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Fifth Wheels Recalled Following Deadly Crash

Posted: September 14, 2015

TRUSSVILLE, AL — A fifth wheel manufacturer has reportedly agreed to recall 6,800 pieces of equipment following a deadly crash.

Al.com reports Fontaine Fifth Wheel in August agreed to the recall, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) records. A government investigation began in June, 17 months after a semi-trailer came loose from its tractor and plowed into oncoming traffic near Cincinnati, OH, killing two men driving pickup trucks. 

According to the NHTSA recall notice, this involves certain Ultra LT Fifth Wheel connectors, part number SLTPL4000, manufactured July 29, 2009 through May 27, 2013. Over time, improper coupling techniques may result in cumulative damage to the fifth wheel and its locking mechanism, which in turn may result in the locking mechanism failing to operate or to properly engage.

It says if the fifth wheel and locking mechanism are sufficiently damaged, the locking mechanism may fail to operate as intended and the trailer may unexpectedly detach from the tractor, increasing the risk of a crash.

The fifth wheels were installed on trucks from Daimler, Volvo, Mack, Navistar, Kenworth and Peterbilt.

Fontaine is notifying owners and dealers will replace the fifth wheels free of charge. Fontaine will also pay for up to $100 for labor involved in a switch to a newer model, the Ultra NT, which includes a No-Slack, two-lock design.

Truckinginfo.com reported Fontaine Fifth Wheel’s president, Ken Kelley, said the Ultra LT had been discontinued in 2013 as part of a “product rationalization” to reduce the number of products and parts. While the LT was in production, Fontaine made lock-related improvements and issued a technical service bulletin warning of possible problems if the fifth wheels were improperly used and not properly maintained, a company statement said.

Following the accident, “Fontaine proactively reached out to NHTSA in May 2015 to discuss conducting a field campaign to replace the remainder of the subject population of the 2009-2013 Fontaine Ultra LT fifth wheels sold in the United States in response to continued field observation of damaged fifth wheels,” the statement said. 

“Fontaine did not consider there to be a safety related defect in the units, but had decided to replace the units to provide more robust feedback to operators, to reduce the potential for operator error and to eliminate the need to continue to stock parts and repair kits for a discontinued product.”  

Owners may contact Fontaine customer service at 1-844-597-7393.

A copy of the NHSTA safety recall report is on the agency’s website.

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