A while back I commented about Navistar, the truck maker formerly known as International or just IHC or IH and their “unique” strategy for meeting the 2010 EPA emissions standards. Basicly, there strategy was more of the same strategy that hadn’t worked that well to meet the more lenient 2007 standards- recirculate the exhaust in hopes it burns up the crud, and when that fails light off a “flame thrower” in the muffler to burn the crud, and whatever else is in the line of fire, up.

That strategy didn’t work all that well, at least in the opinion of everybody but Navistar and maybe MAN, who they bought their new engine designs from. But MAN hedged their bets by offering SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) like everyone else did. SCR uses Urea as a catalyst to do most of the emissions control, and while it’s a hassle to keep the Urea tank full, SCR gives better fuel economy and lets the engine run cooler. And the “flame thrower”? With SCR, it seldom sees any action.

Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Volvo, and everybody else it seemed tried Navistar’s system, found it didn’t work, and went with SCR. Navistar went there own way, and it appears they cheated a bit too- the EPA alleges that to get around the tighter 2010 standards, Navistar installed cranks in thousands of engine blocks just before the 2010 regs took effect, then finished assembling the engines in 2010 and 2011. All the while Navistar claimed the engines were 2009 models and exempt from the 2010 and later regs, even though they were installed in 2010 and later trucks.

The EPA is hot on the trail of Navistar, proposing a couple hundred million in fines as well expensive retrofits to make the trucks legal. That’s just the beginning of Navistar’s problems- looks like a lot of customers and their lawyers will be following the EPA in pursuit. Remember the “flame thrower” in the muffler? The county highway department here has a few 2007 and later Navistar trucks, and in the middle of snow plowing the drivers will radio the dispatcher to announce that they’ll be sitting parked while the “flame thrower” does it’s thing, just in case any citizens think they’re loafing.

It get’s worse… recently one of the county’s truck garages burnt down, with at least one of the offending Navistars inside. The Fire Marshall hasn’t issued an official report yet, but suspicion is that the fire started in the ceiling. Driver pulls truck into building, “flame thrower” in the vertical exhaust system picks just the wrong time to fire up, and starts a small fire in the ceiling. Driver closes up and leaves as the fire slowly spreads. I thing Navistar’s gonna be making a really big recall…

Back to excessive speed for conditions… Other day we had rain for hours with the temperature around freezing, then during the night the temps dropped and the rain changed to snow. The DOT fought a hard battle, but during the night the battle was lost and the roads became a snow covered skating rink. I’ve got a good view of Minnesota Highway 23 from my front window, and by morning it was clear that anyone with any brains in their head that had to be out there was very gently tooling along at 30 to 40 MPH. But I noted more than a few truckers, usually the ones (under)paid by the mile, flying along at the usual 65 MPH or so. No wonder the accident rates for heavy trucks are rising while accident rates for just about every other vehicle are falling!

BTW, for some discussion of another of the truckin’ biz’s problems, check out the website http://www.realwomenintrucking.com . And the industry wonders why it has a PR problem?