Is the EPA Coming for You?
Compliance teams are out in force
Ever since Trump took office, the rumor has been floating around that the EPA was going to be “gutted.” In fact, this is far from the truth, as the Environmental Protection Agency is still alive and well, and out in force.
The EPA is notorious for cracking down on diesels and diesel tuners, with a number of lawsuits being handed out with figures in the millions of dollars. Even if companies have avoided fines, they have usually had to shut their doors or at least restructure their way of doing business.
One of the big changes we’ve seen recently is that the EPA actually has an enforcement team out in California (the most strictly controlled state for emissions regulations) that are checking both shops and manufacturers for violations. So, if you’re a California-based company, be on alert.
What is the EPA looking for? Well, just like they did in the past, the EPA is mostly looking towards the removal of vital emissions equipment like DPFs or EGR systems, or at the tuning that allows for these parts to be removed. If you’re a repair shop, they’re also on the lookout for obvious violations, like improper cleaning and disposal of parts, oil, and other shop waste.
Not all California
You might think that if you’re not in California, you don’t have to worry, but that’s actually not the case. The EPA is still after the diesel tuning industry as much as it ever was, with companies from California to Florida to New York and Seattle, across the US getting letters and visits.
A lot of big cases have already been settled, so now the EPA is starting to go after the “little guys” for a source of violations (and therefore income). The EPA may be around to help clean up the environment, but they’re also in the market of making money, so if there’s fines to be levied, they’re more than happy to do so.
Products in question
So, which products are illegal? That depends on who you ask. There is still a racing industry (that includes diesels) where billions of dollars are spent each year to make more power, make vehicles faster, or simply beat the guy in the next lane.
This industry includes parts that span the diesel spectrum, from hard parts like turbochargers and transmissions, to the ever-popular computer tuning. While products that carry a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Executive Order (EO) number are legal virtually everywhere, these items are few and far between.
A large percentage of the diesel marketplace operates in a grey area when it comes to performance modifications. There are tuners/programmers around that allow for custom tuning, which means files that modify or alter emissions devices can still be used.
Often these devices will come with warnings like “Off-Road use only” or “Not intended to support DPF removal,” but much like hackers, there is still a small underground industry devoted to computer tuning with no limits. Unfortunately, as diesel engines become more and more complex, and their emissions systems advance accordingly, problems will arise that will make deleting a truck seem like a good option.
What should you do?
As a shop (or manufacturer) it’s up to you on how far and how often you’re willing to push the limits of the grey area of the law. As long as you don’t have any blatant violations (like a big sign saying “DPF deletes done here!”) you’ll probably be OK.
If you do a lot of high-performance work, it might be good to have a few competition only vehicles or swaps around to show that you perform that type of non-emissions work. The most important thing to remember though is that the EPA is not dead, they’re very much alive, and they’re making the rounds.