• Business Business

Trucking companies ordered to pay $1M fine for illegal modifications to big rigs: 'This case is one of the largest of its kind'

"It's critical that we protect our people."

"It's critical that we protect our people."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten announced in October that two Grand Rapids-based trucking companies and several individuals were sentenced for deactivating the emissions control systems on semitrucks. 

What happened?

Accurate Truck Service, Griffin Transportation, and their owners pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act. Douglas Larsen, Craig Scholten, and Ryan Bos co-own Accurate Truck Service, and the latter two also own Griffin Transportation. Scott DeKock previously owned a shipping company that was part of the scheme.

Accurate Truck Service removed or altered the hardware components that controlled the emissions of trucks with heavy-duty diesel engines. The company then utilized the services of another business, Diesel Freak, to reprogram the system to allow the vehicles to remain operational even after the tampering.

Griffin Transportation and DeKock's business had Accurate Truck Service and Diesel Freak remove these restrictions for any trucks they owned, operated, or leased, resulting in at least 461 vehicles with "deleted" systems.

Why are the "deletions" concerning?

According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the process of "deletion" can "improve performance and fuel economy and save maintenance costs" but increases tailpipe pollution, which can have detrimental health and environmental effects.

"Tampering with or removing emissions controls can drastically increase the emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and non-methane hydrocarbons found in vehicle exhaust," the release stated. "Exposure to and inhalation of these chemicals at greater levels is associated with serious health risks."

Lisa Matovic of the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division noted that diesel exhaust could lead to asthma and respiratory illness while contributing to poor air quality.

The practice is what enables "coal rollers" to spew out excessive noxious fumes, typically in front of electric vehicle drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, as a form of anti-green protest.

What's being done to prevent "deletion"? 

U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney ordered the two businesses to pay fines of $500,000 each and serve a year of probation as part of their felony convictions. Judge Maloney also sentenced all four men to a year of probation, with Scholten and Bos serving four months in home detention and Larsen serving two months. Additionally, Scholten and Bos each received a fine of $6,000, while Larsen was fined $7,500, and DeKock $10,000.

"This case is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States and today's sentences send a loud and clear message that polluters who break environmental laws will be held accountable," Totten said in the statement. "Environmental rules safeguard the water we drink, the lakes we fish, and the air we breathe. It's critical that we protect our people and our planet from harmful pollutants."

"The sentencings in this case show that EPA and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable individuals who disregard health and environmental laws designed to protect our communities from dangerous air pollution," Matovic added. 

It's another example of the Clean Air Act in action, as the U.S. Justice Department levied a $1.7 billion penalty last year against a company that installed software that could bypass emission controls.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider