Here's Why Rolling Coal Has Been Banned In 6 States

Inhaling noxious fumes from passing vehicles may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for some diesel enthusiasts, it's not a problem at all. Some diesel truck drivers — whether to make a statement or just for fun — go so far as to modify their vehicle so that it releases as much exhaust as possible. This phenomenon is known as "rolling coal," and it happens when a diesel truck is modified so that it can intentionally blast black smoke in abundance. 

Although it could be a pain if you are on the receiving end of this smoke, there might not be a whole lot you can do about it. Coal rolling is legal in most of the United States. Only six states have completely outlawed rolling coal at the time this article is set to be published, including Maine, Utah, New Jersey, Maryland, Colorado, and Connecticut.

This is hardly a new trend. Its origins trace back to truck pulling or power pulling competitions. In this motorsport, pickups, and tractors compete to see who can pull weighted sleds the farthest (via New York Times). Lately, coal rolling has been getting some renewed attention due to social media, and a certain viral TikTok video showing a driver spraying customers with what looks like noxious fumes at a Texas Whataburger restaurant

Prior to states making rolling coal illegal, federal laws were already in place to ban drivers from adding modifications to their vehicles that could alter the level of emissions. However, New Jersey was the first state to ban the practice of rolling coal in 2015. Other states soon followed and enacted similar laws as well.

Who is affected?

Make no mistake, these laws are not blanket bans to target every single vehicle on the road. Diesel trucks that normally emit exhaust small blasts of fumes when accelerating are exempt. They also exempt commercial vehicles that weigh 10,000 pounds or more, or vehicles on construction sites (via Washington Post).

The targets for these laws are the diesel vehicle owners who deliberately rev their engines to blow smoke over pedestrians, cyclists, and passers-by, showing no concern for their health or care for the environment.

That's why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has scrambled to enact these measures in recent years. According to the EPA, coal rolling is a major source of air pollution due to nitrogen oxide being released into the atmosphere. In addition, scientific research shows that inhaling toxic exhaust fumes can put individuals at risk of developing asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory infections. Prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust can also exacerbate allergies.

While not banned outright, coal rolling can still result in hefty fines for offenders. Fines vary depending on where you live. For example, New Jersey has imposed a $5000 maximum fine for anyone busted rolling coal.