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SPECIAL REPORT: Investigation finds widespread tampering of emissions systems


TORONTO, Ont. — An investigation by our sister publication Truck News has found that engine tampering to defeat emissions controls mandated on new trucks over the past decade is widespread and easily attainable.

Frequently advertised as DPF Delete or EGR Delete kits, service providers offer to remove the emissions-reducing devices and then reprogram the engine for better performance at a cost of thousands of dollars, which shops claim will quickly be recovered through improved fuel economy and reliability. The procedure, however, effectively reverses the environmental gains resulting from the advent of EGR and DPF systems introduced in 2002 and 2007 respectively, and essentially restores the vehicle to EPA02 pollution levels.

An EPA02 engine had a regulated output of 2.5 grams NOx and 0.1 grams per brake horsepower hour of particulate matter. The current EPA10 limits are 0.2 grams NOx and 0.01 grams of particulate matter. That means an EPA10 engine is 12.5 times and 10 times cleaner than an EPA02 engine in terms of NOx and PM emissions, respectively.

In the US, there is enforcement at both the federal and state levels, which would impose massive fines on companies providing EGR/DPF Delete services or the operators who have the work done to their trucks.

Need proof of enforcement? Look no further than a $500,000 fine levied by EPA in January against Edge Products, an American company that sold more than 9,000 devices allowing owners of model year 2007 or later diesel pick-up trucks to operate without their factory-installed diesel particulate filters.

“The Department of Justice will continue to vigilantly protect America’s health and environment through the enforcement of the Clean Air Act standards governing emissions from vehicles and engines,” Ignacia Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced in a press release, clearly intended to scare providers of such services. “This settlement holds Edge Products accountable for selling devices that allow consumers to disable the emission controls on their vehicles by requiring the company to pay a penalty, buy back the devices, and perform a project to offset the air pollution resulting from the Clean Air Act violations.”

Here in Canada, however, the feds and provinces have, until recently, been at loggerheads just to determine who should be enforcing clean diesel regulations. The recent consensus was that the provinces are responsible, but enforcement to date has been non-existent. This black hole of enforcement has spawned the creation of a rapidly growing underground – and in some cases, not so underground – industry, which is profiting at the expense of the environment.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is calling on the provinces to begin enforcing anti-tampering laws and would like to see the feds do their part as well.

“The issue here from a CTA perspective is two-fold. One, this is an image issue for our industry. It has come with a heavy cost, but we now have smog-free, near zero emissions engines,” Stephen Laskowski, vice-president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance told Truck News. “There are societal benefits to that and image benefits over time. If we’ve made that investment, we’re all forced to make that investment. The second aspect of that is a competitive playing field. If we are all using these engines, and these engines come with fuel efficiency restraints, if the restraints are shared by everyone, then that’s the reality of the sector. What we don’t want to have is folks who not only ruin the image of our industry but also compete with a tractor that’s more efficient because he’s tampered with his engine. You can’t have an economic advantage by going to a lawless carrier.”

The way the laws are currently written, Environment Canada relinquishes its authority over the vehicle once it’s manufactured to federal standards and delivered to the dealer or end user.

“It’s then left to the provinces to enforce,” Laskowski said. “We would ask: why wouldn’t you have joint federal penalties along with the provincial penalties for these types of offenses to discourage it even more? That’s an issue we’re raising in Ottawa. In the States, the EPA has tampering rules and they have state laws as well, but you face significant penalties in the US from the EPA when you tamper with emissions devices and you’re caught. We don’t have that federal penalty hanging over people, and we ask why not?”

The CTA is calling on provinces to go after the shops that are providing the service.

“The CTA’s position is this: let’s not go on a witch hunt at the scales throughout Canada, lifting up hoods and looking for things. Go after the guys that are offering this service and shut them down,” he said.

To find out just how prevalent and attainable these services are, Truck News’ on-road editor Harry Rudolfs conducted an investigation, calling numerous shops across Canada under the guise of an owner/operator or small fleet owner. He found many service providers openly advertising their services online. Some admitted the practice was illegal, others were of the opinion it’s legal in Canada and still others admitted they were “bending the rules.” The inconsistencies should not come as a surprise, given the lack of clarity from Ottawa.

