US: transportation secretary pledges “muscular” auto safety guidance image

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx declared the Obama administration has decided towards a “much more muscular” approach to the auto safety oversight, even though he agreed the NHTSA was utterly underfunded.

He added that under the newly appointed leadership of its latest administrator, Mark Rosekind, who started working in December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is undergoing a crucial restructuring process. Foxx added the agency was in need of more funding to cope with the massive increase in the availability of new auto technologies, as well as the approaching advent of autonomous vehicles. “NHTSA is going to have to keep up… We have the Jetsons coming into us and we have Flintstones’ resources,” commented Foxx. “We’ve got to figure out a way to true those two things up.” He has referenced the agency’s defects investigation budget, which dropped 23 percent during the past ten years after being adjusted for inflation.

The White House said it would be willing to triple NHTSA’s defects budget and double the staff level, but the Congress seemed unwilling to increase the funding, with senators pointing out they expect first to see how the NHTSA has restructured before the legislators approve more money. Foxx added the agency was “going to be pretty rigorous” when it came to keeping its new, tougher stance with automakers that don’t comply with the rules and don’t make sure consumers are notified in a timely fashion of ongoing recall campaigns. Foxx had ordered the Transportation Department’s inspector general’s office a review of the agency, which came up with a harsh report – the NHTSA was unable for a decade to discover GM’s ignitions switch defect that has been tied to more than 120 deaths.