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CARB investigation leads to recall of 500,000+ Cummins heavy-duty trucks

31 July 2018

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced today that 500,000 heavy-duty trucks manufactured by Cummins Inc. will be recalled due to excess emissions caused by defective catalysts. Cummins worked collaboratively with CARB on the voluntary recall which constitutes the largest such effort for heavy-duty trucks to date.

The excess emissions were discovered after CARB launched its new Heavy Duty In-Use Compliance program in 2016. The Cummins action marks the first major recall resulting from the program, in which subject vehicles are equipped with Portable Emissions Measurement Systems (PEMS) to measure truck emissions while operating on streets and highways.

In 2016, CARB initiated a program to bring private fleet-owned or rental trucks that had been operating for several years for testing. Initial readings of some of the Cummins engines revealed higher than expected emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a smog-forming pollutant. This led to more comprehensive testing by CARB.

The testing confirmed that the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems were “defective”—using an SCR catalyst of insufficient durability—causing emissions of NOx to exceed state and federal standards. The problem was found to affect about 60 Cummins engine families, used in a wide range of vehicles, from big-rigs, to larger pickup trucks and some buses.

After CARB shared the initial findings with Cummins, the company conducted its own testing to confirm the failures and agreed to institute a voluntary recall, ultimately affecting more than 800,000 vehicles, to replace the catalysts. This number includes about 232,000 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 vehicles with Cummins engines that had the same SCR defect. Recalls for those vehicles were approved in July 2016 and July 2017, respectively, and are already underway.

The trucks will be recalled in a two-phase operation. Starting in August 2018, owners of the 500,000+ affected vehicles will receive letters with instructions on how to get their catalysts replaced or receive reimbursement for the cost of the replacement. The second phase begins in March 2019. Replacing the catalyst is required for vehicle owners to renew their California DMV registration on most engine families.

CARB emphasized that the cause of the excess emissions was purely mechanical—the faster-than-expected degradation of the catalyst—and not the product of a ‘defeat device’ or cheating on tests as was the case with 2009-2015 Volkswagen 2 and 3–liter diesel-powered passenger cars and SUVs. The degrading catalysts do not affect current model year Cummins engine families.

Following the recall, CARB and the US EPA will work together to ensure that the affected vehicles will meet all emissions standards.

Source: CARB