Fight continues over alleged defects with Caterpillar C13, C15 engines

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | 5/8/2015

After purchasing his truck with a Caterpillar C15 engine eight months ago, OOIDA Life Member Lee Strebel of Peachtree City, Ga., says it has been a financial nightmare trying to keep his 2007 Peterbilt out of the shop and on the road.

“It’s been a problem almost since day one,” Strebel told Land Line on Monday, May 4.

Since October 2014, Strebel said his truck has been in the shop at least 10 times. So far, he said, he has spent around $10,000 on out-of-pocket repairs. He estimates he has lost between $15,000 and $20,000 in revenue because his truck was in the shop.

In late April, Strebel spent $3,900 to get his truck out of the shop in Olathe, Kan., after he was told “there was a renegade program in my ECM.”

Earlier in April, he said another Caterpillar-authorized dealer had installed the “renegade program.”

“They reprogrammed the ECM in Olathe and replaced number six injector, but said it was not under warranty because the ECM had a bad program in it,” he said. “I told them, ‘You guys put the program in there that caused the number six injector to fail in the first place.’”

Eager to get back on the road, Strebel paid the $3,900 repair bill.

So far, Strebel said he has replaced his ECM, the outer wiring harness, the inner wiring harness and has replaced his number six injector five times.

Strebel said he was surprised to learn recently that other truck and bus owners have experienced similar programs with their C13 or C15 engines.

Nearly a year ago, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled that all of the cases revolving around the C13 or C15 engines would be consolidated and transferred to U.S. District Court in New Jersey.

According to court documents filed by James H. Keale, counsel for Caterpillar Inc., “68 causes of action have been filed in 23 states” over problems with the C13 and C15 engines. There are currently “34 plaintiffs seeking to represent 23 state-wide classes.”

James Cecchi, a lead attorney on the MDL litigation against Caterpillar, told Land Line he estimates there may be “thousands of potential class members” who have experienced problems with the C13 and C15 engines.

“We are presently in the process of taking depositions and discovery in this case,” Cecchi told Land Line. “We are preparing our motion to create the class – to certify the class.”

According to court documents, plaintiffs’ motion for class certification “shall be filed by Oct. 30, 2015.”

Caterpillar has stopped making the C13 and C15 ACERT engines, but still repairs them if they are under warranty. However, Caterpillar denies knowledge that the C13 and C15 truck and bus engines were defective.

The complaints filed against Caterpillar revolve around trucks from model year 2007 to 2010 equipped with the Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology, or ACERT, diesel engines. Owners with the CRS system, which includes the diesel particulate filter, the aftertreatment regeneration device and the electronic control model, claim in the suits that they started experiencing engine breakdowns about every 20,000 miles. Buses or trucks would suddenly shut down to regenerate or repower and had to be towed to a Caterpillar-authorized repair facility because the computer codes and software were proprietary.

Prior to purchasing his truck from the motor carrier he is leased to, M & M American Logistics of Mason, Ohio, Strebel said he wasn’t aware of any problems with the C15 engines.

Now, he says he is well-versed on many of the issues C15 engine owners may be experiencing. Strebel said that some of his expenses have been covered under warranty, and the company he is leased to has also paid some of his repair bills.

Before he left the Kansas shop with his repaired C15 engine, Strebel said he was told the problem was fixed for good this time.

“I sure hope so, but I will believe it when I see it,” he said.

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