By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Pat and Annie Williams were glad to finally be rid of the truck that they claim nearly sunk their trucking business.
In March 2012 the Williams left their 2010 International ProStar at a neutral site for International to pick up. Less than two years before, the couple had left the Diamond International dealership lot in Lowell, Ark., with what felt like one of the nicest trucks they’d ever driven.
“It was very comfortable,” Williams told Land Line. “It had a nice turning radius. It was the quietest truck I’ve ever been in.”
After a few months out on the road, the truck began a series of breakdowns that Navistar, International’s parent company, seemed to have a hard time figuring out.
After several lawsuits were filed in July 2014 seeking damages for downtime while International mechanics and engineers tried to fix MaxxForce engine problems, the Williams knew they were not alone.
Diagnosis: please hold
Pat Williams, an OOIDA life member from Cookson, Okla., had been driving big trucks off and on since the 1950s.
In November 2009, the couple bought a brand new 2010 International ProStar with a MaxxForce engine for $116,000. The engine featured an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) emissions system. Other engine makers opted for the prevailing selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to meet 2010 emissions standards.
Navistar’s gamble on EGR failed. Navistar had to buy credits to offset the technology’s emissions performance failure.
In 2012, Navistar began offering both EGR and SCR options for International trucks. A year later, the company threw in the towel and switched completely to SCR engines.
All the while, Williams’ International ProStar’s MaxxForce engine repeatedly broke down.
Responding to questions from Land Line about the Williams’ truck, Navistar initially appeared to want to address the couple’s concerns.
“We always enjoy hearing from our customers,” Customer Relations Manager Jon Garver wrote in an email Wednesday, Aug. 6. After being provided the truck’s VIN and other information, the company declined to further comment.
The Williams’ ProStar started having engine problems in March 2010 – four months after its purchase. The issues were minor at first, then more complicated with increasingly more downtime.
Because the MaxxForce engine featured new technology, mechanics couldn’t simply pop the hood and dive in.
“The biggest problem with it was they couldn’t bring it into the shop and have the mechanics work on it,” Pat said. “The mechanics had to call the engineers, and the engineers had to scratch their heads for a while. Half a day later, they may call the mechanic back.”
Between July 2011 and November 2011, the Williams say the truck was out of service for mechanical issues for a total of 29 days. All the while, they were paying $2,300 monthly for a truck they needed to depend on.
“That’s when we decided we needed to get out of that truck,” Annie said.
A fair deal
The Williams tried to exchange the truck for a different International model several times, but the company declined. The Williams even offered to lease a different International truck.
“They’d take my paperwork, take the order, but they’d never process it through,” Pat said.
In September 2011, the couple went to the Diamond International dealership in Lowell. The Williams met with company and dealership heads, as well as the salesman they purchased the truck from. Thomas Kalbrier, customer service engineer with Navistar, was also in the group.
The couple explained they couldn’t continue to use the truck. Its inability to stay on the road was making Pat’s broker wary of giving them loads.
When Pat mentioned the possibility of filing a lawsuit, Pat told Land Line that Kalbrier responded that no driver could have legally put 188,000 miles on the truck in the time the Williams owned it. Pat claims that Kalbrier said if a suit were filed, someone from Navistar might just report any hours-of-service violations to the authorities.
In March 2012, Pat and Annie left the truck in a neutral location for International to take it back. The couple thought their long ordeal had ended.
The following January, the couple received a 1099-C form stating they received $26,000 in income from forgiven debt over the truck. Later in November 2013 the couple received a certified letter and bill from Navistar stating they owed $56,000. That situation remains unresolved.
Still apparently owing Navistar for the truck, the couple said in early August they have filed the paperwork necessary to join as plaintiffs with the San Diego firm handling one of the class actions.
Pat says his interest isn’t in making money on a suit. He only wants a fair deal from the company.
Trucking companies in three states sue Navistar over MaxxForce
Navistar hit with another lawsuit over MaxxForce engines
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