Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

‘Rolling coal’, deemed illegal by the EPA, enjoys 15 minutes of fame

Posted by on July 8th, 2014 at 10:14 am

If that’s how someone feels about
a Prius owner, I can only imagine what
they think of bicycle riders.
(Photo from Rollin Coal & Raisin Hell
Facebook page)

Prepare to be depressed about the current state of civic relations here in America…

Remember our two recent reports about “rolling coal”? That’s when someone who owns a truck drives it close to another road user and then purposely spews a huge cloud of black exhaust fumes at them. We first reported about it after a man claimed he was a victim of it while riding near Mt. Tabor back in February. Rolling coal made our front page again last month when a truck driver did the same thing to a group of people riding bikes in Beaverton. In that case, one of the people on bikes turned out to be an off-duty Washington County Sheriff deputy who then pulled the driver over. (Note, we initially reported that it was a member of the Beaverton Bicycle Patrol Unit and have since learned that was incorrect.)

Fast-forward a few weeks and it seems “rolling coal” has broken through beyond YouTube videos and truck enthusiast forums and onto the major online news media. Stories this week on Talking Points Memo, Slate, Huffington Post, and other outlets have brought the behavior out of the shadows.

According to reports, people are modifying their trucks as a way to annoy “environmentalists.” Some truck drivers even put large stickers on their back windows that point to aftermarket mufflers that read “Prius repellent”.

Along with this increased attention for “rolling coal” comes a confirmation from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that the behavior is illegal and runs afoul of the Clean Air Act. According to the “tampering” section of the EPA’s “Air Enforcement” website,

“The CAA [Clean Air Act] prohibits anyone from tampering with an emission control device on a motor vehicle by removing it or making it inoperable prior to or after the sale or delivery to the buyer. A vehicle’s emission control system is designed to limit emissions of harmful pollutants from vehicles or engines.”

In fact, one company that manufactured devices that allowed people to remove emission control devices from their trucks agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty to the EPA in January 2013.

Unfortunately it’s unlikely we’ll see any decrease in “rolling coal” incidents. In fact, it will probably grow in popularity simply due to all the publicity it’s enjoying during its 15 minutes of fame. Rollin Coal & and Raisin Hell, a Facebook group that has been featured in the news stories is relishing the attention. For what it’s worth the people behind that group believe it’s just a harmless prank and that, in light of other sources of diesel emissions, a few seconds of black smoke isn’t a big deal.

We’ve contacted the Washington County Sheriff’s office to find out more about the incident from last month. We’ll update this post when we get more details.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • TonyT
    TonyT July 8, 2014 at 10:22 am

    This comes to mind.


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    • Nick July 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

      THAT made my day.

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  • Mike Quiglery July 8, 2014 at 10:29 am

    All the more reason to mount a GoPro on the handlebars of your bike.

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    • Pete July 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      Or a soot-seeking Sidewinder…

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  • Jim July 8, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Likely same Beaverton guy smoked my co-worker riding last week. Co-worker ID’d the truck as a perfect match but could not see the plate thru the haze to confirm. Co-worker said driver straddled the bike lane for a while giving him pause for concern, then smokesville. Beware around Murray/Allen.

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    • Jake breeden July 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Hello everyone I own a diesel my self! And I’ve spent tons of money on my truck, modifying it! And half the people out there don’t modify there truck just to roll coal. The factory’s restrict the engine and truck for it not to roll coal and holds back all the power it is capable of. My truck is a 2011 dodge ram 2500 and stock it gets 9.7 mpg after I put and exhaust and tuner on it it now gets 19.5 mpg. So not only does it gain power it gains fuel economy. And the toxics that come out of a gas vehicle are more harmful to the environment them the diesel fumes. And yes I roll coal on plenty of bikers. But that’s only becuase they feel the need to ride in the middle of the road so I have to wait for a save time to pass and then I blast them with smoke. Oh and my truck passes inspections and emissions so how are you gonna out law that? Hahaha good luck…

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      • Tom Millican July 10, 2014 at 10:21 am

        I also drive a diesel pickup. It’s completely stock, and I’ve spent hardly anything on it. Why would I? There’s rarely any smoke, and I still get 38mpg in town, 44 highway. My emissions? 0.2% out of 30% opacity allowed. The best thing is, I can drive a diesel without being a dick to others on the road.

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        • Jake breeden July 10, 2014 at 10:32 am

          The only reason I did all that is for more power and fuel economy! I need the extra power when hauling heavy loads. And these new diesels like my truck truck get terrible mpg. Sounds like you have a older truck. And honestly all these bikers need to stop being pussies and stop complaining. If you don’t like it don’t ride on the road it’s as simple as that. And what are you gonna do when a 18 wheeler comes by and “rolls coal”..? Call the cops on them

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        • 9watts July 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm

          VW Rabbit pickup I’m going to venture?

