Major truck manufacturers issued a joint recall of commercial trucks in the fall of 2017 due to problems with the steer axles. The recall was initiated following investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that indicated the castellated nut located on the steer axle was improperly torqued during the production process. This can cause the tie rod to loosen and disconnect from the steering knuckle. If this happens, the driver can lose control over the vehicle. In total, the recall covers nearly 20,000 vehicles manufactured from 2016 through 2017.
The castellated nut on the axle has notches cut into it that are designed to help lock the nut in place with the assistance of a cotter pin. If this is not properly secured, the nut can loosen causing the tie rod to come loose and turn the vehicle into an uncontrollable, 80,000 lbs. missile hurtling down the highway.
These nuts were installed on the Dana Spicer D and E-Series axles and can be installed by hand or through the use of compressed air power drills. If too much force is applied during installation, the nuts can shatter and break. If too little force is applied, the seal won’t be secure as is the case with the present recall.
The recall covers vehicles manufactured by Daimler Trucks, Navistar, Paccar, Volvo, Mack, and Autocar. Covered vehicle makes include the popular Western Star, Wabash National, Peterbilt, Kenworth, and Freightliner.
It is estimated that the problem with the steer axle affects roughly 2% of all the vehicles covered under the recall. However, given that there are nearly 20,000 vehicles which have been recalled, this means that the problem affects approximately 400 trucks.
Loss of Control is a Known Risk
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the NHTSA showed that loss of control was a leading cause of commercial vehicle accidents. In many cases, the reason the driver lost control over the vehicle was the failure of critical steering components. As such, the present recall presents a timely opportunity for fleet vehicle operators and drivers to take active steps to protect themselves and other motorists from the potential for serious injuries and wrongful deaths that can occur when these components fail.