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US authorities release details of Cummins diesel emissions settlement

12 January 2024

The US Justice Department, US EPA, CARB and the California Attorney General’s office released the details of a proposed settlement with diesel engine maker Cummins Inc. for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and California law that was first announced in December 2023. Beyond agreeing to pay a $1.675 billion civil penalty—the largest ever assessed in a Clean Air Act case—Cummins has agreed to spend more than $325 million to remedy the violations, which included the use of software “defeat devices” that circumvented emissions testing and certification requirements. California will receive $164 million from the penalty and more than $175 million for mitigation.

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Under the settlement, Cummins must complete a nationwide vehicle recall to repair and replace the engine control software in hundreds of thousands of RAM 2500 and RAM 3500 pickup trucks equipped with the company’s 6.7 L diesel engines. Cummins will also extend the warranty period for certain parts in the repaired vehicles, fund and perform projects to mitigate excess NOx emitted from the vehicles and employ new internal procedures designed to prevent future emissions cheating. In total, the settlement is valued at more than $2 billion.

The EPA discovered defeat devices in Cummins engines used in RAM pickup trucks through testing at the agency’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory. CARB discovered defeat device violations in model years 2013 to 2018 Ram trucks through testing methods and protocols developed to detect defeat devices. The EPA partnered with CARB on their investigation to reveal additional violations in the 2019 to 2023 trucks. EPA testing of RAM trucks was done as follow-up on a 2015 EPA warning to manufacturers that the agency planned to conduct special testing to identify defeat devices using driving cycles and conditions that were non-standard, but still reflected normal vehicle operation and use.

The terms of the proposed settlement with Cummins are spelled out in two consent decrees that the United States and California filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia. In a related set of complaints, the United States and California allege that nearly a million (about 97,800 in California) model year 2013-2023 RAM 2500 and RAM 3500 pickup trucks with Cummins diesel engines utilized undisclosed Auxiliary Emission Control Devices (AECD). These trucks are further broken down into two groups. More than 630,000 model year 2013-2019 trucks had defeat devices that cause NOx emissions to increase during certain real world driving conditions in addition to undisclosed AECDs. More than 330,000 model year 2019-2023 trucks had undisclosed AECDs but no defeat devices. The undisclosed AECDs that were not defeat devices did not increase NOx emissions.

Cummins sought all EPA and CARB emission certifications for the RAM trucks equipped with its engines, even though the trucks were sold by the RAM truck division of Fiat Chrysler and its dealers. The settlement requires Cummins to work with Fiat Chrysler and its dealers on a vehicle recall and repair program that will remove all defeat devices from the affected 2013-2019 RAM trucks free of charge and bring the vehicles into compliance with applicable emissions standards under the Clean Air Act. The repair only involves software updates. Cummins has already started the recall and repair program required by the settlement.

Cummins must repair at least 85% of the 2013-2019 RAM trucks equipped with defeat devices within three years. The company must offer a special extended warranty covering emission control system parts on 2013-2019 RAM trucks that receive the replacement software. Cummins also must test some of the repaired trucks over several years to ensure that the trucks continue to meet emissions standards over time.

As another requirement of the settlement, Cummins must fully offset the excess NOx emissions from the 2013-2019 RAM trucks that were equipped with defeat devices. For California, Cummins will make a lump sum payment to CARB of slightly more than $175 million to fund mitigation actions or projects that reduce NOx emissions in California through CARB mitigation programs. For the rest of the country, Cummins will secure offsetting NOx reductions by working with railroad locomotive owners on two types of locomotive emission reduction projects. First, Cummins will finance and ensure the replacement of 27 old, high-emitting diesel locomotive engines with new, low-emitting diesel or electric engines. Second, Cummins will fund and complete 50 projects that will reduce idling time for diesel-powered switch locomotives to reduce fuel usage and emissions of NOx, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide. Details of the locomotive mitigation program are contained in the Justice Department’s Proposed Consent Decree.

Model year 2013-2019 RAM trucks have been affected by at least two emission related recalls. In February 2020, some 2019 RAM trucks were recalled for a software reflash while in November 2023, some 2013-2018 RAMs were affected by a similar recall. Regarding the recalled 2019 RAMs, CARB has previously noted dramatic emission reductions in higher speed and load operating conditions, a 97% reduction in emissions on the SFTP and emission levels evaluated with the MAW method close to those required meet the 2027 standard.

Source: US DOJ | US EPA | CARB