NHTSA could stop vehicle investigations due to U.S. government shutdown image

In the event Congress fails to approve funding for the new budget year that starts today, the government’s auto safety regulator will halt defect investigations and public notification of new auto recalls.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said yesterday it would be forced to furlough 333 of its 597 employees in the event of a partial government shutdown.

“Functions funded by the Highway Trust Fund will continue, while those funded by annual appropriations will be suspended, including safety defect investigations, field crash investigations, review of consumer complaints and notification of new vehicle and equipment recalls,” the agency said in a statement.

NHTSA will also halt work on setting new regulations for autos, including its ongoing work on setting rear visibility standards for all vehicles. The agency would also halt car assessment testing and release of star ratings. Investigations into odometer fraud and vehicle defects would be halted.

The agency also would cease vehicle safety research. That could mean the halting of the ongoing Ann Arbor testing of 3,000 connected vehicles that was extended in August for another six months.

Automakers, car seat manufacturers, tire producers and motorcycle companies would have to decide whether to voluntarily send out press releases disclosing recalls in the event of a partial government shutdown.