Freightliner Plans New Line, New Air Permit

Mount Holly’s Freightliner truck plant expects to replace an e-coating line in the coming years, although parent company Daimler Trucks North America said it doesn’t expect to add jobs as a result.

A legal advertisement submitted to The Gazette on Monday calls the project an expansion.

In the notice, Freightliner announced the company’s intention to begin construction prior to receiving a state air-quality permit for the new line.

For projects that require air quality permits, North Carolina law allows some construction before the permit is granted. In this case, Freightliner is modifying an operation for which it already has state permission to release pollutants. That means the plant can start the work so long as the pollution released doesn’t change until after a permit is granted.

The project, set to take until 2015 to complete, will require Freightliner to shut down its existing e-coating line.

Around 20 people, 10 on each of two shifts, operate the equipment that will be replaced at the Freightliner truck plant.

What is e-coating?

E-coating, sometimes called electrocoating, is a process by which an electric charge bonds paint to metal after the metals is dipped into a vat.

In Mount Holly, the technique is used for the primer on truck cabs before robots apply the top coat.

While the Freightliner operation apparently requires a permit from the state Division of Air Quality, the e-coating method is lauded as environmentally friendly by the industry because it produces fewer pollutants than spraying metal with paint.

A Freightliner spokeswoman said emissions of “volatile organic compounds,” or gases that can have short- and long-term adverse health effects, have decreased every year since 1984 at the Mount Holly plant.

Yearly missions from the new line are expected to include:

– 11 tons of volatile organic compounds

– 3.76 tons tons of other hazardous air pollutants

The public has the opportunity to comment on the project by writing the N.C. Division of Air Quality Air Permits Section Chief Donald R. van der Vaart at 1641 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699.

Mount Holly’s Freightliner truck plant has been adding jobs for more than a year as truck sales continue to rebound.

The factory now has around 1,560 employees, including shop workers, management and administrative staff. That is more than in mid-2007 before the beginning of the Great Recession.

A year ago, Freightliner in Mount Holly had 940 employees.