Ticket to Glide
There comes a time when government regulation creates a crisis with the practicality of day to day life. This has been plainly seen the last nine years when new federal environmental regulations were created to control emissions from commercial vehicles. In response, a whole new market for an old product crept into the industry – glider kits. Their future though has been curtailed by new legislation and regulation.
What’s a glider kit? No it’s not a Styrofoam airplane with a 16d nail in the front. No, it’s not a balsa wood airplane either. In the world of trucks, a glider kit is manufactured by a third-party company. The kit typically includes a new chassis, cab, wiring and a steer axle. It’s a vehicle without a power-train.
The glider kit does not include the power-train components including the engine, transmission or rear axle. These components are what truly define the truck. The engine is what is being regulated so heavily (in terms of emissions) which has driven the glider kit bonanza.
Why would a person want a glider kit? Why not buy a new truck? The emissions regulations are to blame. Prior to 2008, the emissions regulations on trucks were much less disruptive than they are now. Like any new regulation, the user costs to compliance were expensive.
Not only did the new emissions regulations drive up the cost of new trucks, the technology which made the environmental controls possible were unreliable at best. Much time and money has been spent by industry at roadside with breakdowns and regeneration. This does not account for the increase in required fuel additives like DEF.
There is consensus among the industry the emissions technology in new trucks has improved over the last nine years, but the cost associated with it has not decreased. Like many industries, trucking is cut-throat and every penny counts. Carriers who need to purchase new tractors at the higher costs are at a competitive disadvantage to those running with grandfathered vehicles.
Trucks wear out though. After a million miles, a truck may need or an overhaul or be replaced entirely. The cost of these new trucks has priced carriers right out of business. Glider kits, however, have been an attractive way to get the best of both worlds.
Instead of buying a new truck and all the fancy green technology, a carrier can remove the power-train components, rebuild them and then install them on a new chassis, cab and steer axle. By keeping the old power-train, the vehicle did an end-run around the emissions regulations.
Glider kits have been around for ages, but the new revolution increased their quality, reliability and desirability. It was too good to be true. Government stuck their nose into the market. No regulation would be worth its salt if it couldn’t be amended to catch them scofflaws who have found a loophole. The benefit to the glider kit was the carrier could use the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the engine to register the rebuilt vehicle.
Therefore, if the owner had a 1997 Peterbilt prior to the glider kit, he still had a 1997 Peterbilt afterwards. Bam! Grandfathered into the old emissions regulations in a shiny new ride at a fraction of the cost of a new truck.
No dice. In fairness, glider kits do create a maze of problems for law enforcement trying to track down stolen vehicles and parts. Having a vehicle with multiple VINs makes the investigatory process difficult.
In late summer 2016, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation (PA 99-0748) to control the use of glider kits. While glider kits are still lawful and a valid alternative to purchasing new trucks, how the vehicle is titled and registered has done an about-face.
Since the inception of this new law, if an owner uses a glider kit, the vehicle must be inspected by the Secretary of State to obtain title and registration. The power-train components are then re-tagged with the VIN of the glider kit chassis, not the engine. In other words, if the owner rebuilt the engine in his 1997 Peterbilt and reinstalled it on a 2017 glider kit chassis, it’s now a 2017 model year vehicle.
Welcome back environmental regulations. Oh, and don’t forget, after the year 2021, all glider kits must be equipped with model year compliant engines under federal law. This means if the driver operating the vehicle is required to keep log books for hours of service, the vehicle must be equipped with an electronic logging device (ELD).
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