— Ram 4500 and 5500 trucks are under a federal investigation after complaints from ambulance companies which said the trucks broke down while transporting patients.
About 49,000 model year 2015-2017 Dodge Ram 4500 and Ram 5500 four-wheel-drive trucks are the focus of the probe following incidents that did major damage to the vehicles.
A complaint was filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about an ambulance that was driving on the highway when the driver heard a loud noise and felt a vibration.
The 2015 Ram 4500 cabin filled with smoke and the driver lost the brakes and steering as the engine shut down. The engine was on fire and once the fire was extinguished it was determined the transfer case was in pieces. The engine wiring harness was damaged as was the driveshaft, brake lines and fuel lines.
The complaint also says the floorboards in the front and rear were damaged.
A second complaint was filed by the driver of a 2016 Ram 5500 after a loud noise was heard and the truck vibrated. The vehicle lost power as the driver got the truck to the side of the road and discovered parts of the transmission littered the highway. Although there was fluid on the road and the engine was smoking, no fire was reported.
In a third complaint, the transfer case in a 2017 Ram 5500 exploded and Chrysler allegedly wouldn't pay for the repairs under warranty because the affected parts allegedly were not properly greased and maintained. The Ram driver says this is nonsense because the truck had only been in service for six months.
In addition, the complainant alleges a business associate had the exact same thing happen to their Ram truck.
NHTSA says data from the last three months of 2018 describes similar incidents suffered by ambulance fleets, with one describing an ambulance that was transporting a patient when the Ram stalled on the main roadway.
Another ambulance driver complained the vehicle lost motive power and the airbags deployed.
According to NHTSA, the symptoms correspond to what can occur when the driveshaft or transfer case fails, causing failures that "include the loss of engine power, loss of steering assist, loss of foundation brakes, unintended air bag deployment and engine/cab fires from combustible fluids striking hot exhaust."