Is this dieselgate 2.0?

A German trade body has uncovered evidence of a lorry exhaust manipulation scam ‘on an industrial scale’. Camion Pro says its research suggests around 20% of lorries using German roads have had their NOx emissions reduction technology manipulated by the scam that is rife in eastern Europe, causing increased pollution and losses of income from the German motorway toll scheme.

Camion Pro is an association representing road transport operators, which was founded in 2001 after the actions of a large company drove many small haulage firms to ruin. Acting on a tip-off from a Romanian man of Turkish origin, who said manipulation of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems on lorries was widespread in eastern Europe and extending into western Europe, Camion Pro launched its own investigation in which its researchers acted as potential buyers for the manipulation technology.

Its conclusions confirm the ‘urgent suspicion’ that organised crime in eastern Europe has set up a steady income stream from manipulating the exhaust emissions of lorries. In a statement headed ‘Exhaust Emissions Scandal 2.0’, it says: ‘Firms in eastern Europe and China are supplying the black market with soft- and hardware which serves the sole purpose of manipulating the AdBlue exhaust systems of lorries.’ (‘AdBlue’ is the German trade name for the urea diesel exhaust fluid used in SCR to reduce NOx emissions from diesel engines.)

Camion Pro says its evidence suggests an established industry, in which different companies compete in the market place to provide the best manipulation technology. Some is available for less than €50 through eBay sites, with videos demonstrating installation on YouTube. It has even been found on eBay’s site in Germany, with VAT included in the price.

Diesel exhaust fluid is known to filter out 90% of NOx emissions during the combustion process, hence fears that the environmental damage from SCR manipulation could be causing immense environmental damage. It could also have cost Germany’s motorway toll system hundreds of millions of euros over the past five years.

Camion Pro’s Romanian source said a haulier could save €3,000 per year by avoiding diesel exhaust fluid. This estimate seems to apply to a high-mileage heavy lorry. A medium-sized haulier with 100 vehicles could save a six-figure sum.

It also says it is technically very difficult to prove manipulation of SCR systems, and the low risk of being caught has aided the spread of the technology. The Romanian source suggested up to 70% of the Romanian lorries driving on European roads are doing so without diesel exhaust fluid.