Faulty Bendix Valves Installed on Around 60,000 New Trucks

By Rip Watson, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the Feb. 6 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story, and the Feb. 6 print edition of Transport Topics, incorrectly stated that malfunctions of the Bendix ATR-6 traction relay valve could disable the traction control and electronic stability control systems.

A faulty brake valve produced by Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems has been installed on as many as 60,000 Navistar Inc., Paccar Inc. and Volvo Group heavy-duty vehicles that are now in service.

The flawed valve also has halted or delayed delivery of an unknown number of trucks that are in various stages of production.

News of the faulty part became public on Feb. 1 during Navistar Inc.’s quarterly stock analyst meeting, when officials revealed it and warned that it was unclear what the effects might be on Navistar’s short-term profitability.

Navistar halted delivery of tractors with the Bendix valves on Jan. 20, a move that affected 40% of its total production, CEO Daniel Ustian told Transport Topics. Volvo now has resumed deliveries after postponing them on Jan. 19, spokesman Brandon Borgna said. Paccar officials declined to respond to several calls.

Malfunctions of the valve, identified as the Bendix ATR-6 traction relay valve, can unexpectedly apply a tractor’s brakes, Bendix said on its website. Failures of brake lights or brake pressure gauges also can occur, the company said.

“There is a situation going on right now in the industry relative to brakes,” said Jack Allen, president of Navistar’s North American truck group. “It’s quite a disruption to our operations.”

“We haven’t shipped a whole lot of trucks since Jan. 20, and many of these will be held up now into the second and third week of February,” Allen added.

“We’ll get all of this volume back this year,” Allen said, “I don’t have any doubts about that.” However, he added, “The cost is going to be quite a challenge for us,” in terms of delayed production and the need to retrofit all the trucks that are already on the road.

Navistar production continues for tractors equipped with Meritor Wabco braking systems, Allen said. Navistar didn’t disclose the number of vehicles affected.

A Daimler Trucks representative said Freightliner and Western Star trucks don’t use the valve.

The valve problem can cause unintended brake applications or loss of engine power in cold weather when the temperature drops below zero degrees Fahrenheit because of air leaks in the valve, Bendix spokeswoman Barbara Gould told Transport Topics.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Feb. 2 posted a recall notice, covering 131,221 of the valves. The number of valves exceeds the number of tractors because a vehicle can have several valves, Gould said.

“The issue was discovered during investigation of reports of intermittent brake applications occurring in mid-December 2011,” Bendix said, tracing the problem to a redesigned product introduced in December 2010. One accident but no injuries have been reported, the company filing said.

“This is an intermittent air-leak issue,” said Gould, who described the incidence as “isolated” without giving a frequency. “You may be in extreme cold conditions and not have this issue.”

The total number of affected trucks is between 50,000 and 60,000, she said.

Bendix, which is based in Elyria, Ohio, told NHTSA in a Jan. 26 letter that the valves were manufactured between Dec. 2, 2010, and Jan. 18 of this year. Regulators were notified at least six days after the OEMs were told of the condition. Gould wouldn’t comment on the reasons for the time gap.

Bendix said that defective valves manufactured since Jan. 18 “have been identified with the OEMs to ensure that the potentially affected vehicles will not be delivered for sale until the defect is fixed.”

Bendix urged that vehicles operated in “extremely cold conditions” with the ATR-6 valves should be brought in for service as soon as possible, even if no braking-related problems have occurred.

The supplier developed “a temporary remedy kit” to be installed during servicing. If that kit is installed, the company said, “traction control and/or the vehicle’s Bendix ESP and/or Bendix Wingman ACB system . . . will be disabled until the permanent remedy is completed.”

Bendix doesn’t yet have a firm date when a permanent solution will be found, Gould said, but Allen said Navistar expected to begin receiving corrected valves by the middle of February.

Gould said Bendix hasn’t yet determined a cost or financial consequences related to the problem.

“The issue is mechanical — intermittent air leakage from the valve,” said Gould, stressing that the technology used in the traction control and electronic stability systems isn’t the problem. Vehicles that have Bendix’s ATR-1 or ATR-3 traction relay valve don’t have the problem, she said. Neither does the AT-3 remote traction valve.

“Bendix has provided a design solution that uses a different valve, so vehicles currently being manufactured on line at our New River Valley assembly plant are not affected,” Volvo spokesman Borgna said, adding that dealers and customers were being notified.

Deliveries resumed on Jan. 31. About 26,000 trucks were affected at Volvo Group and 11 at Mack Trucks Inc.

Volvo maintained production at its Virginia plant by using a different Bendix master control valve, Borgna said. Navistar didn’t provide precise numbers of affected vehicles.

Navistar said the company hasn’t gauged the financial effects of the brake issue, but said it could be substantial.

Staff Reporters Greg Johnson and Eric Miller and Editorial Director Howard S. Abramson contributed to this story.


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