TORONTO, Ont. — Clean air comes at a cost, and it involves the
emissions-related changes to exhaust systems and engines, sometimes
introducing added maintenance costs and reduced fuel economy in the
That’s led to one of the trucking industry’s worst-kept dirty
secrets. Many truck owners are reprogramming electronic control modules
to bypass SCR (selective catalytic reduction) systems, which reduce
unwanted NOx by introducing diesel exhaust fluid to the combustion
Opacity tests help to spot issues with diesel particulate filters, but a focus on NOx is electronic.
Aside from causing environmental harm, the changes put compliant
carriers at a competitive disadvantage — and a growing number of
carriers are sounding the alarm.
“People know where the locations are that will alter emission
controls. And they know where to find them,” says Scott Tilley,
president of Oakville, Ont.-based Tandet Group. “Anybody that is
avoiding emissions controls is unfairly competing in the marketplace.
Their actions give them the opportunity to lower pricing and make the
same margins as what we might do with trucks that are properly running
Quebec Trucking Association (QTA), president and CEO Marc Cadieux
couldn’t agree more. “Knowing that we have people cheating the system
and avoiding maintenance and other operation costs by trickery gets
irritating,” he says.
They’re among the concerns that recently led the Canadian Trucking
Alliance to call on the Canadian Council of Motor Transport
Administrators (CCMTA) for a crackdown on emissions-related rules. And
the council, which includes regulators from across Canada, added the
topic to the agenda for its annual meeting scheduled June 3-6.
A crackdown isn’t without its challenges, though. Roadside inspectors
can use a regular opacity test to spot those who bypass a diesel
particulate filter. But the latest emissions-related changes have
focused on reducing invisible and odorless nitrogen oxides (NOx). The
only way to efficiently and quickly determine if an electronic control
module has been reprogrammed to bypass such rules is to use a scan tool –
similar to the way that inspectors in Ontario and Quebec check to see
if speed limiters are in place and in working order. Many enforcement
agencies in Canada still lack these devices.
Emissions-related inspections in certified shops become somewhat
obsolete in many provinces because related checklists focus on leaks
that could infiltrate the cab. Granted, Canada’s National Safety Code
requires that inspectors reject a truck if “there is evidence that any
part of the DPF or any related regeneration system has been bypassed,
defeated, disabled, improperly modified, removed or is missing”, but
that’s virtually impossible to spot without adequate tools.
Ontario’s Environment Ministry says it is “aware of the selective
catalytic reduction [SCR/urea] fraud situation.” Its officers are
equipped with the readers to check the systems as well.
Dealer service dilemma
Truck dealer service managers face a dilemma when a deleted trucks
show up at their shop for maintenance or repair. They have a business to
keep profitable, but fixing an illegally modified engine could lead to
trouble with the manufacturer and the law.
Today’s Trucking randomly called service managers representing three
different Class 8 brands in three different provinces. The consensus
seems to be that they will work on SCR-tampered trucks as long as it
doesn’t involve any engine-related tasks. Those who do accept work on a
tampered engine say they won’t touch the aftertreatment system because
of the illegal nature of deletions, and claim that customers are told
right from the start that engine work is unlikely to be covered by a
warranty because of the tampering.
Operational costs of non-compliance
Losing warranty coverage is the first issue that emissions cheaters
face. Some shops that modify these engines even publish disclaimers on
their websites where they clearly point out: “All product manufacturer
warranty claims must be performed by the customer through the product
Warranty coverage will likely be denied in the case of a claim on a
tampered engine. “We strongly discourage ECU tampering because attempts
to bypass the designed emissions systems can cause illegal
non-compliance with federal regulations, adversely affect performance,
and violate vehicle warranty, says John Moore, Volvo Trucks North
America’s product marketing manager – powertrain.
Darren Gosbee, vice-president powertrain and advanced engineering at
Navistar concurs. “By making untested or unvalidated changes, you’re
potentially risking the engine itself,” he says.
