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NHTSA’s defect investigation of Volvo trucks upgraded

According to an article published May 22 in Bloomberg News, U.S. regulators upgraded investigations that may lead to recalls of about 56,000 Volvo AB heavy-duty trucks for suspension bolts.

According to Bloomberg, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking at why the bolts cracked and broke on some Volvo trucks, causing the rear axles to shift. Bloomberg says NHTSA’s discussions with fleet managers showed the vehicles were properly maintained, though the bolts weren’t clamping the suspension parts tightly enough.

As reported in the April 30 issue of Barron’s, NHTSA upgraded a review of these bolt failures on rear suspensions of Volvo Series VN trucks from the 1996 through 2000 model years. After opening a preliminary evaluation last October, the agency has upgraded the case to an engineering evaluation. According to Barron’s European Editor, Vito Racanelli, the Office of Defect Investigations (ODI) at NHTSA has discovered 530 U-bolt failures from fleet contacts. Racanelli, in his article, says Volvo informed ODI of another 453 U-bolt failure warranty claims, but says it is not clear if any are coincidental claims.

Fleets aren’t the only trucking businesses to deal with safety concerns, suffer downtime and to incur constant costs connected with defective trucks. On Mar. 21, 2001, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association submitted a petition to NHTSA urging the agency to investigate defects on Volvo trucks as reported by small business trucker owners with complaints. At the time of the petition 185 member complaints had been documented involving 260 trucks. Eighty of those complaints described the frequent need to replace loose and worn suspension and suspension-related parts. As noted in the petition, the most common suspension problem (detailed in 25 complaints) concerned the u-bolts that hold the suspension to the axle. In many cases Volvo owners found their U-bolts to be either loose or sheared off and missing.

According to OOIDA, a number of truckowners are disappointed that NHTSA’s review appears to be limited to bolt failures on rear suspensions of Volvo Series VN trucks from the 1996 through 2000 model years only. James Fontaine of Janesville, WI, owns a 1994 model. He reported to OOIDA that the U-bolts on his truck have caused him nothing but trouble. After finding his rear suspension bolts sheared many times, he was told by a Volvo dealer “it is a common replacement item” and the “final cure” was to go to Caterpillar and get their industrial bolts and put them on the truck.

Meanwhile, the number of documented cases gathered by OOIDA has climbed to more than 300. – Land Line staff

Editor’s note: If you have a Volvo defect complaint, you can now submit your information via the OOIDA web site. Go to www.ooida.com and be sure to include all pertinent details (name, phone number, truck VIN, etc.).

Aug/Sept Digital Edition