An environmental regulation may put 250 jobs at risk in Wayne County, Kentucky. The issue is a large truck called a glider, produced by combining a new cab and chassis with an older, rebuilt engine, as well as a transmission and usually a rear axle, from wrecked or worn-out trucks. Fitzgerald Glider Kits started in Pall Mall, Tennessee nearly 30 years ago. The company is now a $700 million company. Company officials says it has been assembling more than 3,000 vehicles annually in recent years, providing 700 jobs in northern Tennessee and Southern Kentucky and supporting thousands more at suppliers.
The company announced in March that it would make dump-truck beds at the former Belden Wire & Cable plant in Monticello, which closed because the company moved much of its production to Mexico. But now, those jobs and many others are in jeopardy because of a rule to reduce pollution from trucks.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently defined them as new trucks, meaning a glider with a 2017 cab and a 2005 engine would be classified as a 2017 model. That makes the vehicle subject to pollution limits for new trucks, but with an engine lacking new emission controls. Company officials told the government they would have to cut production by 90 percent by the end of 2018 under the rule. If that happens, mass layoffs could take place and would affect plans to open a factory in Monticello, Kentucky. The company is in its second round of layoffs and expects more.
Fitzgerald Glider Kits and other glider-makers petitioned EPA last July to repeal the emissions rule, saying that leaving it in place would devastate their industry. The companies argue that gliders don’t fit the definition of new vehicles because the most significant parts are not new, and that as a result the EPA shouldn’t apply the rule to them. Gliders cost about 25 percent less than trucks from original equipment manufacturers. Those completely new trucks reportedly can cost $150,000 or more. Gliders provide other economic and environmental benefits as well because they get better gas mileage than all-new trucks in many cases; extend the life of damaged vehicles; cost less to maintain and repair; and re-use thousands of pounds of steel in each vehicle, avoiding the need to cast new steel.
Two dozen members of Congress, including Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, whose district includes Wayne County, Kentucky sent a letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney on May 24 asking him to waive the regulatory analysis and let the repeal become effective right away.
There is a good deal of opposition to exempting the glider industry from the emission limits. A range of business and health interests have lined up against the repeal, including the National Association of Manufacturers; new-truck makers; the American Trucking Associations; United Parcel Service; the American Lung Association; an association of state clean-air regulators; and attorneys general from 12 states.
“Simply put, gliders are a pollution menace that, unless properly regulated, threaten to undermine the entire national program to reduce harmful emissions from heavy duty vehicles and engines,” the attorneys general told the EPA.