Traffic: Bad air: dispute about exhaust gas manipulations on trucks

The small black boxes that cause bad air on German roads cost between 20 and 100 euros on the Internet.

Traffic: Bad air: dispute about exhaust gas manipulations on trucks

The small black boxes that cause bad air on German roads cost between 20 and 100 euros on the Internet. With these illegal devices, called emulators, hauliers can switch off the emission control on their trucks and save up to 2000 euros a year on AdBlue.

The disadvantage: The trucks become polluters with pollutant emissions well above the permissible limits. The authorities are aware of the problem. However, there is disagreement about how big it is and what can be done about it.

The figures from the Federal Office for Goods Transport (BAG) in Cologne suggest that 4.1 percent of the trucks were noticed during controls. In any case, this was the quota for 7070 controls last year. Accordingly, 292 environmental sinners were caught.

The figures from the Federal Office are unrealistically low, criticizes the environmental physicist Denis Pöhler, who has developed measuring devices against air pollutants with his company Airyx.

Too few and wrong controls

The BAG simply carries out too few and wrong controls, says Andreas Mossyrsch from the transport association Camion Pro. Measurements by various institutions have shown that at least one in five trucks is manipulated or defective and drives through the country with far too high emissions.

Criticism also comes from the German Environmental Aid (DUH), which relies on its own measurements: "We know that testing in Germany is very incomplete. The measurements we made show significantly higher values," says DUH expert Axel Friedrich . In his measurements, only 46 percent of vehicles in emission class VI complied with the pollutant limit value that applied to them. "There must be an immediate inspection of trucks while driving," he demands.

Because control vehicles equipped with measuring probes could identify the environmental polluters while driving, whether they have intentionally manipulated or defective exhaust gas cleaning, and pull them out of the traffic accurately. The BAG did not want to comment on the criticism of the experts and environmentalists when asked.

The critics have their sights set primarily on Eastern European freight forwarders. They should manipulate the AdBlue systems on a large scale, says Mossyrsch from Camion Pro. The BAG numbers also seem to confirm that mainly trucks from abroad are on the road with manipulated or defective cleaning systems: Of the 292 conspicuous trucks, only 19 were German. Names of shipping companies are not mentioned.

Reduction of the emission of nitrogen oxides

AdBlue is the trade name for an aqueous urea solution that drivers of diesel trucks and cars with SCR catalytic converters have to fill up regularly in addition to the fuel. Appropriately equipped vehicles are equipped with an additional tank. The agent is used to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides. AdBlue delivery problems have recently been feared, and the price of AdBlue has multiplied. The reason for this is ammonia. Gas, which has become much more expensive, is required to produce it. This in turn affects price and availability.

AdBlue not only devours up to 2000 euros a year for a truck - the maintenance and regular replacement of the cleaning system also make a difference, says environmental physicist Pöhler from Eppelheim near Heidelberg. That's why the black sheep among the freight forwarders use the emulators to outsmart the on-board electronics and turn off the exhaust gas cleaning system.

The small boxes are hidden in the engine compartment or in the cable harness of the trucks. They not only prevent the injection of AdBlue, but also fool the engine electronics into thinking that everything is working as usual. Because otherwise the engines would no longer be able to be started.

Special analyzers for illegal software

The emulators are now also available as illegal software updates for on-board electronics, says Mossyrsch. While the boxes could still be spotted by a trained eye on closer inspection, the illegal software requires special analysis equipment to spot them.

The police cannot track down the polluters due to a lack of equipment. "We have no way of controlling that," says the police in Düsseldorf, for example. The Federal Association of Road Haulage only said: "The Federal Office for Goods Transport is the only authority that can make reliable numbers about AdBlue emulators installed in trucks."

It's not just the controls that they see as too few and inadequate that bother the experts, but also the amount of penalties and fines. "Some swindlers get away with 100 or 120 euros. That doesn't hurt if I can save thousands of euros in return," says Pöhler. It's worth taking a look at Denmark: A freight forwarder there pays 2,000 euros if a manipulated truck is caught. The driver could also be fined up to 1000 euros.

The BAG points out that in the case of such manipulation, further driving is prohibited, the operating permit expires and additional toll charges become due. This was also the case with all 292 environmental sinners last year.