Regulators Crack Down on Illegal Diesel Emissions-Control Equipment

November 21, 2018 by Susan Carpenter, @CarpenterWheels

The trucking industry is turning to used, sometimes illegal, diesel particulate filters to shave the cost of an often expensive regulation.

California’s Air Resources Board fined a Chicago-based auto-parts dealer $294,000 in October for selling used filters, or DPFs, which are illegal in the state. That penalty follows a probe last year involving a repair shop in Fresno that was caught selling and installing illegal parts and sparked the ARB to investigate multiple other diesel repair shops in California’s Central Valley.

The Environmental Protection Agency began requiring new heavy-duty trucks to use DPFs in 2007. The filters can reduce particulate-matter emissions by as much as 90 percent.

A typical DPF installation costs $10,000 to $20,000 when purchased new. That’s one of the reasons why less costly used filters are becoming a problem for air regulators. Preowned filters often cost as little as $3,000 to $5,000, according to the Air Resources Board.

“We’re finding an increased number of fleets installing used DPFs,” said Heather Quiros, chief of the California ARB Diesel Programs Enforcement Branch.

California is the toughest state when it comes to regulating diesel emissions. Twenty years ago, the state identified diesel particulates as toxic air contaminants that can cause cancer and other health problems, and set in place various regulations to control them.

It is the only state that requires older heavy-duty diesel vehicles to install DPFs. Additionally, California law allows for heavy-duty vehicles traveling in the state to be tested for excessive smoke and emissions tampering at border crossings, weigh stations or randomly selected roadside locations.

But it isn’t alone. Like California, New Jersey, in an effort to “stop the soot,” also prohibits the removal or alteration of emissions control equipment. Last year, its Department of Environmental Protection issued an enforcement alert to notify heavy-duty vehicle owners, operators and repair facilities that violations of New Jersey’s anti-tampering law could be subject to a $30,000 fine. The New Jersey DEP issued notices of violation to three companies as a result, and two of them have agreed to remedy the violations.

This used diesel particulate filter was part of an investigation at a repair shop in California. Used DPFs such as this one are illegal in the state. (Photo: California Air Resources Board)

The responsibility for certifying that new vehicles meet emissions standards is primarily on vehicle and equipment makers. However, individual states and municipalities often have their own regulations that require owners and operators maintain their vehicles to a certain standard and use inspections to verify they have done so.

While many states do not require any emissions testing, several require heavy-duty diesel trucks to undergo routine opacity checks that measure the amount of smoke coming from the vehicles. Poorly maintained vehicles often generate excessive smoke. Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and Washington all have laws that test for visible smoke on heavy-duty diesel vehicles.

California, however, since April 2017 has been only state that prohibits the sale and installation of used DPFs, in part because “if it’s used, the condition of that filter will vary depending on how it was used,” Quiros said.

It’s simply too cost-prohibitive for the state to individually test each used DPF, Quiros said, so “you have no idea the condition of the filter – if it’s compatible with your engine.”

If it isn’t compatible, it could damage a truck’s engine, as well as increase air pollution. DPFs need to be matched to an engine’s duty cycle to work properly. And they also need to be properly maintained.

When properly taken care of, a DPF should last the a truck’s life span – up to 10 years, according to the EPA. But proper maintenance can be an issue, shortening a DPF’s life span and leading some truck owners to unauthorized, often shoddy, replacements that, while less expensive, may not work.

“If a deal seems too good to be true,” the ARB said in a statement, “it probably is.”

Read Next: California Plans $415 Million to Fund Clean Trucks, Freight Handling

3 Responses

  1. khalil hocker

    ‪with the newer DEF and DPF emissions parts on these trucks, i wanted to get a 2019 ford f250 with the 6.7l power stroke or 2019 ram 2500 with the 6.7l cummins, i don’t know much about diesel, how would these trucks do as a daily driver/short trip truck, (no deletes) no towing or hauling, 6 miles to work and 6 miles back home? a grocery getter. long trip once a year‬. i just want a big truck with a diesel engine. P.S i don’t care about the mpg or the cost of diesel fuel.

    • Rocco Catallo

      Diesel engines are great IF you are using them for heavy loads or long distance. The particulate filter this article is talking about is on all new engines and if the engine is not operated long enough to get that filter to proper temperature (900 to 1000 degrees F) The filter will plug. Most school buses have this issue and their filters have to be removed and sent for cleaning at about $300-$500^ usually about once a year. Another problem is idiling, people think you can idle a diesel forever and not bother it Grandpa’s diesel could but today that DPF will plug and Quickly, another $300-500 cleaning. You can only clean it 5-7 times and then it’s $3000-$5000 for a new one. Thats if the engine has no internal problem, leaking injector, oil from turbo. I suggest you look at a Gasoline equivalent.

  2. Thomas Ryan

    I brought a 2012 F 250 with a diesel engine from a dealership and found out later that the “tune” they told me about eliminated the def tank. They mislead me in the sale, as I asked specifically about the vehicle needing the DEF and I was shown where the fluid went into the tank, and believing that it was emissions compliant, ( I don’t know much about diesels except they get good mileage when towing a camper), so I purchased the vehicle. After a few days driving and noticing the DEF tank level indicator wasn’t going down, I checked with a friend who knows diesels and he looked at the truck and told me that the deff tank was removed and I could never get the vehicle inspected. I purchased the vehicle as is because I was lead to believe For Motor Co wouldn’t warrantee the vehicle. I purchased A SEPERATE VEHICLE WARRENTEE, BUT WAS NEVER TOLD THE VEHICLE WAS NO COMPLIANT WITH FEDERAL EMISSIONS AT THE TIME OF THE SALE, EVEN THOUGH I ENQUIRED ABOUT THE DEF. Do I have any recourse and how much trouble is the dealership in for selling me a non compliant emissions vehicle?


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