[Editor’s note: This is a contributed piece, and the author has asked to remain anonymous. This was not solicited; the author contacted us to ask if we’d publish it.]
I was one of Russ De Maris’ anonymous sources in the whole DEF sensor debacle. Who knows – if you look over, I may be the guy parked next to you in the RV park. Before I was de-rated, I had never heard about RVtravel.com, didn’t know Russ or Tiña, really wasn’t very active on RV social media or RV websites. And yes, I asked RVtravel.com to publish this piece because you should know that they worked – and worked hard – to help us out.
Before heading out on my trip this summer, and having read about bad DEF sensors and the lack of availability of replacements, I took every DEF precaution known to man. But no matter, my DEF sensor failed mid-trip and I was de-rated in my RV. It was dangerous, terribly inconvenient and expensive – but mostly dangerous.
I’m from the tech industry. Before retiring, my company designed custom chips, firmware and software. Once I understood the scope of the problem it became apparent to me that the fastest path to getting everyone back on the road was Cummins’ software related with a dose of EPA waiver. But how to get Cummins and the EPA to pay attention to it?
I wrote to the EPA and Cummins, but as an individual it is hard to get any attention. I found that Russ had written one article about it and began to give him as much information as I had so that he would hopefully continue to write about this on behalf of RV users. Thinking that RVtravel.com was (a) not the Wall Street Journal, but (b) a good starting place, I figured that I would have to go to bigger media outlets to get the support needed to effect change. Turns out I was wrong. Really wrong. RVtravel.com must have a passionate, focused following.
“Blowing up their inbox”
When Russ published the names and business email addresses of the Cummins leadership team in support of the software solution, they must have gotten a deluge of email (the current phraseology is “blowing up their inbox”). Cummins’ leadership begged for mercy after only two days, and shortly thereafter announced their support of the proposed software solution. Two whole days. This is when I first realized RVtravel.com was punching way over its weight. The EPA then also issued a statement that they would be supportive of bending the Clean Air Act due to this problem. This fix is announced and not yet available, but remember, this is asking the EPA to bend their most sacred rules, and an engine manufacturer to fix a problem that was not of their making. Difficulty factor of 10.
One guy emailing does not make this happen. I don’t know enough people to make this happen. It took Russ and RVtravel.com writing about it every week, and staying on top of it as a public interest and safety topic for their readers.
One more thing about Russ. There were times when I had to explain things to him that had to be held for publication, but were helpful for him to know in the overall context of various solutions. Even with the EPA and Cummins making positive noises simultaneously, another group was developing an alternate solution, the DSS (DEF sensor simulator). I was fortunate to play a small part in that group of guys. A separate topic – and thanks to them also. I briefed Russ regularly on the progress. He knew about the DSS before anyone knew it would work, but he agreed not to write about it until it was tested. Russ held every confidence with the utmost in journalistic integrity, and was the first to announce its availability on RVtravel.com.
So thank you, Russ and Tiña, on behalf of all of the RVers who benefited from your reporting. It’s less likely we will get rear-ended, stuck, or marooned at a dealer with our rigs today than it was two months ago, when you wrote your first article. In my opinion, it wouldn’t have happened without you.
They didn’t ask me to do this, but we can show our thanks by subscribing to RVtravel.com. If we want to maintain a free RV press that will continue to take on the corporates that build our RVs and the government that regulates them, we all have to pay up.
With best wishes for safe travels, see you on the road.