Three Companies Charged With Emission Device Tampering
[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]
Federal authorities in Michigan have charged three companies — including a truckload carrier — and 11 individuals in an aftermarket scheme to disable the emissions control systems of hundreds of diesel semi-trucks.
Nearly all of the 11 individuals accused in the conspiracy to dismantle diesel emission-control devices have pleaded guilty in the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan.
Those charged for violating the federal Clean Air Act include the owner and various employees of Diesel Freak of Gaylord, and Accurate Truck Service and Griffin Transportation Inc., both of Grand Rapids.
Griffin provides dedicated truckload and logistics services to customers with dry van freight needs.
Prosecutors said Accurate Truck Service removed or altered the hardware components of vehicles with heavy-duty diesel engines, components that controlled the vehicles’ emissions. Diesel Freak reprogrammed the engine computers of the vehicles so they would continue to function even after the hardware was removed or altered.
Griffin Transportation’s former owner engaged Accurate Truck Service and Diesel Freak to “delete” trucks owned, operated or leased by the companies.
“This process is sometimes referred to as a ‘deletion,’ that is, deleting the emissions controls from the vehicle,” Mark Totten, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said in a statement. “Deleting emissions controls from the vehicles can improve performance and fuel economy and save maintenance costs.”
Prosecutors said tampering with or removing emission controls can drastically increase the emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and non-methane hydrocarbons found in vehicle exhaust.
“Exposure to and inhalation of these chemicals at greater levels is associated with serious health risks,” Totten said.
Chad Crotty of DDC FPO Solutions discusses how fleets handle outsourced business services. Tune in above or by going to RoadSigns.ttnews.com.
During the conspiracy, Diesel Freak was involved in at least 362 deletions, Accurate Truck Service in at least 83 deletions and Griffin Transportation in at least 12 deletions. Accurate Truck Service and Griffin Transportation have agreed to pay a combined $1 million fine. Diesel Freak has agreed to pay a $750,000 fine subject to defense arguments regarding inability to pay. Any fine is a part of the criminal sentence and ultimately within the discretion of the sentencing judge, prosecutors said.
The three companies and nearly all of the individuals charged have signed plea agreements indicating their intent to plead guilty to a felony information.
EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the matter with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Investigation Section.
Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info
The Clean Air Act requires vehicle and engine manufacturers to demonstrate that their products do not exceed applicable emission limits. It also prohibits anyone from manufacturing, offering for sale, selling or installing any part or component that bypasses or defeats emission controls.
Also, tampering, including installation of a defeat device, can void manufacturer warranties. Tampered vehicles and engines may not be covered by insurance policies, and states may prohibit the registration of tampered vehicles and engines.
“By illegally tampering with emissions controls on diesel trucks operating throughout the United States and Canada, defendants caused the excessive release of diesel exhaust containing toxic gases and impurities harmful to public health and the environment,” said Richard Conrad, acting special agent in charge of EPA’s CID. “This case highlights EPA and our law enforcement partners’ continued efforts to prosecute those who violate environmental and public health laws in the U.S. for financial gain.”