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      • Klay Belnap August 21, 2014 at 2:36 pm

        You, my friend.. are an amazing person!

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      • OrganicBrian August 31, 2016 at 12:21 pm

        Your truck got 9.7 MPG before you modified it? What did you do to screw it up? Every online review of this truck that I looked at said these get about 20 MPG highway when they’re new, some reviewers actually complained about the low 15-ish in city. Your post is so odd that I wonder if it is trolling.

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  • Rob Chapman July 8, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Things are going pretty well for anyone with the time and resources to modify a diesel truck this way. I’m confused as to what they have to be so angry about?

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    • Case July 8, 2014 at 10:44 am

      Immergents stealin’ our jerbs.

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      • Rob Chapman July 8, 2014 at 10:59 am

        Yeah! Thanks Obama.

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      • q`Tzal July 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

        Murica! USA! USA! USA!

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        • Buzz July 8, 2014 at 5:17 pm

          Proud to be a Merkin!

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          • Rob Chapman July 9, 2014 at 11:59 am

            The Permit fishing fly or the uh… wig Buzz?

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    • 9watts July 8, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      “I’m confused as to what they have to be so angry about?”

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but are you familiar with the idea of a culture war? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_war

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      • q`Tzal July 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm

        I’m looking forward to the confusing anarchy in cultural rage leading up to the Singularity as cultural paradigms change so fast it makes even to most liberal person rant like Archie Bunker.

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        • q`Tzal July 9, 2014 at 12:12 am

          Actually it is but anarchy leads inexorably to self ordering systems just as authoritarian regimes always devolve in to bouts of chaotic entropy.

          As all things in nature are cyclical so too are our clumsy fumblings at governance. Extremes like a vacuum are abhorred by nature as are the purest forms of anarchy and totalitarianism unconsciously rejected by all.

          It is little wonder then that a fundamentalist view is destined for failure due to its clinging to the philosophical extremes.

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    • wsbob July 8, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      Probably not anger, as much as it is good old, and young boys having what they think is a fine time at the expense of people that don’t have any means for prompt recourse.

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    • Chris I July 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      They are sociopaths.

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      • 9watts July 8, 2014 at 5:53 pm


        inhale a few too many particulates?

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  • dave July 8, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Raisin Hell? What does a grape have to do to go to Raisin Hell?

    I want a little sticker of a California Raisin with horns, now. “Raisin’ Hell in Raisin Hell since 1986”

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  • q`Tzal July 8, 2014 at 11:23 am

    The comments at other sites like Slate are funny.
    Like : @William Rolston: Tell them every time they belch the smoke, a Muslim makes a dollar and donates it to Allah.

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    • q`Tzal July 9, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Or the article “Here’s why “Rollin Coal” is actually awesome” over at Treehugger.com where the author writes:

      If the Heartland Institute were to nominate Beavis and Butthead to be their official spokespeople, it could hardly do more to discredit “anti-environmentalism” (what an absurd concept that is) than these chumps.

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  • Champs July 8, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Time and again, adding to the body of trend pieces on subjects like these has proven to give them exactly the kind of attention they shouldn’t get.

    At the current rate, we’re maybe a month or two away from the New York Times publishing its own article, a condemnation that will cement its legitimacy.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 8, 2014 at 11:37 am

      I totally hear you Champs and I usually abhor adding to trend pieces that legitimize dumb behaviors. However, in this case I decided to do the story because 1) we had reported about it in the past and I felt a follow-up made sense in order to add to the educational context and 2) given that this behavior is done specifically to bicycle riders in our region I want people (readers who happen to be lawyers, citizen activists, police officers, judges, DAs, and so on) to know more about it and understand the legal consequences.

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  • jocko July 8, 2014 at 11:29 am

    What about our freedoooooom! (this is a joke)

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  • Moe Szyslak July 8, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    My shtick was looking into an exhaust pipe and getting a faceful of soot. Nobody could do that better than me. Of course, it was kind of hard to think of reasons for me to look in that exhaust pipe every time, but you know — we had good writers. William Faulkner can write an exhaust pipe gag that would really make you think.

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  • Todd Hudson July 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    If you witness a truck rollin’ coal, there’s the option of reporting them to DEQ. Their response isn’t very aggressive (the offender is sent a warning letter and has 30 days to “correct the problem”), but you’re still creating an inconvenience for the truck owner.

    Here’s DEQ’s Smoking Vehicles Fact Sheet, and how to make a complaint:


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    • q`Tzal July 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      Ah, but what are DEQ’s enforcement options?