With no more effort than a Google search and a couple of phone calls, Rudolfs found shops locally and across Canada willing to provide the service. Others provided referrals for shops that would do the job, revealing a broad network of well-connected service providers. Rudolfs also came across shop owners who refused to engage in the “unethical” procedure. (You can read about Rudolfs’ investigation on Trucknews.com Tuesday). The inconsistencies in how the laws are interpreted, even by those performing the services, are understandable.

We polled government officials in Ontario and Alberta to get an idea of the level of enforcement that exists. In Ontario, the Ministry of Transportation referred our questions to the Ministry of the Environment.

Kate Jordan, spokesperson with the communications branch of the MoE, said “All vehicles must have the emission components that they came with from the manufacturer and these must be connected and in proper working condition. If a vehicle is found to be out of compliance with the ministry’s requirements, enforcement action is taken.”

Jordan said the MoE can issue warnings, tickets, summons and orders to the drivers and owners of the vehicles, and can even go so far as to seize licence plates and remove the trucks from the road. She said Ontario’s Drive Clean program, which requires trucks seven years of age and older to be tested for emissions every two years, should identify any trucks that have had their emissions systems modified.

However, the scofflaw garage owners Rudolfs spoke to boasted of their ability to delete the EGR/DPF systems and still pass the opacity tests conducted through Drive Clean.

In Alberta, installing a DPF delete kit itself is not a regulatory offence, according to Alberta Transportation spokesperson and public affairs officer Trent Bancarz. However, the annual Commercial Vehicle Inspection Program (CVIP) inspections conducted on all large trucks do require an OEM or equivalent exhaust system.

“This CVIP criteria comes from the National Safety Code Standard 11B, which all provinces have adopted,” he said. “If the only thing a vehicle owner has done is have a DPF Delete kit installed, then the vehicle should fail a CVIP inspection. The 11B criteria is being reviewed currently. It is expected the criteria pertaining to emission systems will be clearer, and a DPF Delete kit or removing emission systems wi
ll be a clear reject criteria. When the 11B is updated, a commercial truck with a DPF Delete kit will not pass an Alberta CVIP inspection.”

This could spell trouble for owner/operators or fleet owners who’ve had such work done to their trucks. Reversing the process would also require purchasing a new particulate filter, which costs thousands of dollars on its own. (In some cases, the DPF is removed from the truck, but more often, it’s hollowed out so the truck appears to be in compliance during visual inspections. The hollowing out of a DPF renders it completely ineffective). It’s possible many drivers will be stuck with trucks they can no longer certify under the CVIP, without a costly reversal of the work they paid so dearly to have done.

All indications are that increased enforcement of the regulations is coming at the provincial level. Truck News learned the issue was discussed during a recent Canadian Canadian Council of the Ministers of Environment meeting. A crackdown could be imminent, putting an end to the service offerings or driving providers further underground.

OEMs, also, strongly advise against the practice.

Lou Wenzler, technical sales support director with Cummins, said it’s difficult to tell how widespread the issue of engine tampering is. However, he said “Cummins does not condone tampering with our products in any capacity at any time during the product’s life.”

Wenzler said Cummins has a corporate policy preventing its own distributors from engaging in the activity, and added “Cummins’ warranty policy specifically states that any failures caused by incorrect engine modifications are not covered by Cummins. Tampering with or disabling emissions control devices may also impact repair times.”

Wenzler suggested prospective buyers of used trucks that may have had their emissions systems modified should have those trucks first inspected by an authorized service location. Like Wenzler, Canadian officials have had difficulty ascertaining the reach of such practices. CTA’s Laskowski said: “There’s a smorgasbord as to what can be done out there. The degree to which people are taking advantage of it is unknown, but there are various creative garages doing various creative things to the environmental equipment in pursuit of improved fuel efficiency.”

Rudolfs’ unprecedented investigation, appearing in the April issues of Truck News and Truck West and on Trucknews.com , paints a clearer picture of just how widespread and easily attainable these services are in Canada.