Removing vehicle emissions controls legal in Saskatchewan

Some drivers in Saskatchewan are removing factory-installed pollution controls from their diesel trucks, and as the CBC's iTeam has learned, a few are doing it to save on fuel, others to simply show off.

'Rolling coal' refers to a modified truck that spews black smoke to save on gas

YouTube videos show people in diesel trucks who have removed the pollution controls to get better fuel economy and, apparently, because they get a chuckle out of spewing black smoke. (YouTube)

Some drivers in Saskatchewan are removing factory-installed pollution controls from their diesel trucks, and, as the CBC's iTeam has learned, a few are doing it to save on fuel, others simply to show off. 

Drew Young, who lives in Estevan, is "rolling coal" — ​a term coined to represent altered diesel trucks that spew black smoke  

Young said he had his vehicle modified at a shop in Regina called Smoke 'Em Diesel. 

"It's a pretty substantial increase on a truck that you know maybe sees 100,000 kilometres per year," he said, "You increase your fuel by almost 30 per cent." 

2 ways to modify a truck 

There are two ways to modify a truck. In both, emission controls are taken out. 

Young says he has a tuner installed in his truck to increase fuel economy, with black smoke as a natural byproduct.  

However, as the iTeam has learned, others set their tuners to spew more smoke than normal. Some who seek an even more dramatic effect install a special switch which allows the vehicle to spew out a large cloud of smoke behind it. 

'Rolling coal' legal in Saskatchewan 

In Saskatchewan there is no rule that prevents a vehicle owner from modifying a truck in this way. 

The federal government leaves it up to each province to set its own emission regulations, but provincial officials admit Saskatchewan doesn't have any. 

In British Columbia vehicles are monitored for excessive emissions. If they don't pass, owners can be ordered to make repairs.

In Ontario, it's against the law to remove pollution controls from any vehicle. 

The worst thing that can happen to you in Saskatchewan if you're caught "rolling coal" is you'll get a ticket, if you are deemed to be distracting another driver. 

Environmental worries 

Kris Abrahamson says he sees people "rolling coal" every week and more should be done about it. 

He said he's worried about the effects it's having on the environment and on people's health. 

"It's one of the most antisocial behaviours I've seen in our society," Abrahamson said. 

"This idea that you know what I really don't care about anyone else, I'll bathe them in black smoke just so I can get my kicks." 

Smoke 'Em Diesel in Regina takes out emission controls and Brock Hunter, who works at the shop says the smoke from diesel trucks is less harmful than what comes out of a car.

"The heavy soot that comes out of there, that's just stuff that's refined from the fuel,” said Hunter. “It's not bad for you or anything. It's heavy so it falls to the ground and it goes right back into the earth where it comes from." 

But Hunter admits, the shop will not install smoke switches, which create the large clouds of smoke, because they have no benefit.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, diesel exhaust is a factor in a wide array of environmental issues, including haze, ozone formation, acid rain and climate change.

The EPA says research shows the exhaust can also have serious health effects, having been linked to various lung diseases, including cancer.


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