Northeastern fleet popped for bypassing emission controls

Class 8 tuck emitting black smoke

The owner and president of a trucking company in Rhode Island and his two corporations were sentenced in a federal court in Providence last week for violating the Clean Air Act by tampering with emissions control systems.

U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha in a press release said Michael J. Collins and his companies conspired together with trucking and diesel vehicle sales and service companies throughout the United States and with a foreign national to violate the Clean Air Act by selling and providing a software program that tampered with on-board vehicle computers to alter or bypass key features in emission control systems.

Collins, having previously pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act, was ordered to serve a term of three years of probation, perform 100 hours of community service, pay a $50,000 fine, and create a compliance and ethics program and to notify his employees and stockholders of said program.

Additionally, each of Collins’ corporations was placed on probation for three years and ordered to provide a payment of $125,000 to the Rhode Island Environmental Recovery Fund.

[RELATED: Man pleads guilty in emissions 'delete' case]

According to Cunha, for nearly five years beginning in September 2014, Collins, his North Kingstown company M&D Transportation, Inc.; his now-defunct computer company Diesel Tune-Ups of RI, Inc.; various trucking and diesel vehicle sales and repair companies throughout the United States; and a foreign national all conspired to alter or disable certain functions of the electronic control modules (ECM) and on-board diagnostic (OBD) monitoring systems of heavy-duty trucks, performing what is known as “tunes.”

The monitoring systems were manipulated so they would not detect malfunctions in the emission control components, thereby allowing vehicles to operate without proper emission controls. As a result, “tuned” trucks could run with increased horsepower and torque, which can reduce maintenance and repair costs, but which results in significant increases in pollutant emissions, Cunha added.

The tuning business was marketed on Facebook, and interested companies were directed to contact a Rhode Island telephone number associated with Collins, M & D, and Diesel Tune-Ups. Customers paid Collins’ companies between $1,700 and $3,650 for each vehicle “tuned.” Collins and his companies wired a portion of the funds to their foreign co-conspirator and retained a portion of the funds for themselves.

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