Tech-backed study faces national media scrutiny

Tom Brewer speaks in early August announcing the creation of the Center for Intelligent Mobility

Articles by the Washington Post and the International Council on Clean Transportation criticize a study on emission standards of the trucking industry from Tennessee Tech’s Center for Intelligent Mobility, sponsored by Fitzgerald Glider Kits, a trucking company.

“Our legal and communications staff are dealing with it. I’m not at liberty to say anything but I know there are a lot of people poking at the data but I know it to be legitimate,” Tom Brewer, head of the Center for Intelligent Mobility, said.

Fitzgerald Glider Kits approached Tech in 2016 to conduct a study on Phase 2 of the EPA’s Clean Air Act, which claimed that the older model trucks equipped with glider kits did not meet emissions standards.

Tech’s study conducted by Benjamin Mohr, the Civil and Environmental Engineering chair, and an unnamed graduate student claimed to show the emissions from older-model trucks equipped with glider kits performed equally as well, and in some cases better, when compared to newer models. Mohr could not be reached for comment.

“Tennessee Tech’s own description of their lab makes it clear that they are not anywhere close to being equipped to follow certified emissions testing protocols that have been in place for decades,” according to the report from the ICCT.

The other criticism behind the study is the Tech Center for Intelligent Mobility is soon to be housed in a new facility built by Fitzgerald. This has led some to claim the data is biased. However, Tech administration disagrees. 

“The research proposal and completion of its first phase was before there was any discussion about housing the Tennessee Tech Center for Intelligent Mobility,” Dewayne Wright, senior director of communications and marketing, said.

This type of criticism has become common under the leadership of the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt, as he has scaled back environmental protections while working with industries known for their fossil fuel emissions, such as coal and oil. Pruitt has also criticized the agency’s work on climate science.