U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the release of two internal reports from the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that outline the changes NHTSA has adopted in the wake of the General Motors (GM) ignition switch recall and how the agency proposes to strengthen its defect investigation workforce.
Secretary Foxx also announced the formation of a three-person Safety Systems Team (SST) of outside experts who will spend the next year advising NHTSA on implementation of the changes outlined in the report. At the same time, NHTSA launched a new, internal Risk Control Innovations Program, which will bring together NHTSA staff from across the agency to address emerging highway safety risks that cut across the agency’s enforcement, vehicle safety and behavioral safety efforts.
“NHTSA has identified improvements, some already in progress and some we plan to make, to better investigate, identify and remedy defects that threaten public safety,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx. “With the SST, we are enlisting three of the most experienced and knowledgeable safety professionals in the world to help us implement these changes. And with the Risk Control Innovations Program, we are breaking down stovepipes and reaching into offices from across NHTSA to address safety risks.”
NHTSA’s Safety Systems Team (SST) will guide and validate strategy, tactics and actions to enhance the agency’s effectiveness. The team will include:
- Dr. Joseph Kolly, Ph.D., director of the Office of Research and Engineering at the National Transportation Safety Board, who is detailed to NHTSA for the remainder of 2015
- Dr. J. Victor Lebacqz, Ph.D., former associate administrator for aeronautics research at NASA
- Dr. James P. Bagian, M.D., director of the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety at the University of Michigan, where he is a professor at the medical and engineering schools and also a former NASA astronaut and veteran of two space shuttle missions
The Risk Control Innovations Program will use multi-disciplinary teams from across NHTSA to address safety risks or problems that fall outside the agency’s specialized programs and to develop individualized solutions.
One recently released report, “NHTSA’s Path Forward,” provides the results of a year-long due-diligence review Secretary Foxx requested in the wake of the GM ignition switch investigation. Based on weaknesses identified in the review, the report outlines changes to improve the agency’s ability to hold manufacturers accountable by collecting information more efficiently and auditing carmakers and their suppliers; expanding NHTSA’s expertise on new and emerging technologies; implementing a systems safety approach designed to encourage questioning of assumptions; implementing new and improved data mining techniques; improving control of the investigative process; and strengthening internal and external communications.
The second report, “Workforce Assessment: The Future of NHTSA’s Defects Investigations,” has its origins in a 2011 recommendation by the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) that the agency assess whether the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) had the staff numbers and expertise required to carry out its mission. The report defines the need for short-term resource increases, as illustrated by the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, and provides a plan for strategic growth of the agency’s capabilities.
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