According to reports in the Wall Street Journal the U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered thousands of Volvo heavy-duty trucks off US roads after the company announced a recall last week due to a potential steering defect that could cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles.
The order marks the first time regulators have pulled a particular manufacturer’s trucks from service in the USA , regulators say, and will force some fleet operators to scramble to find new big rigs to avoid stranding their cargo.
Earlier in March Volvo told federal regulators that it may have installed 19 defective steering shafts among the roughly 15,835 trucks it sold in the U.S. between 11 May 2015 and 8 March this year. The defective units were manufactured without roll pins, parts that ensure a shaft’s two parts hold together. If a shaft comes apart, it could cause the driver to lose control of the truck. Volvo later identified a second steering shaft defect affecting the same pool of nearly 16,000 trucks.
“In this case we’re looking at a loss of control of the vehicle without prior warning, which is an extreme condition for these vehicles,” said Bruce York, chief of the medium and heavy vehicles division with the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “The imminent risk is more severe than a lot of other recalls issued by other manufacturers.”
John Mies, a Volvo spokesman, said Wednesday that 13,761 trucks have already been taken out of service and 6,300 of those had been repaired, out of the total of 18,638 sold in the U.S. and Canada. The repair used an interim fix to secure the two parts of the steering shaft. On Wednesday, the company sent instructions to drivers, via their dashboard display software, instructing them to contact Volvo.
Eventually, the company plans to replace the mechanism in all the trucks affected with a one-piece steering shaft. The defective component had not been used prior to May last year,” he said.
“At the time, we believed that it would provide the same quality and durability as the previous, one-piece shaft, while being easier to install and maintain,” Mr. Mies said. “Obviously, we were wrong.”
The announcement by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was a rare and unusually strong measure for the regulator to take and indicates the severity of the safety issue, trucking industry experts said.
The order allows roadside inspectors and highway patrols to immediately pull affected trucks from service. The recall affects 2016 and 2017 model-year Volvo VNL, VNM and VNX trucks, as well as certain 2016 and 2017 Mack Titan trucks.
A Volvo Australia spokesman told Truck e-News the problem did not affect Volvo trucks in Australia as they used different componentry.
The US recall is a setback for Volvo, which has been gaining share in the heavy-duty truck market in recent years.
Volvo, and Mack leapfrogged Navistar into third-place in the US sales charts for heavy duty Class 8 trucks. It has a nearly 20 per cent share heavy duty sales in North America, analysts say.
“I think Volvo will be bending over backward to do everything they can to make customers whole as quickly as possible,” said Kenny Vieth, president of ACT Research.
The recall will affect about 0.5per cent of the U.S. truck market of between 3.2 million and 3.5 million trucks.
“Taking this many trucks off the road at one time is not normal, and that is going to get people’s attention,” he said.