Despite relatively easy reporting and repair or replacement of a defective vehicle or part at no cost, some truck fleets delay reporting and fixing defects to avoid lost revenue from sidelined equipment.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) depends on truck fleets to report a dangerous vehicle manufacturing or design defect, so that it can investigate and issue a recall if necessary. However, while about 235 million vehicles in the U.S. generate about 45,000 complaints a year to NHTSA, 9 million trucks only generate 600 calls.
NHTSA Makes Reporting Truck Defects Easier
In an effort to streamline the reporting process, NHTSA offers four ways carriers can report a problem.
The Vehicle Safety Hotline can be reached at 888-327-4236 from anywhere in the United States, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where representatives are on duty from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
A letter can be sent describing the problem with a phone number, so the person reporting can be reached for more information. NHTSA can also send a postage-paid complaint form to provide information about the complaint. Carriers can call 888-327-4236 to obtain the form.
All correspondence can be sent to:
NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation (NEF-100)
1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Electronically report a problem by visiting www.safertruck.gov.
Fax a letter or complaint form to: 202-366-1767.
NHTSA’s Investigative Recall Process
After NHTSA receives a certain number of complaints on any specific line of vehicles, tires or equipment that has a potential for causing a risk to safety, it opens an investigation. During that investigation, investigators perform a detailed technical analysis of the issue using all available information.
The investigation includes, but is not limited to, service bulletins, consumer complaints, warranty claims, crash and injury data, part sales, inspections, tests, surveys and other documents prepared by the manufacturers.
NHTSA’s investigative process consists of:
- A review of customer complaints
- An analysis of any petitions calling for defect investigations and/or reviews of safety-related recalls
- The investigation of alleged safety defects
- An investigation into the effectiveness of safety recalls
If NHTSA’s analysis of the data indicates a safety defect exists, the manufacturer must fix it at no charge to the vehicle’s owner. A potential problem can be anything related to electronics or mechanical equipment. A recall may also be issued when a vehicle is not in compliance with a motor vehicle safety standard.
NHTSA Reaches Out with Recall Notices
Each owner of a vehicle affected by a recall receives a “Safety Recall Notice” via first-class mail. Dealers receive specific information on the part that must be used, the labor involved and how they will be compensated for the work. They also receive a list of the chassis and vehicle identification numbers in the area and what they sold to customers. After that, it is the responsibility of the dealers to contact those customers and coordinate a repair. NHTSA also requires vehicle lessors that receive a recall notification to notify their lessees within 10 days of their receipt of the notice.
Manufacturer Campaigns Independent of NHTSA Recall Process
Manufacturers may also initiate an equipment fix that is termed a “campaign” and doesn’t require involvement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If they discover a safety defect in their equipment, manufacturers must follow specific procedures. They must notify NHTSA, equipment owners, dealers and distributors of the defect, and then remedy the problem at no charge to the owner of the vehicle.
The manufacturer’s report includes:
- A description of the safety-related defect
- The scope
- The owner notification timing
Recall Fix Reimbursement Doesn’t Include Vehicle Downtime and Expenses
While manufacturers are legally required to cover the cost of a recall fix, they don’t cover expenses for the travel to get a truck to a dealership or the downtime of the vehicle. The closing date of eligibility for reimbursement of repair for a motor vehicle is 10 days after the manufacturer mails the last of the owner notices informing them of the defect. For equipment, the closing date is 30 days after the manufacturer’s closing of its notifications. Some carriers delay non-safety related repairs until it needs to be done, even when they miss the reimbursement window.
For more information about trucking laws and liability, visit our website at: www.portlandtruckaccidentlawyer.com.
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