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      • was carless July 9, 2014 at 12:07 am

        I’m really rooting for 5 to 10 but…

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        • q`Tzal July 9, 2014 at 6:57 am

          Scarlett Letter punishment: a big tattoo on the forehead that says something like “bully”.

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  • PorterStout July 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    American Exceptionalism at its most Exceptional.

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  • Spiffy July 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    was a few cars behind a truck that let out a huge black cloud whenever they gunned it from a light… never got close enough to get a plate… but the truck looked new enough that it shouldn’t be doing that…

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  • q`Tzal July 8, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    At first air pollution was a cosmetic issue: it blocked the skies of London in the days of Dickens.
    Later on acid rain was shown to be caused by industrial polluters. EPA controls eliminated the cause while not causing any of the businesses to fail.
    More recently in 2008 a study (http://www.ehjournal.net/content/8/1/25) directly linked immediate and direct increases in urban air pollution with increases in emergency room visits for acute cardiovascular and respiratory events.

    Perhaps soon we’ll see a study directly linking unregulated rural burning and combustion exhaust to a decrease in cognitive function.

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    • Spiffy July 9, 2014 at 10:52 am

      “Perhaps soon we’ll see a study directly linking unregulated rural burning and combustion exhaust to a decrease in cognitive function.”

      I though that’s what this article was pointing out… lower cognitive function of those rural folks burning coal…

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      • q`Tzal July 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm

        Uranium in the drinking water.

        La-La-La Laa La La La Laa

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  • Ase Goodwrench July 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    A truck set up to “roll coal” will destroy its engine as unburned fuel washes lubrication off the cylinder walls. Before long it will roll coal all the time!

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  • Chris I July 8, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    It’s sad, really. These people spend upwards of 50% of their income on these shiny new monster trucks. They dump thousands of dollars every year into diesel and modifications like this instead of saving for retirement, buying healthier food, medical payments, sending their kids to college… I really do feel bad for them.

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    • q`Tzal July 8, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      These mods are just a drop in the bucket cost wise for good ole fashioned truck fun.
      It always seemed insane that the rednecks would spend $2500-$4000 to repair the torque box/4WD transmission/axles/suspension the last time they went “muddin” only to turn around and destroy an equivalent cost in parts the next outting.
      Golf at a private country club is less expensive.

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  • Diesel Truck Owner July 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Read this people.


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    • q`Tzal July 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Understand that the reaction here is not against diesel trucks but the pointlessly vindictive troglodytes who are using simple diesel engine inefficiency as a tool for juvenile fun.

      It’s not conceivable that completely eliminating rolling coal mods will stop these sort of people from being violent juvenile felons in some other way.
      As juvenile “pranks” go this one ranges on the more dangerous side because it obscures visibility of every driver in the vicinity of the coal roller. It also can easily give a victim a nasty case of smoke inhalation and is carcinogenic to boot.

      I experienced a week long bout of smoke inhalation the last time I forgot to check that my oven was empty before preheating. Your esophagus burns, it feels as if your lungs are partially weighed down with water and you can only ever get more than half a breath in. You spend a lot of time just focusing on breathing because it takes a herculean effort.

      This is more than a simple prank; it is assault.

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    • 9watts July 8, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      That was… interesting. Thanks for posting.

      I love postmodernity. Now we have a group of folks attempting to rescue the image of smoky diesel trucks by championing 1100hp(!) pickup trucks *because they don’t spew visible smoke.* Hilarious.

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  • Jimmy July 8, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    This happened to me in May on NE Spring Hill Rd near Gaston. It was a red Dodge truck.
    I just held my breath and pretended not to be phased by it. Next time I will make note of the license plate.

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    • Don December 31, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      Then report them to the FED, even Trump is against this! They will get a $400 fine and you can also sue the driver in civil court, take the truck and have it properly disposed of

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  • Tate Matson July 9, 2014 at 3:29 am

    First of all–the NOOA announced Monday that according to their weather data—there has not been ANY global warming in the last 20 years–in fact the temperature has gone down over that period 1.5 degrees and they believe we are actually entering a mini-ice age–last Winter was the coldest winter with the most snow packs since nearly 100 years ago–and the same goes for the planet–and the ice packs are not melting0–CO2 the stuff the democrats and government fascists claim is pollution is critical to all life on this planet–plants and algae breath CO2 and exhale Oxygen the stuff we people and animals breath—and due to the increased CO2 the more arid parts of the world are in fact greening–due to the extra supply of their “oxygen” in the air–if you think the government and media are honest–I am sorry but they are anything but….

