The Origins of Coal Rolling
In motorsport form, the eye-catching diesel smoke is a byproduct of the truck's functionality. When it's just for fun, as we'll see later, the driver can make the smoke spurt on command. And the coal rollers who do it for sport now face the burden of trying to distance themselves from the ones who do it as a political statement.
Truck pulling is the motorsport of choice for many diesel pickup enthusiasts, and it's the source of the newfound interest in coal rolling. Truck pull participants modify their diesels for extra performance, using engine tuning strategies and methods that we'll describe later in detail. The drivers of these performance-oriented pickups gather at official events (or on someone's farm), line up, hook up some extra weight on a sled that's dragged behind the truck and then race for speed or distance. The plumes of black smoke are merely a side effect of all the modifications required to succeed in truck pulling -- but they're definitely dramatic.
For a motorsport that seems like it would be easily scorned, interest in truck pulling appears to be still strong. Most truck pulls are organized events, and clubs like the Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulling Association boast hundreds of members, decades of experience, and a calendar of dozens of events from spring until fall. The Outlaw group, which is based in the Midwest, has been around since 1982, and its members compete in truck pulls across the country. The Outlaws' website says that for the past three years, group membership has increased by at least 10 new recruits per year. The group says that safety and good sportsmanship are its top priorities, and there are plenty of other truck pull clubs that appear to take themselves and their sport just as seriously. It's not hard to see why truck pull groups are trying to distance themselves from the negative public perception of the recent coal rolling trend. Truck pulls might not suit everyone's tastes, but there's a lot to be said for being responsible and respectful of the surroundings.