Cummins also insists on results that have been scientifically
validated. “We base all the reliability on our internal validation
that’s done on fully emissionized components,” says Clint Garrett, heavy
duty product manager. “The priority for the majority of customers in
North America is reliability, uptime.”
And uptime can be jeopardized by ECU tampering. The most common
problem would be derated engines when the electronics identify that
something is wrong in the programming.
“For example, if you chose to undo a temperature sensor, a NOx
sensor, a [particulate matter] sensor or even the DEF [diesel exhaust
fluid] injector — and if you just attempted to unplug them — the first
thing that would happen is the diagnostic system would recognize that
the system has been unplugged and you would go to the first level of
inducement,” says Gosbee. That first level is a light on the dash and a
significant loss of power. If the issue is left unattended, a de-rated
engine can lead to a truck crawling at less than 10 km/h.
Cummins’ Garrett also refers to loss of power when fault codes are
detected. “This derate can occur over a specific time interval or with
the key on/off cycle. Meaning, a driver could experience a significant
reduction in speed and an increased risk of downtime for the engine
system and vehicle,” he warns.
“The guys [SCR cheaters] risk doing more harm to themselves than to
help their business,” says Norbert Demers, president of Transport OSI, a
27-truck fleet headquartered in Bécancour, Qué. “Yet, I’m aware that an
owner-operator might not think the same way I do as a fleet owner and
Demers also points out that such illegal tampering can drastically
affect a truck’s resale value. “There’s no guarantee that it can be
reprogrammed back to standards with the fuel economy it’s supposed to
have,” he says.
Even when it’s possible to get a deleted truck back to legal
standards, the bill can be massive – in the $10,000-to-$15,000 range.
The regen module alone – combining the DPF and Diesel Oxidation Catalyst
– would cost $6,000 to $7,000. Add to that the cost of a brand new ECU
if the tampering involved amateur welding that damaged the circuitry.
Those numbers are consistent with what’s been observed in Europe. In
its March 9, 2018 issue, the French trucking magazine Transport Info
evaluated the cost of such repairs at about $10,500. That’s without
counting the revenue losses caused by the truck being stuck in the shop
for its “emissions redemption”.
There are also less-tangible costs, such the threat of losing a
customer who doesn’t want to work with a carrier known for environmental
Heavy fines, surprise visits, jail time
Currently in Quebec, tampering with anti-pollution systems can result
in fines ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 for an individual, and up to
$600,000 for a commercial business. “Enough to shut down a company,”
says QTA’s Cadieux.
Ontario’s Environment Ministry says its officers conduct
“unannounced, risk-based inspections” of heavy-duty diesel shops across
the province. “Officers review and examine the maintenance and repair
records of the vehicles to determine environmental compliance. Officers
also work to ensure the shops have procedures in place to identify,
record, and remedy any vehicle emission issues,” a spokesperson said.
Penalties are severe in Ontario, too. Individuals face fines up to
$50,000 for an initial offence and up to $100,000 plus a year in jail
for subsequent offences. Corporations are subject to fines up to
$250,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for subsequent offences.
For more-serious offences, such as the provision of false or misleading
information, individuals face fines from $5,000 to $4 million and up to
five years jail for an initial offence; corporations are subject to
fines from $25,000 to $6 million for a first offence. As well, corporate
directors can also be held responsible for actions of the corporation
for certain offences.
Isn’t that punishment too severe for an average owner-operator or
small fleet that’s simply struggling to making ends meet? Tandet’s
Tilley doesn’t think so.
“That’s suggesting that, if somebody who’s having a hard time making
ends meet because they’ve got bills, it’s OK if they go rob their
groceries from the grocery store,” he says. “It’s still illegal. They
are removing components that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions and particulates into the air. The country has determined that
that is the law and they’re breaking the law.”
Source of article click here : Today's Trucking