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    • Adam C July 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

      And what does that have to do with intentionally blowing carcinogenic smoke at people? By the way, NOAA is a government agency.

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    • boulderado July 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Wow. I work for NOAA and assure you that virtually all relevant data indicate the world continues to warm as we add CO2 and methane to the atmosphere. Although I’m not sure what this has to do with “rolling coal”, which surely has an insignificant climate effect (it’s a relatively small amount of soot compared with other sources). BTW, my favorite climate site for non-experts is http://www.skepticalscience.com; check it out before continuing to post this kind of counter-factual stuff.

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    • Don December 31, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      It is to be 65 degrees F in east Tennessee on New Years Day this year, existing here for many years, I can walk out my door and see the data. 10 years ago it would be under freezing this time of year. So as far as I can see, the data says different than your silly claim implies

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  • Right wing bike rider July 10, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Being from the “right” and a regular bike commuter I’ll attempt to explain.

    We’re tired of a variety of policies being shoved down our throat that are just stupid. (one example = Portland trash pick up only once every two weeks) The rollin coal is simply a juvenile reaction to such policies and a waste of money that could be spent on beer. Us conservatives need to realize that it is wiser to actually conserve for economic reasons alone let alone all the left wing’s mumbo jumbo… 🙂

    That said, if someone did it to me when I was riding in I think i’d attempt to get their license plate and a good look at them. Then I’d seriously contemplate the citizens citation route with charges of reckless driving and assault. At a minimum I’d send their name into the DEQ.


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    • Pete July 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

      Thanks for agreeing that bicycle rider harassment is a bi-partisan issue. 🙂

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      • q`Tzal July 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm

        I’m sure “both side do it”.


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  • Dylan July 10, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    truck owners can spend their money on whatever they want, just like you can.

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    • 9watts July 11, 2014 at 7:36 am

      Actually, in this specific case the EPA disagrees with that generous-I’m-O.K, you’re-O.K sentiment.

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  • Sheldon August 4, 2014 at 12:04 am

    I had my gas Chevy truck impounded by bicycle patrol for just stomping on it in a straight piped gas truck but it also has bunch of e legal mods it was embarrassing getting pulled over by the group I did it to and handcuffed and ticketed and my new truck getting towed dam red lights so its not just diesels bicycle cops are after and there getting sneaky cause they were in biking gear (biking shorts and shirt) I had no idea they were cops till they pulled there badges and cuffs out of one of there poches on their bikes so it would be rad to see bicycle cops stopping more vehicles so i don’t feel left out lol

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    • 9watts August 4, 2014 at 6:47 am

      You sound like quite a character, Sheldon. Have you biked any since losing your truck?
      If you stick around here I think you’ll find that you fit right in.

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  • GlowBoy August 4, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Sheldon, as I asked on the other “Rolling Coal” thread on July 17, what violations did you get ticketed for? A ticket has to be tied to a specific statute.

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    • Opus the Poet August 4, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      Well just from what little he said her and there i would say he pulled the converter when he removed the muffler and installed the “straight pipes”. That is a towing offense right there.

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  • Veggie Pedaler September 19, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Was crossing Kruse yesterday in Tigard by the 5/217 interchange. Waited about a minute and the walk light went on. First car coming off the 5 south turns in front of me as I’m on my pedals and ready to go, so i wave to the next truck so he can see me. He does and deliberately lays on the gas, giving me a large cloud of black smoke and the third vehicle sees this and runs through the crosswalk as well. What sweethearts.

    Like overaged bullies stepping on sand castles. I pity all of them. Sad, hollow souls.

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  • fish September 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I’m a conservative and own a 96′ diesel. My diesel will “roll coal” if I put my foot into it, but I make sure not to do so to bikers and other vehicles. My reasoning is because it’s inconsiderate, rude. When I am towing a load and going up hill the coal will roll (throttling up=more fuel going in the engine= coal). My reasons for driving a diesel is
    1) it gets great fuel mileage ( mine gets 30 miles to the gallon, and 28 pulling a trailer).
    2) diesel engines are known to last longer then gas engines ( when I attended heavy duty engine rebuild at PCC they had diesel engines with a million miles on them).
    3) they produce less pollution( just because you can’t see the exhaust come out of a gasoline engine doesn’t mean its cleaner. That’s just pure ignorance).
    4) ever hear of bio-diesel, I thought going green and recycling was good ?

    In conclusion, people need to be more considerate of others and we should all enjoy the freedom of are choices of transportation (bike or diesel).
    One thing that I’ve learned from diesel class and experience is the more DEQ accessories you put on a vehicle the more the MPG drop. So doesn’t it make more sense to take it off vehicles to make them more efficient so we are using less fuel?

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