The effectiveness of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was called into question at a hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee, said the purpose of the hearing was to "examine NHTSA’s configuration, its organization, and its performance in the areas of defects investigation, safety standards and enforcement."
Recently, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) wrote a letter to David L. Strickland, NHTSA administrator, requesting that NHTSA use its authority to regulate aftermarket crash parts. In light of the hearing, ASA also sent the letter to members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
ASA says its letter outlined concerns with NHTSA’s inaction, stating: "The lack of federal regulation of the aftermarket crash parts industry opens the vehicle owner to a host of quality and safety concerns. How can NHTSA’s mission statement, ‘Save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity,’ ignore the types of parts used to repair a vehicle after a collision?"
In the hearing, Strickland expressed a desire to improve NHTSA’s effectiveness and increase legislative authority.
"One of the first questions I asked when I became the administrator of NHTSA is whether our current statutory authority drafted largely in the 1960s and 1970s is sufficient to address the modern automobile and the global automotive marketplace," Strickland said. "I have asked our legal and program staffs to take a very close look at the scope and effectiveness of those authorities and make recommendations about how they may be improved. I look forward to working with this committee on how NHTSA’s ability to perform its mission might be strengthened through legislation."
Strickland discussed at length, in his testimony, the function of the Office of Defects Investigation.
Joan Claybrook, former NHTSA administrator and president of Public Citizen, highlighted several issues the agency should remedy to be more effective:
Low priority for enforcement
Agency secrecy makes public oversight difficult
Penalties are insufficient to deter violations
Agency resources need to be drastically increased
Information gathering and data systems are insufficient
New safety standards should result from investigations and testing
Conflict of interest rules need to be strengthened
See BodyShop Business’s coverage of the industry’s aftermarket crash parts concerns