A group of diesel engine manufacturers have sued the California
Air Resources Board over an update of software in older trucks designed to
CARB announced in
March 2004 that it had adopted a voluntary plan to upgrade pollution-control
software on diesel trucks that operate in the state.
the board alleged in December 2004 that all but one engine manufacturer –
Detroit Diesel – had failed to meet agreed-on goals as to how many engines
would be upgraded by that time.
point, CARB decided to end its seven-month voluntary program. The now-mandatory
order affects all diesel engines made
from 1993 to 1998, including both those based in California and those based
elsewhere operating in California, Jerry Martin, a spokesman for the board, told Land Line.
the companies – Cummins, Caterpillar, Volvo and Mack – sued the state agency in
Sacramento County Superior Court in late March, asking a judge to give them an
injunction that would stop CARB from changing the agreement that led to the
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, often referred to as NOx
Environmental Protection Agency and Air Resources Board considered those chips
to be “defeat devices,” or devices designed to help the vehicle avoid pollution
Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Navistar, Mack/Renault and Volvo signed
consent decrees with the EPA, the Department of Justice and the California 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
upgrades were to occur when engines were overhauled. Now, they will be required
whether or not the engine is in for an overhaul.
Under the original
agreement, truck owners took their rigs into dealerships, which would perform
the half-hour to hourlong installation of new software. The engine manufacturers
have agreed to pay for the software and its installation, CARB officials said.
engine manufacturers were supposed to have 35 percent of the engines upgraded
by November 2004. 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 engine makers say that putting the installation at the time of a rebuild is
important. In court documents, they said the timing was set to “minimize or
eliminate expense and downtime for truck owners.”
manufacturers also claim that when public comments suggested that the new
software be installed earlier, that CARB joined other parties to the settlement
in rejecting the suggestion.
in a statement issued April 19, Catherine Witherspoon, executive officer of
CARB, placed the blame for the situation squarely on the shoulders of the
“The actions of these manufacturers have put many lives at risk and
cost California millions of dollars,” Witherspoon said in the statement. “Now
these manufacturers are suing the ARB to avoid their responsibilities. They
want truck owners, their customers, to pay the cost of correcting the software
programmed to emit excess pollution.”
– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor