The last few years have seen a number of automotive recalls and reports of safety concerns. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) posted information on its website indicating that it is intensifying its investigation into safety concerns surrounding brakes on a number of trucks manufactured by General Motors, some of which may have caused auto accidents.
The particular makes and models covered by the investigation are reported to be the Sienna and Yukon from GMC and the Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, and Silverado from Chevrolet. The investigation is also focused on those vehicles with model years of between 1999 and 2003.
At this point, the investigation has not proceeded to the point where a recall is imminent, but according to the NHTSA, an "engineering analysis" is being completed. The concern is that brake lines are rusting through and potentially making it difficult for drivers to slow or stop their vehicles.
According to the NHTSA, they have reports of 10 instances in which drivers were involved in accidents because they could not stop within the normal time or distance. They also have about 25 reports of near-accidents in which drivers had to take evasive maneuvers in order to avoid a collision.
At this time, the NHTSA believes the problem is made more severe by deterioration caused by salt used on roadways during winter months. However, they do not appear to have ruled out problems unrelated to those caused by salt-related corrosion. The focus of the investigation appears to be on the approximately 2 million trucks in the so-called "salt belt" region of the country, but a nationwide recall may end up covering all vehicles.
Source: New York Times, Brake Inquiry on G.M. Trucks, Christopher Jensen 1/16/11