On Detroit Today, Stephen Henderson and David Shepardson, Washington DC bureau chief for the Detroit News, talk about the audit of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the problems it uncovered. The key points of their discussion:
- What problems did the audit find?: Shepardson says the intensive audit of NHTSA uncovered top-to-bottom issues throughout the agency including those involving the initial intake of official complaints, of which he says 90% are ignored due to the limited time spent analyzing each one. He says the agency’s staff lacks appropriate training and doesn’t know how to decide what complaints are worth investigating.
- What is the Senate looking for?: Shepardson says the Senate panel NHTSA faced on Tuesday wants to see that the money NHTSA already has is being spent wisely, with better training for personnel and a clear plan for opening investigations, before agreeing to more funding. But money isn’t the only thing NHTSA wants, according to Shepardson; he says they also want more authority, particularly imminent hazard authority. He says this would allow NHTSA to immediately force car companies to take vehicles with safety issues off of the roads—currently a multi-year process—but he thinks it is unlikely they will get either this year.
- What do car companies think?: The auto industry, Shepardson says, doesn’t want the growing aggressiveness of NHTSA investigations and increases in auto safety legislation, but he says it does have a large stake in the improvement of the agency’s functionality. He says crises such as the General Motors faulty ignition switch recall are all-consuming for car companies and if this issue had been caught years earlier, it would have been a much smaller crisis for them to face.
To listen to the full conversation click the audio link above.