These days, it’s more important to be rolling clean than to be rolling coal
So how was your weekend? Did you go to a great doubleheader at the ballpark? Or maybe install a new turbocharger in your diesel pickup truck? Both were great by their own definition, as people enjoy doing things they’re enthusiastic about. It turns out that many people are passionate about diesel. It’s a technology that has legions of followers, just like any other hobby or pastime.
Online communities are widespread and centered around the brand of diesel car or truck one drives. There’s the TDIClub for Volkswagen vehicle (turbo direct injection, TDI) owners, and for pickup trucks. There’s the Duramax Forum for Chevy and GMC diesel owners and enthusiasts, the Turbodiesel Register for Dodge Ram/Cummins truck owners, and the Ford Powerstroke Club. It’s all about brand loyalty. There are also many regional and local car clubs as well as enthusiast groups that cater to diesel vehicle owners.
The virtual group and club spaces on Facebook and other social networks enable members to share pictures “showing off their rides” and the latest customization or restoration. These groups are places to go for help and advice troubleshooting problems of every imaginable kind. Many of them also sponsor rallies and other events across the country to celebrate their passion for diesel.
This time of year, you’ll find enthusiasts at local county and state fairs held all across the country, entered in a truck and tractor pull on the program. Here you’ll find different classes of pickup trucks and farm tractors revving at maximum power as they try to pull a weighted sled the farthest down the track the fastest. It’s loud! Along with the joy of victory and the agony of defeat is also a lot of black exhaust smoke, often referred to as “rolling coal.” Entries in certain classes of competition have highly customized and modified engines and exhaust systems that try to squeeze out more power and performance than everyone else. You’d never see one of those custom tractors pulling a hay rake in a farm field. Many of the pickup trucks arrive on trailers because they’re not used for daily driving or even street legal to operate in their modified condition.
Enthusiast groups and clubs celebrate all things diesel at sponsored events with educational sessions and hand-on technical demonstrations supported by various vendors and sponsors of the events. Some events are focused on performance competitions which might mean having your truck strapped down to a dynamometer for a performance test, or a timed race pulling a loaded trailer through an obstacle course.
Sanctioned performance events and shows that bring together diesel enthusiasts to share their love for diesel technology have evolved. In recent years event organizers have taken a sharper focus on safety, crowd and traffic controls for their visitors as well as neighboring communities. That means keeping the displays of performance and testing to sanctioned activities only and not on the public streets. The practice of “coal rolling” – which is effectively over fueling the engine to produce excess black smoke on demand – outside of the official event venue is strongly discouraged. And it is illegal on public roads. A growing number of laws have increased the fines and penalties for those caught emitting excessive black smoke exhaust emissions no matter where it happens. Legislation is pending this session in Massachusetts (H 3553), “An Act prohibiting the practice of coal rolling,” that would make the practice expressly illegal with fines of no less than $100 and not more than $1,000. If enacted, Massachusetts would join a growing number of states that have enacted higher fines and penalties for those observed committing this offensive and dangerous practice.
Illegal tampering and modifications to diesel engines and emissions control devices or programming software has been the increasing target of EPA enforcement actions. There are 25 cases and settlements so far just this year involving customizing and tuner shops and some diesel repair businesses. A recent bulletin highlights EPA’s priorities in this area.
Manufacturers have spent billions of dollars to develop new diesel engines for pickup trucks and SUVs that are awesome choices for many of us, especially those driving lots of highway miles or wanting to tow trailers and boats. They are powerful, quiet and, thanks to advanced particulate emissions controls and selective catalytic reduction systems, near-zero emissions.
The bottom line is we all need clean air. Enthusiasts – enjoy your clubs and gatherings and celebrate all things diesel, in moderation. Take pride in your diesel and embrace responsibility by keeping black smoke and “rolling coal” where it belongs, on the racetrack at performance events and not ever, ever on public streets. These days, it’s more important to be rolling clean than to be rolling coal.