Gliding the Way Forward

What Exactly Is a Glider Kit?

A glider kit is a new truck without an engine or transmission. It has factory-installed, remanufactured rears. The term “glider” refers to the part that glides, without an engine and transmission. Think of a balsa wood glider or paper airplane. They are often called a glider since they aren’t motorized. 

With a glider kit, you buy the truck configuration that glides, and then put in the engine and transmission that still has miles to go. In essence, you’re building a new and reliable truck without the expense of a brand new one. However, it’s as close to new as you’re likely to find.

What comes from the factory is a glider kit. They retain the factory warranty on the cab and chassis for one year or 100,000 miles. Then different engine and transmission options may be selected and installed to render a new complete unit ready for action. 

The Economies of the Glide

Glider kits have been around for about half a century and are used in different applications. They may be used for highways trucks, or off-highway used for shorter hauls. Of course, the total cost of taking the glider kit option is less. While many may think it’s a patchwork of used, unreliable, depreciated components and parts, that’s not the case. 

Today’s glider kids are extremely reliable, like new, and allow perfectly good engines and drive trains to be repurposed. In the end, using them is a smart solution to asset ownership, at a lower purchase cost than a new truck. 

Glider Kits and Regulatory Authorities

According to the EPA, newly created gliders are considered new motor vehicles in reference to the Clean Air Act, even if they incorporate some previously used components. Under this framework, the EPA regulates glider kits as they would other incomplete, new, heavy-duty vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) deems completed glider vehicles to be new; however, not if they have a used transmission, engine, and drive axle, and at least two of those components are from the same donor vehicle. NHTSA considers completed gliders to be motor vehicles but does not consider glider kits to be motor vehicles, instead categorizing them as “motor vehicle equipment.”

Using a glider kit means salvaging a motor and transmission from elsewhere. Those components constitute as much as one fourth of the overall value of a new truck. This is significant for smaller fleets and independents. 

In addition to cost savings, the contours and rears that come with the glider kits may combine with low-roll resistant tires and other aerodynamic foils and styling to help the overall performance and fuel efficiency of the new truck created with a glider kit. The sum of these new parts and old parts produces an asset that may have better fuel efficiency than a brand-new rig. It also opens the possibility of finding salvage engines and parts that can be utilized that are near new and in great condition that can be combined into the glider kit and the new assembly.

All this is a boon that smaller fleet owners and independent operators could really benefit from. The upfront cost and outlay is less than a new truck, plus they reap the benefits of favorable operating costs. By some estimates, the total cost of a vehicle, using a glider kit and repurposed engine and transmission, can shave off 25 percent of what they’d pay from the manufacturer’s price of a brand-new vehicle. A fuel-efficient rebuild can boost the MPG to about 7 MPG or so. Plus, there’s less maintenance to worry about. But the big kicker is that lower upfront costs and operating costs mean more profit per haul.

There’s more to come in the months ahead. Much has been discussed by regulatory bodies, namely the EPA, regarding easing emission standards for glider kit manufacturers. But the message here is clear: glider kits are a viable and economical choice for truck owners and operators to consider in beefing up their asset ownership and their fleets, at a time when the demand for truck transport appears to be healthy. There’s plenty of upswing yet to come for trucking, and glider kits may just be a suitable way for supply to meet demand, now and into the future.