The following is the letter I wrote to the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)and I encourage everyone to write safety issues to them about our highways.
I funded and my girlfriend used a rental truck Vin # 1FDXE45S96DA63645 from U-haul to travel one way from Jacksonville, NC to Cheyenne, WY. During the trip the 14 foot truck experienced a total loss of power (LOP). The driver presumed the LOP may be related to a fuel (she got a mire 3 mpg which is too low even for a 700 ci engine) problem which was later determined that the brakes were locking up intermittently for long periods of time. This prevented the driver from making safe lane changes or being able to move to the side of the road until the vehicle would be able to operate normally to continue the trip of 1,940 miles.
This created a very dangerous situation for the traffic on the traveled interstates by the vehicle possibly coming to a complete stop abruptly and possibly causing the vehicles following to not be able to respond in time. Massive collisions could have been the result of an incident of this nature to include one or more semi tractor-trailers hauling heavy loads and other various vehicles filled with families. The possibility of a two mile pile up is absolutely mind boggling. This situation was compounded by the vehicle towing a 98 Ford Crown Victoria on an auto transport trailer.
The auto transport trailer did not have the required two safety chains because one of them was missing about 16 inches of links and the grappling hook to secure it to the rear of the truck towing it.
Also, the truck had a flat/low tire on the rear right outside of the dual set. The transport had a low/flat tire on the left rear. Mr. Matt Lorentz of corporate U-haul explained that the customer is responsible for ensuring the tires are properly inflated and that airing them at the fuel stop should have been performed. NOTE: At normal fuel stops, all that is available to the public is a coin operated machine with a maximum pressure output of 40 psi. This low pressure prevents the unqualified consumer from over-inflating a tire to a dangerous level. The tires on this truck require 80 psi. If attempting to fill the tires by an unqualified person, deflation to 40 psi would have been the result. Therefore the tire would be dangerously under-inflated possibly resulting in a severe accident. The driver walked around the combined rigging at each stop to ensure the load was still secure before continuing. To the best of her knowledge, nothing appeared wrong and everything was still as secure as when she departed. She relied on U-haul to make sure the rentals were road-ready for the long trip. Mr. Lorentz also asked why road service was not called to assist. It was explained to him that the breakdown area had no cell phone service. Bad gas mileage was not an excuse for a new truck.
I encourage the NHTSA to look into this matter immediately and to impound this vehicle and inspect it before any repairs are completed by the owning company; u-haul. I went to the rental dealer on 9-10-2008 and the truck referenced above was on the ready to go' line for the next person or company to rent. When I inquired about the incident and the condition of the vehicle, the mechanic said it did not have any problems. He serviced it and made it available for the next customer.
I have pictures of the brake rotor on both sides and it shows positively that the rotors had been severely overheated during the vehicles' use. Visual inspection of the brake pads was impossible at the time. They are assumed fried and in an unserviceable condition. This makes the vehicle very dangerous for the next driver. While attempting to return the truck and transport at the end of the contracted period, the truck speed would not exceed 28 mph and came to an abrupt stop without use of the braking system. Upon arriving at the location to turn it in, the brakes began to smoke enough to call 911 and summon the fire department.
The pictures show excessive amounts of brake dust on the inside of the wheel on both sides of the front wheel assemblies. The rotors themselves show evidence of the extreme heat that was generated from constant contact between the pad and rotor while the vehicle was moving and being driven up to the top speed of 28 mph.
As a retired master mechanic, if I were to estimate safe repair of this vehicle, it would include but is not limited to; new rotors, pads wheel brake cylinders and brake lines in the wheel well from the junction point to the wheel cylinder. A complete flush of the brake fluid system would be performed followed by an extreme road test to determine if the fix is secure and reliable before releasing back into normal service as part of U-haul's fleet.
I encourage the NHTSA to complete a random sampling survey of the equipment on u-haul lots in various locations nationwide to determine if the problem is with one franchise or the entire company. Expeditious reporting and required compliance on the part of this company as well as others could save countless lives, limbs and property.
The vehicles are currently located at:
John's Repair Shop and U-haul
3609 Laramie St
Cheyenne, WY 82001
The truck is currently out of commission according to the mechanic pending notification of the problem to the district manager of u-haul located in Denver, CO. He stated that they will usually pick up the vehicle and repair it at the Denver overhaul facility. UPDATE: Truck is expected to be picked up on 9-15-08 by the Denver, CO overhaul facility and repaired there.
I strongly suggest NHTSA contact the previous renter of this vehicle (possibly somewhere in Jacksonville, N.C.)to ask some critical questions. I recommend asking whether or not the truck had problems when they turned it in and what was the nature of the problem addressed.
ON ANOTHER NOTE: A lady by the name of Marci, the manager for U-haul on Marine Blvd in Jacksonville, NC, transferred the vehicle in to the location where it was rented and stated to the franchise owner that the truck must be given to the driver of this particular contracted trip.
When I finalized my contract with 1-800-go-uhaul she called (not identifying herself) and stated she had the truck and transport. She was very rude stating that, If you are not here 30 minutes prior to our closing time, an additional day will be charged and pick-up will be the next day. I asked if I were a few minutes late would that be a big deal and she stated, If you are here at ?:31pm, you WILL NOT be helped. We will not stay past closing. I found a place closer to where I needed the rental and the place closed much later. The owner was very nice and said they would stay late to accommodate us.
It is strongly suspect that Marci:
a) Sabotaged the truck for this contract due to personal differences with myself over a conversation the previous week where Marci was rude, impolite and unprofessional. Or...
b) Knowingly let this truck go out with a safety defect unrepaired.
That in itself is considered to be ATTEMPTED HOMICIDE!!!
Please give this matter your fullest attention at the most expeditiously.
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