File this under “cautionary tale.” New Jersey resident Mike Sebold listed his 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 for sale on Facebook. He pointed out in the ad that some emissions equipment had been “deleted,” as the term goes for removing such mandated equipment. His truck no longer had an exhaust gas recirculation system, and he’d installed an emissions tuner. It wasn’t long after the ad went up that he got a letter from the state of New Jersey. No, the state wasn’t interested in buying the truck.
New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection has a Diesel Enforcement Program. The letter Sebold received was a notice that he was in violation of state law, and explained he’d need to make some changes if he wanted to continue to operate it. Specifically, the notice gave Sebold 60 days to “have the emission control equipment returned to the original engine manufacturer certified configuration.” He’d also need to have the truck inspected by the state to confirm its compliance.
The state’s letter assured that Sebold’s actions were completely voluntary. However, if he failed to take corrective action and continued to use the truck on the public roadways, he could then come in line for official enforcement action. No jail time, but financial penalties aplenty.
Yes, New Jersey does indeed, keep tabs on social media, looking to see who’s been “naughty or nice.” In the state’s book, Sebold was in the former category. When Sebold contacted the Department of Environmental Protection about the letter, it began a series of back-and-forths that went on for a couple of months. Essentially, he was told that he needed to return the truck to its original emissions equipment state, or have it destroyed. Selling or even giving it away, without the emissions fixes, would be another violation of state law.
The $10,000 question
Mike Sebold reckons it would cost him nearly $10,000 to make his Dodge legal again. He kicked around the idea of simply scrapping out the non-compliant engine, but as of last week, decided he’ll take the truck to a scrap yard and have the entire vehicle crushed.
Would it really cost $10,000 to have emissions equipment restored? We don’t have the answer. But to a degree, Sebold may have actually received a “light touch” in his dealings with New Jersey. State laws notwithstanding, federal law, applicable across 50 states, says it is a crime to tamper with, defeat, remove, or “delete” vehicle emissions equipment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can and does go after “little guys” for violating that law. Fines of $7,500 per day can be assessed. And selling a vehicle with “deleted” equipment can put you in a precarious legal position. The buyer can turn around and file suit against the seller.
Do other states have “watchdogs” combing through social media posts, Craigslist ads, etc? It’s safe to assume other jurisdictions are following New Jersey’s lead. Post your vehicle as having deleted equipment, you’ll raise a red flag. Fail to tell a prospective buyer that a vehicle is missing emissions equipment puts a seller in another batch of legal peril. Perhaps the moral of the story is this: If you have an idea of deleting emissions equipment—just delete that idea altogether.
Opening photo credit: Penz crane GmbH, Österreich; FN 323618i on wikimedia.org Photo edited for size.