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December 31, 2020 2:30 PM, EST

NHTSA Fines Daimler $10 Million Over Timing of Truck Recalls

OEM Also Assessed $20 Million in Fees, Deferred Penalty
Daimler headquarters"We appreciate the opportunity to summarily resolve this matter and continue building safe, efficient and reliable commercial vehicles," Daimler said in a release. (Daimler Trucks North America)

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Daimler Trucks North America will pay a $10 million fine and change how it recalls trucks after an investigation by federal safety regulators that found it did not recall vehicles in a timely fashion and comply with other reporting requirements.

Daimler, which builds Freightliner and Western Star trucks, agreed to the penalties in a consent order announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Dec. 31.

The agency’s Office of Defects Investigation opened a probe into Daimler’s recall procedures in 2018. In a June 13 letter sent to Daimler that year, NHTSA said DTNA “may have failed to report and/or timely submit required data and information” on recalls, an apparent violation of reporting obligations.

NHTSA identified five recalls that involved about 500,000 trucks that were included in the review.

James Owens

Owens

“Safety is NHTSA’s top priority,” Deputy Administrator James Owens said in a Dec. 31 statement. “It’s critical that manufacturers appropriately recognize the urgency of their safety recall responsibilities and provide timely and candid information to the agency about all safety issues.”

Daimler said it was pleased to settle the matter.

“The paramount focus for Daimler Trucks North America is on building safe, efficient and reliable commercial vehicles for the customers and drivers who keep our country and the world moving. In this case, though there are no known accidents or injuries associated with any of the voluntary recalls, we appreciate the opportunity to summarily resolve this matter and continue building safe, efficient and reliable commercial vehicles,” a Daimler spokesman said in a Dec. 31 statement.

The order requires Daimler to pay the $10 million fine and spend an additional $5 million on specific projects to enhance safety. NHTSA also included an additional $15 million deferred penalty that it said “may become payable under specified circumstances.”

The consent order has a two-year term, but NHTSA can extend it for a third year if it is not satisfied with Daimler’s compliance.

The company must now develop and implement an advanced data analytics program to enhance its ability to detect and to investigate potential safety defects, NHTSA said. It also must improve its IT systems “to collect potential safety information from its business units more effectively, and to report that information accurately to NHTSA.”

NHTSA will require Daimler to develop written procedures and conduct training for its employees on the recall and reporting requirements of the federal Vehicle Safety Act to ensure that it is reporting complete information to safety regulators. It also will meet regularly with NHTSA to discuss potential safety issues.

Among trucks affected were 436,095 2008-18 Freightliner Cascadias, 2008-18 Western Star 4700s, 2008-18 Western Star 4900s, 2008-18 Western Star 5700s and 2008-18 Western Star 6900s produced over 10 years starting in early 2007. Some had a brake light pressure switch that didn’t activate the brake lights.

Also included were 24,860 2002-17 Freightliner Cascadia, Century Class, Columbia and Coronado and Western Star 4700, 4900, 5700 and 6900 trucks. They were equipped with Kidde plastic-handle or push-button fire extinguishers that were prone to clogs. Some had a nozzle that could break loose from the extinguisher with enough force to cause an injury. Other smaller recalls concerned problems with wheelchair lifts in Thomas Built school buses, propane line leaks in other Thomas Built school buses and power steering fluid leaks in recreational vehicles built on a Freightliner chassis.

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