August 6th, 2018 – In voluntary cooperation with the EPA (what’s left of it) and the California Air Resources Board, Cummins will voluntarily repair over 500,000 heavy duty diesel engines installed in big trucks, some larger pickup trucks, and a few buses between 2010 and 2015. While the engines met all applicable emissions standards when new, the catalysts used to clean up their tailpipe emissions failed earlier than expected.
Because there were no procedures in place to road test older diesel vehicles, nobody knew about the problem until CARB began real world testing after the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal broke in 2015. “The testing confirmed that the selective catalytic reduction systems were defective, causing emissions of NOx to exceed state and federal standards,” according to a CARB press release. “The same problem was found to affect about 60 ‘engine families’ under the Cummins name found in a wide range of vehicles, from big-rigs, to larger pickup trucks and some buses.”
Since the defect involved the failure of mechanical components and not software tweaks design to fool regulators, and because Cummins has cooperated voluntarily with EPA and CARB officials since the problem was first discovered, no penalties will be assessed against the company. Nevertheless, Cummins is on the hook for replacing a half million catalytic converters. There is no word whether the component manufacture will contribute to the costs of the recall.
Asked by Ars Technica for comment, Katie Zarich, an external communications manager for the company, sent an e-mail saying, “Our engines were designed to meet the emissions regulations, and we had a component challenge involving degradation of the SCR at varying rates and levels causing some of the products to produce higher emissions. We changed that component in our current products and they are operating as intended and meeting the standards.”
The solution to the problem has already been approved by regulators. By contrast, fixing all those faulty Volkswagens took years to figure out and is still an ongoing process.
This recall is separate and distinct from another recall campaign affecting 232,000 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks fitted with Cummins diesel engines says Ars Technica. In that instance, Fiat Chrysler has assured administrators a software update will bring those vehicles into compliance. Taken together, the two recalls constitute the largest recall of diesel engines in US history.
For those of you who live in states where safety and emissions inspections are a regular part of keeping a vehicle properly registered, you may wonder how three quarters of million diesel engines were allowed to roam the streets of America, spewing out noxious fumes known to cause serious health issues, and nobody knew? That’s an excellent question.