There’s no question that state governments and even federal agencies are cracking down on diesel truck emissions. Headlines have repeatedly been made over the past two years as shops and individuals are hit with six-figure penalties for installing and using defeat devices. However, authorities don’t need a massive paper trail to threaten owners with fines, as Mike Sebold from New Jersey is finding out after listing his truck on Facebook Marketplace.
Sebold posted his 2008 Ram 2500 for sale online with a detailed description of the pickup. He mentioned that it had been deleted, which usually refers to the removal of components like the diesel particulate filter (DPF) and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve. These are common modifications, all things considered, though they’ve always existed in a legal gray area at best.
That was enough to catch the attention of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Without having seen the vehicle in person, the organization mailed a notice to Sebold explaining that his truck was out of compliance according to state law. The letter, which was viewed by The Drive and is embedded below, listed exact violations including the attempt to sell a vehicle whose emissions equipment had been tampered with.
Sebold had to sign for the DEP’s letter when it was delivered, but he assumed it was related to surveying that was taking place on his road. “I brought it in the house, ate my lunch, and decided to dive into the envelope,” he said. “I open it up and it’s a notice from the DEP stating that my truck was flagged on Facebook Marketplace. [They said] it’s illegal to sell it, it’s illegal to drive it. I can’t do anything with it other than return the emissions system to stock.”
This problem got even more complex as Sebold says he wasn’t the one who modified the 6.7-liter Cummins engine.
“I don’t have these parts because I bought the truck that way,” he told me. “I didn’t know anything about this; I didn’t know that was a thing.”
Sebold suspects that he may have been baited into the situation. The DEP noted that it had become aware of his truck and the relevant violations on June 23, which was right around the time he sent detailed photos and videos of it running to Facebook accounts that he claims have been deleted.
When I reached out to the New Jersey DEP for comment, a spokesperson said, “The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is aware of social media platforms on which diesel vehicles with modified emissions systems are offered for sale or sold by someone in New Jersey. The act of trying to sell or sell a vehicle with a tampered emission system is a violation of rules.”
“When the DEP becomes aware of such a sale or attempted sale, an appropriate enforcement action is issued to the seller or attempted seller, and the person is required to come into compliance with New Jersey regulations,” the statement concluded.
Legally, the DEP’s authority is penalty only, meaning it can’t jail Sebold for his truck’s modifications or trying to sell it with them still installed. However, the penalties become cumulative as they’re for each order issue, meaning they could far surpass the cost of returning the vehicle to stock, which Sebold estimates would require around $10,000.
“I called the DEP contact on Tuesday and he seemed pretty nice at first,” Sebold said. “I had a conversation with him about what I’m supposed to do, how serious is this, y’know. He was glad that I called him because I guess not many people comply.”
When Sebold asked if there were any other options, the DEP representative allegedly responded by saying, “Absolutely not. You either return the emissions system to stock or you scrap the truck.”
After some more back-and-forth, Sebold and the DEP rep reached an agreement saying he could keep the truck if the engine was scrapped. He then told me on Thursday that he intends to follow through with that and put the entire ordeal behind him.
“As of today, my plan is to take the truck off the road,” he said. “I’m dropping the insurance on it tomorrow, I’m going to my DMV tomorrow. I’m going to hand in the plates, hand in the registration, and I’m going to ask that they title it salvaged or as an off-road vehicle only, if they allow that. Then I’m going to go to the fair in town and I’m going to run my truck in the truck pull. care because I’m scrapping the engine anyway.”
Other diesel truck owners from New Jersey commented on Sebold’s now-viral Facebook post, saying they’ve had similar experiences. Either way, the state itself explained that it’s aware of these trucks that are often sold on social media, and officials aren’t above using those platforms to put a stop to excess emissions. This just might be the clearest example of it actually happening.
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