The EPA may be rolling back diesel emissions rules.
The EPA may be rolling back diesel emissions rules.

President Donald Trump and his newly appointed administration have made no secret of their disdain for federal regulations, particularly those set in motion during the previous eight years. Now that the president has released his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, it is becoming more clear how the new leadership in Washington plans to roll back many of the emissions requirements enacted under former President Barack Obama. However, it remains to be seen how this will impact the commercial trucking industry and similar laws put in place to curb diesel emissions.

Speaking to a crowd of auto workers at a former General Motors assembly plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, President Trump’s declaration was met with cheers.

“The assault on the American auto industry is over,” he said, according to The New York Times. “We want to be the car capital of the world again. And we will be.”

Two points of action are central to the Trump administration’s efforts to revive American factories, particularly the automotive industry. On the one hand, through budget cuts, legislation and executive mandates, the power of the Environmental Protection Agency will be dramatically reduced under current proposals. On the other hand, the administration has sought to impose new restrictions on foreign trade in an effort to encourage domestic manufacturing, and discourage or even punish labor outsourcing and material imports.

These measures ostensibly stand to exert the same effect on the trucking industry, one that is closely linked to commercial automobile manufacturing and has withstood similar challenges from emissions rules and trade deals. However, many in the industry have already petitioned the Trump administration to take a different approach.

Proactive trucking industry response

Overdrive Magazine reported March 7 that a number of trucking industry stakeholders, including the American Trucking Associations and engine manufacturers, issued a letter to new EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt advising him on expected regulatory changes. The letter urged the new EPA leadership to keep the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act in place, a request that runs contrary to the administration’s stated goals in the commercial car sector.

“We estimate that almost three out of five diesel trucks and buses on the road today are more than ten years old and emit much higher levels of emissions than the vehicles using today’s technology,” the letter stated, according to Overdrive. “Without a program like DERA, these older vehicles will stay on the road until they wear out, increasing emissions that could be significantly reduced if replaced with newer technology.”

The industry’s stance on emissions is very much a practical, economic one. Overdrive explained DERA not only promotes emissions reductions, but actually enables trucking manufacturers to improve their technology, ultimately resulting in reduced expenses for both producers and owners of commercial vehicles.

“It is a completely voluntary, merit-based program,” the trucking groups argued in the letter. “EPA estimates every $1 in federal assistance is met with another $3 in non-federal matching funds, including significant investments from the private sector,” the letter states. “EPA estimates equates to approximately $12.6 billion in health benefits — all this for an investment of only $700 million.”

Since DERA was initialized almost 12 years ago, the industry estimated 73,000 trucks have been upgraded or replaced under the program, cutting fuel consumption by some 450 million gallons over that time period. The letter also claimed DERA was passed with the help of “overwhelming bipartisan support” in Congress.

It remains to be seen if or how the new EPA leadership, or the Trump administration in general, will respond.