Bill seeks to ban ‘coal rolling’ in Maryland

WASHINGTON — Cyclists, drivers and pedestrians say they’ve experienced it: A passing vehicle, generally a pickup truck, suddenly spews a thick plume of choking, black smoke.

It’s called “rolling coal” or “coal rolling” and it’s against the law in New Jersey, but not in Maryland. Not yet.

But Maryland state Del. Clarence Lam would like to change that.

Lam has sponsored House Bill 11, designed to make coal rolling illegal. Lam, who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, told WTOP: “It’s really a practice that concerns us. Not only because it’s harmful for the environment, but more importantly because it’s harmful for public safety.”

Lam’s office has received lots of input from Marylanders who say they’ve experienced coal rolling, most of them cyclists. All of them explained that the smoke leaves them gasping for air, and often blinded to what’s on the road in front of them. Drivers have also been targets of coal-rolling, and complain that the smoke leaves a thick residue that’s tough to remove.

Allen Schaefer is the executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, based in Frederick, Maryland. Schaefer’s organization backs the ban on coal rolling. DTF’s website explains that to get a vehicle to emit the plumes of black smoke, owners have to modify their vehicles.

In a statement on the website, Schaefer states: “The diesel industry is extremely disappointed that a small segment of diesel pickup truck owners have chosen to tamper with the emissions and engine control systems.”

Schaefer said his organization is happy to back Lam’s legislation.

“We are all in favor of getting the gross emitters off the road, and making sure that today’s clean diesels are operating in the way that manufacturers intended,

Lam said this isn’t the first time the bill has been proposed. Last year a similar proposal got over 100 votes in the House, but failed in the Senate. Lam chalked that up to moving it relatively late in the last session.

“This year we put the bill in relatively early, and so we’re hoping that it will get full consideration in the Senate and that it will be expeditiously passed through the Senate and into law.”

If passed by the Maryland General Assembly, the ban would go into effect Oct. 1

Mike Lamb, a Maryland resident, wrote to Lam’s office in support of House Bill 11 and submitted a video of his experience of being “coal-rolled.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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