voluntary program to upgrade pollution control software on some diesel trucks
operating in California is now mandatory.
week, the California Air Resources Board decided to end its seven-month
voluntary program after manufacturers failed to meet their goals under the
effort. Jerry Martin, a spokesman for the board, said the mandatory order
affects all diesel engines made
from 1993 to 1998, including those based in California and those based
elsewhere that operate in California.
The Air Resources Board announced March
25 that it had adopted the voluntary plan to upgrade pollution-control software
on diesel trucks that operate in the state. Under an agreement with engine
manufacturers, truck owners were allowed to take their rigs into dealers, who
would perform the half-hour to hourlong installation of new software. The
engine manufacturers have agreed to pay for the software and its installation,
the board said.
engine manufacturers were supposed to have 35 percent of the engines upgraded
by November. However, outside of one engine maker that met its goal,
manufacturers were able to upgrade only 18 percent of engines. At the start of
the program in March, 13 percent were already upgraded.
The one engine maker that met the goal was Detroit Diesel
Corp., which will be allowed to continue its voluntary effort.
“These vehicles have been operating on California’s streets
and roads for more than 10 years without any appreciable effort being made to
replace their defective software and reduce their emissions,” said CARB
Chairman Alan Lloyd in a prepared statement. “In March, we gave the
manufacturers six months to upgrade a reasonable number of these trucks to
avoid regulation but we have not seen enough progress to wait longer and put
Californians at further risk; therefore we must enact the regulation without
In 2003, the Air Resources Board announced
it would propose a regulation to require makers of heavy-duty diesel engines to
upgrade the software in the chips for engines made from 1993 to 1998.
The regulations were rooted in a
controversy that started in the 1990s. Officials claim that at that time,
engine manufacturers used computers on diesel vehicles that allowed their
engines to comply with emission limits. However, officials claim those same
computer chips also allowed the engine to operate differently during highway
driving, increasing nitrogen oxide emissions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
and Air Resources Board considered those chips to be “defeat devices,” or
devices designed to help the vehicle avoid pollution restrictions.
In 1998, Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit
Diesel, Navistar, Mack/Renault and Volvo signed consent decrees with the EPA,
the Department of Justice and the Air Resources Board. The Low NOx Rebuild
Program, which was part of those consent decrees, called for the manufacturers
to upgrade software to reduce NOx emissions.
upgrades were to occur when engines were overhauled. Now, they will be required
whether or not the engine is due for an overhaul.
The new order will require 1993-94
model year trucks to be upgraded by April 30, 2005.
Those built in model years 1995-96 are
to have their upgrades completed by Aug. 31, 2005, and those built in 1997 and
1998 must be upgraded by Dec. 31, 2005. Owners of 1997 and 1998 medium
heavy-duty vehicles, mainly delivery trucks, have until Dec. 31, 2006, to
upgrade their software.
Mark H. Reddig, associate editor