Late-Model Ford Pickups Could Pose Safety Risks

Amid dozens of complaints filed by owners of Ford F-150 pickups from model years 1997-2001 - a common sight at workplaces, farms and construction sites around the country - the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now investigating the supports holding the gas tank onto the body of the truck. The complaints allege that the metallic straps supporting the tank's weight and securing it to the underbody are not really "Built Ford Tough," instead being prone to rust that causes their complete failure.

What is Happening?

Small amounts of rust are to be expected on the underside of a rugged workhorse like the F-150, but the extensive corrosion seen on the gas tank straps of these trucks is anything but normal. If rust and oxidation of these metallic supports is severe enough, the straps can wear away altogether, causing the gas tank to completely detach from the truck. The consequences of this can be catastrophic - imagine an F-150 fully loaded with equipment and materials traveling down the road when its full fuel tank detaches, spilling fuel while it drags along the road, sparking as it strikes the asphalt - fires, explosions and injury-causing accidents are certainly possible.

Some complaints received by the NHTSA have indicated that the rust pervaded the fuel tank as well, requiring replacement not only of the ruined straps, but the entire gasoline storage system.

What Action Is Being Taken?

The NHTSA's investigation is ongoing, and a recall has not been ordered, but in a year full of high-profile vehicle recalls - Toyota, Lexus and Pontiac have all been put in the spotlight because of faulty components - consumers who drive these trucks need to be on heightened alert. A strap failure while the vehicle is in motion could cause a single- or multi-vehicle accident, a fuel leak that could result in groundwater contamination and other harm. If such an incident occurs on a work site, operations will grind to a halt while injuries and property damages are assessed, possible environmental hazards are examined, and personal insurance, workers' compensation and professional insurance policies bicker over coverage options.

If you have been involved in a work-related accident caused by a defective vehicle component or other reason, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.