Rollin’ Coal… nothing more wild than driving down the highway blasting a little black smoke from 7 inch chrome stacks. There has been much debate in recent years as to the health and well being of general public. Rolling Coal itself is not illegal however as of July 2014 the EPA stated that any modifications that bypass or defeats or renders emission control systems is illegal. Older manual pre-emissions engines, without modern day emission systems, have been grandfathered in and thus street legal. All vehicles regardless of modifications must pass emissions requirements per the year they were manufactured.
The EPA is extremely serious about emissions enforcement. In 2013, manufacturer, Edge Products, LLC out of Odgen, Utah had to pay a $500,000 fine for selling electronic devices that allowed diesel owners of 2007 and later pickups to delete emissions equipment. The equipment known as diesel particulate filter delete kits (DPF Kits) are intended to remove emissions technology that further neutralizes carbon dioxide emissions and heavy soot before being expelled via the exhaust system. The EPA estimated that the illegal devices resulted in 158 tons of excess particulate matter being released into the atmosphere which is the equivalent of 422 long-haul semi trucks operating continuously for 29 years straight.
The State of Colorado has presented a bill to Governor John Hickenlooper this week allowing law enforcement to fine offenders $100+. The governor stated that “Coal rolling is a cruel cut to people with asthma or other respirator issues. We are well to be rid of it.”
The bill passed both the house and the senate and is expected to be signed into law in the next few days. The vote was shut down late in 2016 due to questionable wording. The language that needed to be revised claimed drivers who practiced rolling coal intended to harass other motorists and pedestrians. Senate Republicans worried that the language would pigeonhole a community of mostly rural voters. The city of Fort Collins specifically had issues with Rolling Coal on weekend nights while trucks like to cruise around the city. The city tried to prevent rolling coal by enacting anti-drag measure that would curtail excessive speed and power. However, Fort Collins police found it difficult to enforce and prove emissions issues on road side stops.
Rolling Coal exhaust is produced by making modification to a diesel vehicle. A smoke switch is installed which allows the engine to flood more diesel fuel into the combustion chamber than needed. The excess fuel is not completely burned off and produces larger soot particles. The switch tricks the ECM into thinking the engine needs more fuel.
Local diesel truck shops are mixed on the issue. Dana TePoel of Lake Arbor Automotive & Truck out of Westminster said they conducted 52 emissions tests last week and only 7 of them failed. TePoel stated, “’There is’ a good addition to the system of prevention and emissions testing that is already in place.” Only about 12 trucks that fail per year are from out of state, most simply do not know about the emissions laws in place in Colorado.
State Representative Joann Ginal D- Fort Collins spearheaded the initiative in 2016 after she attended a campaign event in Fort Collins for Hillary Clinton which featured her husband Bill Clinton as a guest speaker. Patrons attending the event who disagreed politically with the Clintons, blasted those in a line at with rolling coal soot from their trucks. A few days after the event Ginal was driving down the highway and was once again hit by a truck from Texas with rolling coal smoke. She believes her car was targeted due to her state lawmaker license plates. Ginal went on record saying that those responsible target electric cars like Toyota Priuses, motorcycles and pedestrians.
In addition to disturbing the well being of other drivers, diesel exhaust has been known to cause breathing and lung problems. Un-burned diesel particulate matter consists of very fine hydrocarbon chains. These compounds are made up of microscopic liquid droplets that are so small that they can bury themselves very deep in the lungs. Diesel exhaust is linked to respiratory problems, coughing, decreased lung capacity, difficultly breathing, COPD, asthma, allergic reactions, fatigue and premature death for people with aggravated lung and heart problems.
Those opposing the new legislation include Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. Sonnenberg stated that he opposed the bill and was concerned that the crackdown on rolling coal could lead to strict “California-Style” emissions for on-road and off-road trucks. He is worried that such strict bans would severely hurt Colorado’s construction, agriculture and oil industry.
It will be interesting to see if other states follow suit in the coming years. On the federal level the Trump administration expressed concerns with the overreach of the EPA and planned to streamline and roll back strict regulations.
Finley, Bruce. “Diesel Drivers Who Are “rolling Coal” in Colorado: Tune up or Pay up.” The Denver Post. The Denver Post, 22 May 2017. Web. 25 May 2017.
Westbrook, Justin T. “Colorado Ready To Explicitly Ban Rolling Coal After An Incredibly Stupid Debate.” Jalopnik. Jalopnik.com, 03 May 2017. Web. 25 May 2017.