Update for US OEMs subject to California’s Phase 2 GHG trailer requirements

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is suspending its enforcement of the California GHG trailer standards for a period of two years (2020-2021) following uncertainty presented by multiple circumstances.

These circumstances include the stay of federal standards, the current abeyance in the DC Circuit litigation, the delay in reconsideration by federal agencies, the uncertainty concerning the characterisation of trailers as new motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act and the imminence of the 1 January 2020 effective date if the California trailer standards.

CARB said the suspension of enforcement will, at a minimum, be in effect for model year 2020 and 2021 trailers manufactured before 1 January 2022. CARB will provide regulated entities at least six months written notice before it commences enforcing the GHG trailer standards.

CARB will continue to process and approve applications to certify 2020 and subsequent model year trailers on a voluntary basis to assist both trailer and equipment manufacturers seeking to comply with the trailer requirements in future model years.

On 25 October 2016, the US EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finalised a regulation that established federal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards and fuel economy standards from medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles. The US EPA's and NHTSA's regulations are collectively referred to as the federal Phase 2 GHG regulation.

CARB staff collaborated with EPA and NHTSA staff in developing the federal the federal GHG emission standards to ensure that the federal standards and adopted California standards would allows affected manufacturers to build a single set of engines and vehicles to serve the entire nation.

The federal phase 2 GHG regulation established federal GHG emission standards and fuel economy requirements for new box-type trailers, and certain non-box trailers hauled by heavy-duty prime movers on US highways. Those requirements include performance standards for box-type trailers which manufacturers can meet by equipping such trailers with aerodynamic features that reduce aerodynamic drag, low rolling resistance tyres, tyre pressure monitoring systems and weight reduction measures. These requirements specify design standards for non-box trailers that only require those trailers to be equipped with low rolling resistance tyres and tyre pressure monitoring systems.

On 27 September 2018, CARB approved for adoption the California Phase 2 GHG regulation. That regulation, according to CARB, largely aligns California's GHG emission standards and test procedures with the federal Phase 2 GHG emission standards and test procedures, and provides nationwide consistency for engine and vehicle manufacturers. The California Phase 2 GHG regulation establishes requirements for 2020 and later model year new trailers sold in California that are largely identical to the federal GHG emission standards for trailers.

Subsequent to the adoption of the federal Phase 2 GHG regulation, association representing trailer manufacturers, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA), filed a petition for review with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the federal Phase 2 GHG regulation on the grounds that it is in excess of the agencies' statutory authority.

On 27 October 2017, the court granted TTMA a stay of EPA's trailer standards. Consequently, EPA is currently precluded from enforcing the federal Phase 2 GHG regulation's requirements applicable to trailers. The court also put the case in abeyance, pending EPA and NHTSA's reconsideration of their respective trailer standards. Neither agency has initiated a reconsideration proceeding at this time. One of the main issues in the case is whether trailers are 'new motor vehicles' that EPA may regulate under the Clean Air Act.

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