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NHTSA probes overheating brakes that could cause fires in 500,000 semis

NHTSA probes overheating brakes that could cause fires in 500,000 semis
In this March 31, 2021, photo, semitrucks mingle with other vehicle traffic on the I-76 in Philadelphia. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration opened an investigation, Tuesday, July 20, into about a half-million semis that are equipped with brakes that can catch fire. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

DETROIT — U.S. highway safety regulators have opened an investigation into about a half-million semis with brakes that can catch fire.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says in documents posted on its website July 20 that it has received 11 complaints about brakes made by Haldex Commercial Vehicle Systems, including seven fires. No injuries have been reported.

The complaints say problems occurred mostly on Kenworth and Peterbilt tractors. The agency is investigating brakes on model year 2015-2020 semis.

NHTSA says the investigation covers certain Haldex Gold Seal brake chambers, which convert compressed air into a mechanical force that stops the trucks. It says a spring can fracture, puncturing a diaphragm and causing air loss. That can make the brakes drag without warning to the driver and eventually cause fires.

The fires caused extensive damage to the trucks, and in some cases the cargo, the agency says. NHTSA says it has learned multiple truck fleets were having issues with the brake chambers. It says Haldex has replaced brake chambers on some vehicles in the fleets.

NHTSA says it will determine how often the problem happens and what models it affects. An investigation can lead to a recall.

Messages were left July 20 seeking comment from Haldex, which has its U.S. headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.

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