March 23, 2016 3:00 PM, EDT

Volvo Starts Interim Repair Process for 15,835 Recalled Trucks

Kristian Helgesen/Bloomberg News

Volvo Trucks North America has begun distributing interim repair information to address the recall of 15,835 of its 2016 and 2017 models in the United States for a steering shaft defect that has prompted both the manufacturer and the U.S. government to urge that the units be taken out of service immediately.

Volvo late last week began distributing information to dealers on the interim repairs that can be made to return the trucks to service, spokesman John Mies said. He said it wasn’t known how many trucks have received the interim repair to the two-piece shafts that can separate because a roll pin is missing or was improperly tightened. Four crashes and no personal injuries have been linked to the defect, according to Volvo’s filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The first group of parts for the permanent repair, in the form of a one-piece steering shaft that will replace the two-piece version, are expected to begin arriving by the end of next week, Mies said.

Volvo in its dealer communications and public statements has urged fleets to take the affected trucks off the road right away.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and NHTSA, in a joint statement, said unrepaired trucks that are on the road “are in an unsafe condition and should not be operated. Such vehicles are to be immediately ordered out-of-service by federal and state roadside safety inspectors.” Update, March 29: FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne said that as of March 28, roughly 30 of the recalled Volvo trucks had been placed out-of-service by roadside inspectors.

The action covers about 60% of the VNL, VNM and VNX models that were produced between May 11, 2015, and March 8 this year. About 40% of production during the period covered by the recall was not affected since the vehicles had a one-piece steering shaft.

“We have also stopped delivery of any vehicles equipped with the component,” Mies said. Owners are being compensated for the cost of obtaining replacement equipment until the repairs are complete, Mies said. Those with recall questions can contact Volvo at 877-800-4945.

All of the recalled trucks are under warranty.

“We are completely committed to the safety of our customers and those they share the road with, and we are keeping NHTSA and Transport Canada advised as we address this issue,” Mies added. “We have worked as quickly as possible to advise customers to remove the affected vehicles from service, and we’re working as quickly as possible to address the problem.”

In addition to the U.S. recall, there are 2,803 affected trucks in Canada.

The NHTSA statement tied the defect to a part supplied by Willi Elbe, a German company.

“We are working closely with Volvo, who is likewise working closely with the relevant regulatory authorities and its customers, to address the issues with the steering shafts in question in a prompt manner,” Frank Veigel, manager of sales at Willi Elbe, told TT.

Mies said the company changed its specifications for the 2016 and 2017 models to give customers the choice of a greasable two-piece shaft or the non-greasable one-piece version. The intent of the new shaft design was to deliver the same quality and durability while improving maintenance and manufacturability, he said.

“Today’s announced declaration is not intended to provide a basis for further enforcement action, but seeks only the immediate cessation of the unrepaired, unsafe trucks,” the DOT agencies’ statement said, while noting that violating an out-of-service order can result in civil or criminal penalties.