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From Products Liability Law Daily, December 4, 2015

House, Senate approval of FAST Act conference report clears measure for President

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the conference report on H.R. 22, the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or the “FAST Act”—a major highway bill that includes safety, trucking, rail, and banking provisions and would triple the cap on civil penalties that can be levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to $105 million. The current cap on civil penalties is $35,000,000. In the Senate, the conference report garnered 60 votes in the affirmative and the House passed the measure by a bi-partisan vote of 359–65. The bill now goes to the President for his signature (Conference Report on H.R. 22, December 3, 2015).

The measure also would increase NHTSA’s defect investigations budget to around $30 million per year from the current budget of around $10 million. However, the increase is conditioned on the agency’s implementation of a series of reforms recommended by the Transportation Department’s inspector general report on NHTSA released during the summer. Another significant provision of the bill would bar rental companies from renting vehicles that contained uncorrected recall defects

Additional provisions of the bill would:

  • Require automakers to provide part numbers of defective components involved in a recall to NHTSA;
  • Require dealers to inform customers of open recalls when visiting for service;
  • Direct NHTSA to study the feasibility of an in-vehicle system to alert drivers of new recalls;
  • Direct DOT to issue a rule allowing automakers to notify customers about recalls electronically;
  • Create a state grant program to inform consumers of open recalls when renewing vehicle registrations, a move to address the difficulty of notifying used car buyers of recalls;
  • Require, by regulation, that motor vehicle manufacturers list crash avoidance information next to crashworthiness information on vehicle stickers;
  • Require NHTSA to conduct a study to determine the amount of time that vehicle-related data should be captured and recorded in conjunction with an event by event data recorders installed in passenger motor vehicles in order to provide sufficient information to investigate the cause of motor vehicle crashes
  • Require NHTSA to submit within two years after submission of the inspector general’s report regulations establishing the appropriate amount of time during which these event data recorders may capture and record this data;
  • Extend the time in which automakers are required to pay for defect recalls from 10 years to 15 years; and
  • Broaden the post-bankruptcy recall obligations of automakers.

MainStory: TopStory LawsPendingLegNews

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