Calling it the largest voluntary recall of medium- and heavy-duty trucks in history, the EPA announced Tuesday that some half-a-million Cummins diesel engines and trucks powered by those engines have a defective part that causes excessive emissions of nitrogen oxides or NOx.
The EPA noted: “The problem Cummins is acting to correct is the result of a defective part and does not involve a defeat device.” The problem was discovered through government oversight programs that test vehicles for emissions compliance throughout their lives.
The recalled engines are equipped with selective catalytic reduction systems (SCR) which reduce to near zero exhaust emissions of NOx, one of the main components of smog. EPA regulations required heavy-duty trucks to cut NOx emissions starting in 2010 prompting most manufacturers to switch to SCR systems for their diesel engines.
The EPA said the SCR catalysts that will be replaced through the recall were found to be less durable than required, degrading within a few years instead of controlling NOx pollution for the full useful life of the vehicle (185,000 miles or ten years for medium duty, 435,000 miles or 10 years for heavy duty.)
Cummins agreed to conduct the voluntary recall after the company’s own testing validated the results.
In its quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday, Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger said the issue is isolated to 2010-2015 model-year engines and that the company has set aside $181 million for repairs of those engines’ exhaust aftertreatment systems. “We’ve reached agreements with the appropriate regulatory agencies regarding our proposed actions, and we will launch that campaign in phases starting in the third quarter this year and expect to substantially complete the campaign by the end of 2020,” he said. “This issue does not affect any of our current products.”
Cummins has pledged to replace the catalysts on all trucks announced in the recall. An earlier recall, involving about 232,000 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks will bring the total number of vehicles affected to about 770,000.
That recall cost Ram parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles $200 million and led to FCA suing Cummins for $60 million. Cummins countersued and later, both companies faced a class action lawsuit in federal court over the recall. The class action suit was thrown out in April.
No stranger to emissions controversy, FCA was sued by the Department of Justice in 2017 over an alleged emissions cheat device in 2014-2016 Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs powered by its 3-liter EcoDiesel engine. That suit was eventually settled following a recall and a “substantial but unspecified fine.”
Cummins will contract owners with instructions about how and when to get their trucks repaired.
Editor’s Note: James Jaillet, senior editor of sister sites CCJ and Overdrive, Tom Quimby, associate editor for sister site Hard Working Trucks and online editor Wayne Grayson contributed to this report.