SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A group of Golden State trucking companies and others filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County against the California Air Resources Board for the second time, alleging diesel particulate filters cause truck fires.
In a special report, KNTV-TV said that a number of trucking businesses are challenging the state's rules requiring the filters, arguing they are expensive and dangerous.
They are also calling for restitution for truck repairs.
This is Alliance for California Business owner Bud Caldwell's second lawsuit attempting to roll back the filter requirement. In March, a Glenn County judge ruled in favor of the state.
Caldwell says the new lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County, has more evidence of exhaust fires than the first attempt.
In its report, KNTV cited a February 9, 2016, incident in which Kieth Daniels could only watch as his 2009 Peterbilt truck burned.
“I timed it. Eight minutes, that truck was burned to the frame. It took over,” Daniels told KNTV senior investigative reporter and anchor Vicky Nguyen.
Daniels estimated he’s driven more than 5 million miles over the course of his 39-year career.
But nothing prepared him for that day, watching flames destroy his big rig, just moments after he pulled into a truck stop.
As he walked back from the restroom, Daniels saw smoke and flames engulfing the cab of his truck.
“I feel fortunate I was out of it and didn’t get burned,” Daniels said in the report. “I could’ve been in the sleeper taking a nap and then taken over by smoke.”
He believes the fire was triggered by the truck’s diesel particulate filter, or DPF.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) started requiring the devices for all diesel engine vehicles in 2007.
Roughly a million trucks in California are equipped with one.
Tests show that a functional DPF traps 99 percent of the harmful soot produced by diesel trucks, preventing it from entering the air.
KNTV said in the report that studies show particle pollution from diesel engine exhaust has been linked to lung cancer, premature death, and asthma among other health problems.
Daniels said his truck fire ignited while the filter was undergoing “regeneration,” burning all captured soot into a fine ash.
Insurance investigators said they do not know the exact cause of the fire, but they suspect it started somewhere in the exhaust treatment system.
Their report noted the company investigated several similar fires, but pinpointing the cause is difficult because “the exhaust gets so hot that evidence is consumed.”
“The filters are expensive. They are dangerous, and they don't work,” Caldwell said.
He owns a petroleum and trucking company in Chico.
Caldwell formed the Alliance for California Business to challenge the state’s rules requiring filters.
The ACB points to a series of filter failures, including two recalls for early model filters linked to three fires, including the 5,000-acre Monastery fire in Washington that destroyed 29 homes.
“These were not ready for prime time when they were put forward,” Caldwell said.
The ACB and the Daniels family are suing the state, asking for restitution for truck repairs and an independent review of the safety of the filters, the television station reported.
For Caldwell, this is his second lawsuit attempting to roll back the state’s clean air regulations requiring DPFs.
In March, a Glenn County Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the state, citing that CARB’s verification process does not allow DPFs on the road “unless their safety is established in a rigorous and thorough application and testing process.”
But Caldwell said the new lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County in November 2016, includes Daniels’ truck fire and new evidence of other exhaust fires in the state.
Associated Press sources contributed to this report.
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