The national law firm of Miller Weisbrod LLP filed three lawsuits this week against Navistar Inc. on behalf of three trucking clients that are seeking redress for “known defects and problems” with 2010 emissions-compliant MaxxForce engines.
Clay Miller, a partner with Miller Weisbrod, told FleetOwner that Navistar in effect “put the blinders on” and ignored problems with the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system designed for the MaxxForce engine line to meet the 2010 emission standards devised by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“We believe … it should have been obvious that raising engine heat to such high levels would lead to breakdowns and component part failure,” Miller explained. “We also believe that engineers inside the company were warning management of the risks of raising the engine heat and that the EGR-only strategy would not meet the EPA requirements for NOx [oxides of nitrogen] emissions.”
The firm added that Navistar’s subsequent abandonment of its EGR-only technology two years ago further bolsters its case.
Contacted by FleetOwner, a Navistar spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuits involve three fleets and their 2011 and 2012 model International Class 8 tractors equipped with MaxxForce engines: Americorp Xpress Carriers LLC in Texas; First Express, Inc., in Tennessee; and Floyd Blinsky Trucking, Inc., in Washington State.
Those carriers cover a broad range of trucking operations in terms of size, revenues, and freight type. For example, according to FleetSeek data, First Express operates 169 tractors, 365 mostly dry van trailers and amassed 16.9 million miles in 2013 with revenues of $29.1 million. Floyd Blinsky Trucking by contrast is a smaller operator with 60 tractors plus 70 dry van and refrigerated trailers hauling produce and general freight that earned $7.6 million in revenue last year while amassing 7.9 million miles.
Weisbrod’s Miller said that excessive downtime due to MaxxForce engine problems and the resulting loss of revenue is the major grievance of the trucking companies involved, but that the “final straw” that pushed the lawsuit forward is the lack of trade-in value of their 2011 and 2012 International tractors.
“The trade-in value is horrible; there’s just not a good market for these trucks,” Miller said.
The lawsuits– filed in McAllen, TX; Nashville, TN; and Tacoma, WA– allege that the trucking plaintiffs have experienced repeated and excessive breakdowns to their trucks powered by the MaxxForce engines, including components such as the EGR cooler, EGR valve, turbochargers and clogged fuel injectors.
The Weisbrod firm added that that the carriers hope to recover lost profits due to the unreasonable downtime, out-of-pocket expenses related to the breakdowns and the diminished value on trade-in or resale of the units due to their excessive repair histories and failure to be certified to EPA 2010 emissions regulations
Miller noted that Weisbrod engaged in similar litigation against Caterpillar four years ago regarding issues with that OEM’s 2007 emissions-compliant Class 8 truck engines before reaching a confidential settlement with the manufacturer in December 2011.
He explained that the Caterpillar case took about three or four months to get off the ground and a year to wrap up. In the Navistar case, though, Miller said “a lot more information” is available concerning MaxxForce engine issues so he expects the discovery and deposition process to proceed more quickly.
“What we’re seeing in our preliminary work is that [Navistar] engineers couldn’t make the EGR technology work and that even if they could make it work, they couldn’t make it work by the EPA’s compliance deadline,” Miller said. “Though we’re just getting started on this case, we have a much better idea of what Navistar’s engineers were saying than when we started out on the Caterpillar case.”