A few years ago I dove into our industry’s rabbit hole to Wonderland with a five-part special report on the hazards of emissions tampering for commercial truck dealers.
It was an eye-opening topic to research and report on, and after completing the article I was contacted by multiple industry groups to report my findings and what I had learned.
One of those groups was the Used Truck Association (UTA), and in 2014 I made my first trip to the UTA annual convention to provide a brief update to our industry on the legal risks and liability for commercial dealers when encountering emissions tampering.
I provided several questions and answered a lot of questions that week, but in a few cases I do remember questions being posed where I was forced to defer to the people in charge, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“You’d have to confirm that with the EPA,” I remember saying.
On Thursday, the UTA did just that, welcoming Evan Belser of the EPA’s Vehicle and Engine Enforcement Branch to speak at the organization’s 2017 annual convention in Las Vegas.
During a brief presentation and maybe the most active Q&A I’ve ever experienced at a truck show, Belzer provided a ton of useful (and updated) information to the dealer market.
Some key takeaways were:
- The fines are going up. Since writing my special report the max fine for an OEM or dealer is now $45,268 per violative vehicle or engine. Individual and vehicle owner rates have risen accordingly.
- Dealers will not be fined by the Federal government for selling a tampered vehicle. This is a big one. If a dealer accepts a truck on trade and uncovers it to be tampered with, there is no Federal rule that prohibits that vehicle being turned around and sold. That said, the lack of a Federal law doesn’t prohibit states from fining such a sale, and Belser mentions Texas in particular as a state where dealers will be fined for selling a tampered truck.
- You cannot uninstall emission systems to export a vehicle. Belzer says removing emission systems is illegal regardless of where the truck will be driven, so even if you have a customer in Mexico who wants the truck without the emission systems, it is illegal for you to uninstall them before moving the truck.
- You can alter an after treatment and emission component when there is a ‘reasonable basis’ to believe your actions do not increase emissions. Belser uses recalibrating an ECM as an example. If the emission system performance is unchanged or not reduced, changes are allowed under Federal law.
- You will not be fined for servicing a tampered vehicle if you aren’t servicing the engine or after treatment system. It is once you start service in those areas, you are required to bring the unit to compliance.
- Maybe most important, the EPA isn’t out to get YOU. Belser says the goal is to identify manufacturers and suppliers of tampering and defeat device programs. The organization has the ability to fine dealers if need be, but its overall goal is to ensure all vehicles are in compliance, and eliminating suppliers building products that lead to non-compliance.