There is a war of ideology being waged in the US truck industry at the moment, pivoting around environmental rules and the main protagonist is the secretary of the environment in the Trump administration, Scott Pruitt.
As Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt wants to reopen a loophole that allows truckers to drive rebuilt rigs with dirty diesel engines that spew as much as 450 times more soot than new models.
However it seems Pruitt, who has courted a lot of controversy since taking up his role in early 2017, has justified his plan with a questionable, company-funded study that is under investigation for “research misconduct.”
Pruitt has spent the past year attacking the EPA’s mission and undermining its integrity and he’s bucked his own scientists’ research in making decisions to weaken environmental rules. He’s sought to stack EPA advisory boards with industry representatives.
The dirty truck loophole is a particularly egregious example of how Pruitt has been willing to ignore legitimate research, not to mention overwhelming industry opinion in favour of dubious analysis that supports his desire to roll back pollution rules to benefit politically connected special interests.
At issue are what are called ‘glider kits’ in the USA, which have typically been used to give new life to engines and other components salvaged from trucks damaged in collisions.
During the previous Obama administration the EPA had sought to phase out these trucks after discovering that some companies were circumventing truck emissions standards by putting older, dirtier engines inside new truck shells. Last year, however, Pruitt proposed to exempt gliders from contemporary emission limits.
The vehicles look brand-new but cost up to 25 per cent less to purchase without the pollution controls required on regular new trucks sold complete with a driveline. Glider kits are new trucks produced by regular manufacturers but delivered to a dealer without a driveline. There the dealer fits an older, dirty engine along witht a transmission.
EPA researchers have found that gliders can emit up to 450 times more diesel soot and 40 times more smog-forming emissions than new trucks on the market. Agency staff also estimated the glider trucks produce enough soot each year to cause up to 1,600 premature deaths in the USA every year.
The broader trucking industry has opposed the loophole, arguing that it hurts truckers and truck manufacturers that have played by the rules.
However Scott Pruitt has justified the rollback by citing a study from Tennessee Tech University that declared glider trucks to be no more harmful to air quality than trucks with new engines.
However it turns out that this study was funded by Fitzgerald Glider Kits, which happens to be one of the primary manufacturers of glider trucks.
The study was run by a Tennessee Tech vice president with no graduate-level engineering training and the research was conducted at a Fitzgerald-owned facility.
The owner of the company, Tommy Fitzgerald, hosted a campaign event in 2016 for then-candidate Donald Trump and he has met privately with Pruitt.
After faculty raised concern about the legitimacy of the study Tennessee Tech opened an investigation and said that the university takes the allegations of research misconduct seriously.
The university has asked the EPA to stop using or referring to the study pending the completion of the investigation.
There’s an extra contradiction to Pruitt’s embrace of the Tennessee Tech study.
In the name of “transparency,” Pruitt has proposed a rule requiring the EPA to consider only studies which have made the underlying data public.
The rule, which industry groups have pushed by for years would block the EPA from considering studies about the health impacts of pollutants that are based on the private medical records of individuals. But it would also apply to the questionable glider truck study because Fitzgerald’s company is refusing to publicly release the full study, which it owns under its arrangement with the university.
In the meantime, two former EPA chiefs, one who served under a Democratic administration and one who served under a Republican administration sent a letter to Pruitt expressing concern that the agency had “failed to rely on the best scientific analysis” in the proposed glider truck exemption.
Members of Congress from both parties have fired off letters to the EPA, complaining that the rollback for glider trucks was a bad idea.
The broader trucking industry has also opposed the loophole, arguing that it hurts truck operators and truck manufacturers that have played by the rules and invested in more expensive pollution control equipment.
Indeed, the California Trucking Association is so concerned about the unlevel playing field that it sponsored legislation calling for a $US25,000 fine for operators who drive a glider truck that violates California’s strict air pollution controls.
Itsailed through the Assembly with near unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats. State officials estimate that if just 7 per cent of trucks on California roads are soot-belching gliders, it would entirely offset the clean-air benefits of the state’s diesel regulations.
It’s a rare day in American politics when there is such widespread, bipartisan support for a pollution control measure. Science, reason and consensus are all on the side of closing the dirty truck loophole once and for all. And then there’s Pruitt on the other side.
Mack Trucks in the USA hopes that a new TV series featuring its trucks and a range of Mack drivers as its stars will captivate people’s attention when it debuts on the online TV portal Amazon Prime on June 19.
Mack Trucks hopes that the series RoadLifeTV will become a popular series across the globe when the first its eight-part documentary series debuts on Amazon Prime.
The series is aimed at giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at life on the road and will share the “stories of everyday men and women doing extraordinary things to keep the wheels turning and the world moving.
Some of those everyday people include a pair of female truck pioneers and an 8-year-old entrepreneur trying to save the world one recyclable at a time.
Others in the series are more well-known Mack partners, including Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, NASCAR legend Richard Petty and country artist Steve Moakler.
The RoadLife production team travelled more than 58,000 km over the course of close to five months capturing the stories featured in the series, including visits to 32 cities, including New York.
“We felt very strongly that these stories needed to be told, so our team hit the road and set out to tell them in a way that only a brand with 118 years of experience can,” John Walsh, Mack’s vice president of marketing, said in a news release.
In addition to highlighting the committed people in the trucking industry, RoadLifeTV represents yet another example of how Mack has repositioned its brand in recent years and ramped up its marketing efforts.
Those efforts have been particularly prevalent since the launch of the new Mack Anthem in September last year, which represents the opportunity for the company to grow its long-haul business.
Episodes of “RoadLifeTV” will be released weekly starting on 19 June and concluding on 7 August.
The series is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, though additional content will be available at http://roadlife.tv/. Viewers can respond to the series on social media, on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #RoadLife.