Comment: Nobody’s perfect05 December 2023

commercial vehicle recalls trucks buses

One of the consistently most popular pages on the Transport Engineer website is commercial vehicle recalls. The page ( now lists more than 600 entries for trucks, buses and vans (though vans dominate). The oldest record refers to a starter motor issue on a truck that started production 20 years ago next month.

While the need to publish a product recall is no good thing – it indicates the potential of causing a risk of serious injury – recalls appear to be a universal fact linking all commercial vehicle brands. A quick check verifies the inclusion of all six truck brands, plus the principal buses and coaches. DVSA’s vehicle safety branch investigates vehicle recalls: there have been more than 16,000 since 1992, mostly passenger cars owing to their far greater volumes.

Even if an operator’s vehicles aren’t affected, recalls offer a fascinating insight into the complex nature of automotive manufacturing, one that better captures its reality far closer than do brochures. As every engineer knows, much can be learned from what has gone wrong. Here are some quotations from recalls taken more or less at random: “Some steering shafts were assembled with an incorrect component”; “The fuel heater may fail due to a cable damaged by heat at the electrical connection of the fuel filter heater”; “Mounting screws of the steering box may become loose”.

Also, recalls are a good example of the maxim ‘the truth will out’. Big supply chain issues working their way through the industry eventually end up here. For example, our recalls pick up replacements of defective Takata air bag inflators. In their number have also been recalls of diesel emissions systems, following the exposure of some OEMs who were cooking the books, so to speak.

Over the summer, for the first time, the seemingly never-ending flow of vehicle recall information dried up. The lack of news for more than two months caused some concern in the editorial department (though that issue now appears to be resolved). Now, the only complaint the editor would like to make involves a reduction of detail. For some unexplained reason, after January 2023, recalls gradually dropped the VIN (vehicle identification number) range of affected vehicles. DVSA has been approached for comment. This omission prevents readers from confirming immediately whether the recall applies. In our modern age that feels like a backward step.

Will Dalrymple

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