WEST JEFFERSON-If you have resided in Ashe County long enough, you have likely had a smelly run-in with one of the High Country’s undocumented ‘coal rollers.’
For those unfamiliar with the illegal truck tinkering, coal rolling is essentially the modification of a truck’s emission system to allow the engine to burn an excessively rich fuel blend that enables the truck to emit dark clouds of smoke that can wreak havoc on the environment.
In addition to filling the atmosphere with damaging particles, the act can be dangerous for other motorists as it creates a smoke-screen and reduces visibility. After the mothball-like smell is ejected, it can leave drivers leaning forward as they frantically try to search for the road.
The practice is also illegal at both the federal and state levels. It can also be deadly as the Clear Air Task Force reports that pollutants from diesel emissions lead to 21,000 premature deaths annually and can significantly increase the risk of cancer.
Two N.C. General Assembly Statutes directly address the illegal act of contaminating the environment by means of ‘rolling coal.’
According to N.C. G.A. 20-128, no person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway unless such motor vehicle is equipped with a muffler, or other exhaust system of the type installed at the time of manufacture, in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise, annoying smoke and smoke screens.
Also, N.C.G.A. 20-128.1 states under controls for visible emissions that any diesel powered motor vehicle registered and operated in this state to emit for longer than five consecutive seconds under any mode of operation visible air contaminants which are equal to or darker than the shade or density designated as No. 1 on the Ringelmann Chart or are equal to or darker than a shade or density of twenty percent (20 percent) opacity is illegal.
Any person charged with a violation of this section shall be allowed 30 days within which to make the necessary repairs or modification to bring the motor vehicle into conformity with the standards of this section and to have the motor vehicle inspected and approved by the agency issuing the notice of violation. Any person who, within 30 days of receipt of a notice of violation, and prior to inspection and approval by the agency issuing the notice, receives additional notice or notices of violation, may exhibit a certificate of inspection and approval from the agency issuing the first notice in lieu of inspection and approval by the agencies issuing the subsequent notices, the law states.
Illegal or not, several truck enthusiasts can be observed weekly engaging in the act of coal rolling along county roads. These drivers also celebrate this cultural phenomenon. On Facebook, several locals are members of the Appalachian Coal Rollers page, which includes photos of the illegal act on highways in the northwest region of North Carolina. The group also appears to acknowledge the pollution claims made against them. One photo album on the page is entitled, “You call it pollution, I call it advertised.” Other photos show the trucks blowing smoke or rolling coal onto nearby motorists and one photo shows a police car being smothered in the black clouds.
Reach Jesse Campbell at (336) 846-7164.
Coal rolling is illegal in North Carolina.