memo from new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to many top agency officials March 24 said that by May 15, the officials, including those from the Office of Air and Radiation that led the Phase 2 regulatory proceedings, should provide “recommendations regarding specific rules that should be considered for repeal, replacement or modification.”
The memo said the process stems from Executive Order 13777 on Enforcing the Regulatory Agenda, which President Donald Trump issued Feb. 24.
Phase 2 was published Oct. 25, and the deadline for filing a legal challenge was Dec. 27. Only two groups did so: TTMA, which challenged only Section IV on trailers, and the Racing Enthusiasts and Suppliers Coalition, which is concerned about off- highway racing vehicles.
Phase 2 regulates trucks and their engines in three stages: 2021, 2024 and 2027. Those manufacturers have long been regulated by EPA and NHTSA.
Section IV regulates trailers in the same years but adds Jan. 1, 2018 — the first time trailer makers have been regulated by EPA.
The Phase 1 greenhouse gas rule on trucks and engines was rolled out in January 2014 and on Jan. 1 of this year.
Phase 2 has gained support from eight states and five environmental groups that have asked the court for permission to intervene in the case in support of the rule.
On April 21, the day after the government made its request to the court, TTMA filed a response saying that altering production processes is highly complex and time-consuming, so if the court case gets a timeout, so should the countdown to the rule’s start date.
TTMA President Jeff Sims said in an interview that most trailer makers would need about six months for the switch.
“When you consider backlogs, trailer manufacturers take orders usually six months out. So a June order would be built and then delivered in January. They need to know whether to move forward,” Sims said.
Sales people cannot offer accurate price quotes to fleets if they do not know all of the elements that must be included on a trailer, and then production lines would have to be altered, he said.
The association is not opposed to a delay, he said, but a 90-day freeze on the court case should be matched by a delay of the same length on starting the rule.
Most of the rule concerns trucks and their engines, and that appears to be moving forward, said Glen Kedzie, energy and environmental affairs counsel for American Trucking Associations. Deadlines for the most direct ways to challenge the rule have passed.
“The Congressional Review Act option is gone, and the legal challenge is gone, too,” Kedzie said.
CRA bills must be voted on by May 9, he said. Technically, there could be a last-minute vote on Phase 2, but because nothing on it has been introduced, it becomes highly unlikely, Kedzie said.
Truck and engine makers did not file any challenges to Phase 2 by the Dec. 27 deadline.
Regarding the executive order, Kedzie cautioned that it is an uncertain process. Eliminating a regulation through the standard, federal rulemaking process is slow, he said, and the alternative of a department or agency striking down an approved rule unilaterally could well be subject to a legal challenge.
“Litigation could possibly outlast this administration. It takes a long time,” Kedzie said.