Whataburger Filled With Fumes After Driver Rolls Coal Into It in Viral Video

Concern has been sparked by a viral video showing a driver "rolling coal" into a Texas Whataburger that has been viewed over 1 million times.

Rolling coal is not a new practice but has come under close scrutiny in Texas after a recent incident in the state resulted in the hospitalization of four cyclists. The practice sees diesel truck drivers modify their vehicle to increase how much fuel enters the engine, and in turn increases the amount of exhaust smoke coming out of the car.

The viral video was filmed inside a Whataburger in Texas, and documented a thick cloud of black smoke entering the restaurant through the front door while diners ate. In the week since being posted, it's been viewed over 1 million times as the comments fill with criticism against the act.

The video can also be seen in full here.

Some coal rollers belong to a whole subculture dedicated to the act, with online pages and groups, despite the environmental impact of it.

According to a 2020 federal report, operators of over half a million diesel pickup trucks have been illegally modifying the emissions over the past decade, causing excess emissions equal to 9 million extra trucks on the road.

Rolling coal releases nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that has been linked to heart and lung disease, and industrial soot, often linked to respiratory diseases.

When it comes to how the law covers the practice, it's slightly murky. Rolling coal violates the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), which covers all states. "It is a violation of the [CAA] to manufacture, sell, or install a part for a motor vehicle that bypasses, defeats, or renders inoperative any emission control device," reads the EPA's website. "The CAA prohibits anyone from tampering with an emission control device on a motor vehicle by removing it or making it inoperable prior to or after the sale or delivery to the buyer."

Liz Purchia, the press secretary for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the time, told Talking Points Memo in 2014: "The short answer is this is illegal."

Texas also follows its own state transportation code, which although prohibiting excessive smoke from a vehicle, contains some exceptions for diesel engines. According to Texas Public Radio, coal rollers will often manipulate their trucks so that they are able to pass their emission tests.

Attention in one Texas county recently turned to the legality of coal rolling, after a teenager reportedly drove into six cyclists in September after blowing fumes onto them.

The driver was not charged but Elton Mathis, the District Attorney of Waller County, wrote in a statement that: "Rolling coal when a person is in the vicinity and when the individual rolling coal intentionally or knowingly causes that excess exhaust to contact that bystander is AT A MINIMUM an assault. They are causing their vehicle to 'spit' on a living, breathing, human being that is worthy of dignity and not having his or her person violated.

"That simple assault is easily elevated to a jail eligible offense if bodily injury occurs, which can be caused by entry of toxic particles into [the] mouth, nose and eyes.

"Waller County law enforcement agencies all across the county are being reminded today of the availability of these and other charges which can be brought against individuals acting in such a criminal manner."

Although the reaction of those in the video wasn't extreme, with many simply moving away from the smoke and some even audibly laughing, those online have highlighted potential issues. For most, the release of the fumes in an enclosed space appears to be the main concern.

"All fun and games until the kid with asthma has an asthma attack,"

"If this was done in a parking lot I could care less but in someone's business, that's wrong," wrote another.

Newsweek has contacted Whataburger for additional information and comment.

Diesel vehicle releasing exhaust fumes
Stock image of a diesel vehicle exhaust fumes. Getty Images