OOIDA, oil industry join spate of lawsuits against EPA over Phase 3 regs

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, June 18, 2024:

New suit takes aim at EPA over 'misguided environmental mandates' in Phase 3 GHG regs

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and other groups Tuesday filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against the Environmental Protection Agency over its Phase 3 Greenhouse Gas regulations for heavy-duty trucks.

The lawsuit was filed in D.C. by the American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents the oil and gas industry, with co-petitioners OOIDA, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Corn Growers Association. It’s another in a growing list of lawsuits filed by trucking groups over the latest Phase 3 greenhouse-gas emissions regs from EPA, set to mandate a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions over the years ahead.

A group of 24 state attorneys general, the Western States Trucking Association, and the Arizona Trucking Association and members of the state’s legislature have all sued EPA over the rule.

“Today, we are standing up for consumers who rely on trucks to deliver the goods they use every single day,” said API Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ryan Meyers. “The EPA is forcing a switch to technology that simply does not presently exist for these kinds of vehicles -- and even if it were someday possible, it will almost certainly have consequences for your average American. This is sadly yet another example of this administration pushing unpopular policy mandates that lack statutory authority, and we look forward to holding them accountable in court.”

OOIDA President Todd Spencer called EPA’s regulation “unworkable,” adding that the Phase 3 rule “would devastate the reliability of America’s supply chain and ultimately increase costs for consumers. Mom and pop trucking businesses would be suffocated by the sheer cost and operational challenges of effectively mandating zero emission trucks, but this administration appears intent on forcing through its deluge of misguided environmental mandates.”

API’s lawsuit says EPA’s rule “exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and is otherwise arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.”

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The groups seek to have the court declare EPA’s rule unlawful and vacate it. 

[Related: Calstart petitions to back EPA in lawsuits over latest heavy-truck regs]

Tennessee trucking company owner charged with bevy of fraud violations

Police in Franklin, Tennessee, are seeking additional information from the public on a trucking company owner who was recently indicted on a slew of charges. The charges stem from allegedly stealing a former employee's identity and using it to make financial arrangements.

Adam BrockAdam BrockAdam Brock, 38, was the owner and operator of several trucking and transportation companies in middle Tennessee, including Reliable Transportation LLC -- listed in FMCSA’s Safer database as an out-of-service 15-truck carrier. The company had its authority involuntarily revoked as of April 22, 2024, then effective last month.

The Franklin Police Department said Brock also operated another company out of Franklin called Active Transport LLC. He was also allegedly associated with other businesses that have operated in middle Tennessee, including Star Express LLC, Tennessee Logistics LLC, Pat’s Transportation LLC, Brock Transport LLC, and Broadway Limousine LLC.

Brock was indicted on the following charges:

  • Forgery over $10,000
  • Three counts of identity theft
  • Computer offenses over $10,000
  • Theft over $10,000
  • Forgery over $60,000
  • Computer offenses over $60,000
  • Theft over $60,000

He was indicted by a Williamson County Grand Jury on June 10. Following his arrest, he posted a $50,000 bond.

Detective Matthew Thompson with the Franklin Police Department said Brock is alleged to have stolen "one of his now former employees' identities and used that identity to enter into several financial agreements without the employee’s consent." Franklin PD made the case public, he said, because as he investigated, he "realized that there may be more fraudulent activity yet to be discovered, and I wanted to reach out to people who may have worked with Mr. Brock to bring any other fraud to light."

The Franklin PD said It’s possible there are witnesses or co-workers (partners) involved in Brock’s previous businesses that may have knowledge of this case or other cases that may be related to this investigation.

Anyone with information related to this investigation is encouraged to contact Detective Matthew Thompson at [email protected].

[Related: Fleet owner pleads guilty to reincarnating carriers, loan fraud]

FMCSA renews under-21 exemption for U.S. Custom Harvesters

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has renewed an exemption that removes U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. (USCHI) from the intrastate restriction for under-21 drivers.

FMCSA’s regulations currently provide an exception to the minimum age requirements for drivers of commercial motor vehicles engaged in custom harvesting operations in interstate commerce. However, under the agency’s CDL regulations, states can impose an intrastate-only (or “K”) restriction for these drivers.

On Oct. 11, 2023, FMCSA announced its decision to provisionally renew USCHI’s exemption for two years, pending a review of any comments received in response to that notice. After reviewing the four comments submitted to the docket, FMCSA said it believes that drivers who qualify for the exemption will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be achieved by complying with the “K” restriction.

The exemption was originally granted in October 2018, which FMCSA noted “did not require any special action or processing” by the states who would continue to place the “K” restriction when called for. Enforcement officers would simply disregard it in situations involving drivers who can demonstrate eligibility for the custom harvester exemption.

In requesting its renewal, USCHI said that it frequently employs drivers under the age of 21 who are issued CDLs with the “K” restriction, adding that, despite the exemption, “they are frequently cited during roadside inspections because of the presence of the ‘K’ restriction on their licenses. USCHI states that this issue negatively impacts the safety records of drivers and employers.”

With the renewal of the waiver, which is effective through Oct. 3, 2025, custom harvester drivers under the age of 21 will be able to display the exemption notice “to help explain that when operating in that capacity, they are permitted to operate outside the state issuing their CDL even though the license has a ‘K’ (intrastate only) restriction.”

To ensure drivers are legitimately operating as a custom harvester, they must provide at least three of the methods of verification found here.

Alaska requests renewal of waiver for entry-level training relief

The state of Alaska is requesting the renewal of a waiver 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. The state currently holds an exemption through Dec. 30, 2024.

In its original request, Alaska petitioned for an exemption from the portion of the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) curriculum that requires an applicant to demonstrate proficiency in proper techniques for initiating vehicle movement, executing left and right turns, changing lanes, navigating curves at speed, entry and exit on the interstate or controlled-access highway, and stopping the vehicle in a controlled manner. The state said complying with that requirement would “have devastating impacts on rural Alaska’s movement of produce, prescriptions, people, and other goods.”

Drivers who receive a restricted CDL under the provisions of the exemption under this exemption may not operate outside of the 14 defined geographic areas.

FMCSA is requesting comments on the renewal request, which can be filed here through July 18.

[Related: 'Entry level' truck driver training: With new regs looming, old-school training ways survive]