NHTSA calls on fleets to report defects

NASHVILLE, TN – The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Defect Investigation is calling on truck fleets to notify it about vehicle manufacturing or design defects.

“We have a real hard time identifying defects on commercial vehicles,” said program manager Bruce York, making his plea to the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council.

Look no further than the statistics for proof. About 235 million vehicles in the U.S. generate about 45,000 complaints a year. In contrast, 9 million trucks only generate 600 calls to the office.

Manufacturers jump on complaints raised by individual fleet customers, but that doesn’t ensure similar vehicle issues are addressed, York said. “It [a truck that isn’t addressed] is going to crash and kill one of your family members or one of your friends,” he said. “Reach out to our office. Reach out and contact us and let us know about the defect.”

The office doesn’t have the authority to place vehicles out of service, he stressed.

Some issues identified as maintenance-related challenges might also involve design or manufacturing issues, he said. The “grey areas” can include things like fuel leaks, cracked frames, abrading air lines, and chafed wires.

York offered examples of past recalls, such as the 25,643 trucks pulled off the road to address cracks in steering column mounts, and the 55,794 trucks recalled because of a missing clip that allowed oil lines to rub against the engine. “That was a Canadian vehicle,” York said, pointing to the picture of one burnt hulk. In another recall, failing drag links in Volvo led to lost steering, requiring a recall of 111,050 vehicles.

 “Get your trucks fixed, but also let’s get them all fixed,” he told maintenance managers in the crowd.

Design or manufacturing-related safety defects can be reported by calling 888-327-4236, or visiting www.safertruck.gov.

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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