In 2014, the auto industry recalled nearly 64 million vehicles due to safety defects. According to figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that number is an all-time record. The number of recalled vehicles in 2014 exceeded the total for the previous three years combined. NHTSA and automakers have faced ongoing scrutiny and intense criticism from Congress regarding safety defects and whether they were being investigated properly and vehicles recalled promptly.
How Are Commercial Vehicles Affected?
Fontaine Fifth Wheel Co. recalled 6,800 fifth wheels last year that contained a part that allowed a semitrailer to
decouple and kill the drivers of two passenger vehicles. Following the recall, Fontaine partnered with NHTSA in an attempt to track down all of the recalled models that were sold and replace the defective part free of charge.
Takata has acknowledged that their massive air bag recall may possibly include air bag systems within commercial trucks as well. Although Takata originally claimed that the malfunction only existed in regions with high humidity levels, the recall has now extended across the US.
Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) recalled 21 Western Star 4700, 4800 and 4900 trucks in the 2015 model year due to speedometer malfunctions which resulted in a failure to display the speed of the truck. To remedy the issue, DTNA dealers agreed to install a new speedometer in each recalled truck.
These are only a few examples of commercial vehicle recalls that truckers experienced last year. When commercial vehicles are recalled, truckers as well as other drivers, are put at risk in the following ways:
- Truck drivers that are unaware of the recall continue operating the vehicle.
- Drivers are not required to have the recalled part replaced or repaired, even when made aware of the defective part.
- When a commercial truck driver learns of the recall, the driver may be several states away from a dealership and must continue to operate the vehicle.
What Are The Regulations?
The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, enacted in 1966, led to many commercial vehicle safety standards. The laws established a process for recalling defective vehicle equipment that put the onus on the dealerships and manufacturers. But, what happens when the owners of vehicles are either unaware or unwilling to visit the dealership to replace the recalled part?
In 2014, it was estimated that only 75% of recalled vehicles were returned to the dealership for repairs. In the wake of GM’s massive recall, they resorted to offering $25 gift cards to vehicle owners who brought their vehicle into the dealership for repairs. There are no regulatory requirements for commercial vehicle owners to repair their recalled vehicles.
There are no firm statistics for how many recalled commercial trucks remain on the roadways today; however, the estimate is 25%. That equates to the possibility of several thousand commercial trucks with air bag, seat belt, suspension system and other safety concerns operating daily on our roadways, putting the truck driver and every other driver on the road at risk.