EPA urged by members of Congress to finalize 'strongest feasible' GHG regs

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Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023:

Democrats urge stricter Phase 3 emissions standards, trucking group responds

A bicameral group of Democrats last week penned a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan urging the agency to finalize the “strongest feasible greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles as part of their Phase 3 rule.”

The letter was led by Sens. Alex Padilla (D-California), Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts), Tom Carper (D-Delaware), and Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), along with Reps. Doris Matsui (D-California), Yvette Clarke (D-New York), and Nanette Barragán (D-California). It’s also signed by six other Senators and 68 other Representatives

It pushes the EPA to be more ambitious by building on the commitment that the nation’s truck and engine manufacturers agreed to in California -- 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2036 -- as they finalize the rule. It also expresses support for the EPA’s proposed regulatory changes related to locomotives included in the Phase 3 rule.

“By setting the strongest feasible standards for GHG emissions from heavy duty engines, and by finalizing its locomotive proposal, EPA can meet the Clean Air Act’s mandate to protect public health and welfare,” wrote the lawmakers. â€śWe encourage EPA to finalize standards that go beyond the current proposal and fully incorporate the potential for national emissions reductions highlighted by the technologies and strategies agreed to in the Clean Truck Partnership between CARB and the engine and truck manufacturers.”

The Clean Freight Coalition responded to the letter, relaying its concern over a push to follow California’s emissions standards at the federal level.

“The Clean Freight Coalition remains concerned that lawmakers and regulators continue to pursue a regulatory agenda that follows California’s mandates that will upend the nation’s supply chain while ignoring immediate, scalable solutions for reducing carbon emissions from existing and future fleets,” said CFC Executive Director Jim Mullen. “It is disappointing that certain members of Congress are pushing a one-size-fits-all environmental agenda that fails to understand the mass diversification of the commercial vehicle industry.”

Mullen added that setting requirements that rely on “technologies that are either in early demonstration phases or not fully developed … will disrupt the nation’s freight network.”

Mullen also outlined ways Congress and regulators could provide immediate emissions reductions, including repealing the federal excise tax on trucks, and promoting and incentivizing low-carbon fuel options like biodiesel and renewable diesel.

[Related: A rushed transition to electric trucks will be the economic downfall of small carriers]

Certain Iowa ag haulers get temporary weight exemption

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Sept. 11 signed a proclamation related to the weight limits and transportation of grain, fertilizer, and manure. The proclamation is effective immediately and continues through Oct. 11.

It allows vehicles transporting corn, soybeans, hay, straw, silage, stover, fertilizer (dry, liquid, and gas), and manure (dry and liquid) to be overweight (not exceeding 90,000 pounds gross weight) without a permit for its duration. 

The proclamation applies to loads transported on all highways within Iowa (excluding the interstate system) and those which do not exceed a maximum of 90,000 pounds gross weight, do not exceed the maximum axle weight limit determined under the non-primary highway maximum gross weight table in Iowa Code § 321.463 (6) (a) and (b) by more than 12.5%, do not exceed the legal maximum axle weight limit of 20,000 pounds, and comply with posted limits on roads and bridges.

FMCSA denies Alaskan driving school’s ELDT waiver request

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied a request from Alaska’s Ice Road Driving School for a waiver from certain portions of the behind-the-wheel entry-level driver training (ELDT) requirements for driver trainees.

The driving school filed the exemption request in April, asking for an exemption from the requirements that driver trainees seeking a Class A or Class B CDL demonstrate proficiency in BTW maneuvers related to entering the on ramp, exiting the off ramp, right turns, and left turns.

The school said that because of the unique road system and challenging terrain in Alaska, it is difficult to adhere to the driver training regulations, and further explained that the road configurations lead to only a few major established safe road systems in Alaska.

FMCSA denied the request, saying that granting the request would result in drivers receiving a CDL even though they had not demonstrated proficiency in the three driving skills from which exemption is requested.

Additionally, FMCSA said it granted an exemption to the state of Alaska in December 2022 that allows the state to waive specified portions of the CDL skills test for drivers in 14 defined geographical areas that lack infrastructure to allow completion of the full skills test. Drivers who receive a restricted CDL under the provisions of the 2022 exemption are also exempt from the ELDT regulations.

The relief requested by Alaska’s Ice Road Driving School falls within the scope of that exemption, FMCSA said, to the extent that drivers would not be subject to ELDT requirements if, pursuant to the 2022 exemption, they received a restricted CDL allowing them to operate a commercial motor vehicle only within 14 designated geographical areas of the state.