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From Products Liability Law Daily, August 20, 2013

NHTSA adopts early warning reporting and safety recall amendments

By Joseph Bichl

In a recently published final rule, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) amended early warning reporting (EWR) and foreign defect reporting rules as well as regulations governing motor vehicle and equipment safety recalls (NHTSA Final Rule, 78 FR 51381, August 20, 2013).

Background. Now over a decade old, the EWR rule was created in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act era, circa 2000. Under the EWR rule, certain motor vehicle and motor vehicle equipment manufacturers are required to report information and submit documents to NHTSA that can be used to identify safety-related defects. The frequency of the reporting required of a manufacturer depends on the level of its annual production volume. In 2012, NHTSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (77 FR 55605) that sought, among other things, to require light vehicle manufacturers to include the vehicle type in the aggregate portion of their quarterly EWR reports, report on use of electronic stability control in light vehicles, and specify fuel and/or propulsion systems when providing model designations. Today’s rule finalizes those proposals.

Early warning reporting. Under the new rule, light vehicle manufacturers will be required to specify “vehicle type” as well as the “fuel and/or propulsion system type” in their quarterly reports to NHTSA. The agency added a new component category of stability control systems for light vehicles, buses, emergency vehicles, and medium-heavy vehicle component manufacturers. In addition, for light vehicle manufacturers, the agency added the categories of forward collision avoidance, lane departure prevention, and back-over prevention.

Foreign defect reporting. NHTSA will require manufacturers to submit their annual lists of “substantially similar vehicles” via the Internet rather than by mail or fax; the agency is providing a year’s lead time for manufacturers to get on board with this new standardization.

Safety recall provisions. The new rule requires motor vehicle manufacturers to provide consumers with online access to motor vehicle recall information searchable by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Consumers will be able to determine “instantly” whether a specific vehicle is subject to a recall and whether the recall has been remedied, as identified by their unique VIN. Several motor vehicle manufacturers currently offer this feature, but those who do not will have until August 14, 2014, to comply with the new rule. The new search option also will be available on the agency’s http://www.safercar.gov website. Currently, consumers are limited to general searches by vehicle make and model year on NHTSA’s website. In addition, large volume car, light truck, and motorcycle manufacturers will be required to provide search capability for uncompleted safety recalls on their company’s websites. According to NHTSA, this new information will assist the agency in spotting defect trends related to those systems and technologies. Manufacturers also will be required to provide vehicle owners with direct notice of recalls within 60 days of notifying NHTSA that a recall is occurring.

Effective dates. This rule is effective October 21, 2013, except for the amendments to 49 CFR Parts 573.9, 573.15, and 579, which are effective August 20, 2014.

The deadline for petitions for reconsideration is October 4, 2013.

MainStory: TopStory MotorVehiclesNews MotorEquipmentNews

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