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From Products Liability Law Daily, February 29, 2016

OIG report says NHTSA should take additional actions to comply with prior recommendations

By John Dumoulin.

The Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued an audit report that reviews efforts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to address recommendations from an October 2011 OIG audit of NHTSA’s oversight of vehicle safety. The OIG found that while NHTSA had completed all agreed-to actions from the prior report, it lacked mechanisms to ensure that its staff consistently apply these actions (Transportation Department OIG Press ReleaseFebruary 24, 2016).

On October 6, 2011, the OIG issued an audit report that reviewed NHTSA’s oversight of vehicle safety, which was prompted in part by congressional concerns about the agency’s handling of Toyota Motor Corporation’s recalls in 2009 and 2010 of nearly eight million vehicles for two mechanical safety defects that could cause unintended acceleration issues. The report made 10 recommendations to enhance the ability of NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) to identify and address potential vehicle safety defects and to ensure it had the workforce and expertise needed to operate effectively.

In June 2015, the OIG issued a report, at the request of the Secretary of Transportation, regarding NHTSA’s vehicle safety procedures related to General Motors Corporation’s recall of vehicles for a defective ignition switch. The report concluded that ODI’s inadequate processes for collecting and analyzing vehicle safety data resulted in significant safety concerns being overlooked.

Current report. When it reviewed NHTSA for its procedures related to the ignition switch recall, the OIG also assessed the agency’s efforts to implement the recommendations from its October 2011 report. The current report presents the results of the OIG’s assessment of NHTSA’s efforts to implement its proposed actions to consistently address the OIG’s 2011 recommendations.

The report stated that while NHTSA had completed all agreed-to actions based on the October 2011 report, the OIG had concerns with the implementation of some actions, especially the agency’s lack of mechanisms to ensure that its staff consistently apply the actions. According to the report, ODI adequately implemented the actions it proposed for three recommendations, but it did not consistently apply the actions for six recommendations or fully implement actions for one recommendation. The OIG’s report concluded that ODI lacked sufficient quality control mechanisms to ensure compliance with the new policies and procedures and lacked an adequate training program to ensure that its staff has the skills and expertise to investigate vehicle safety defects.

Recommendations. The OIG made two recommendations to enhance ODI’s quality control mechanisms for complying with the policies and plans that were established to address its 2011 recommendations. First, the report recommended that NHTSA develop and implement internal control mechanisms and periodically assess compliance with established policies. The report listed several minimum requirements for such mechanisms. Second, the report recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator designate responsibility for executing ODI’s training plan.

NHTSA response. NHTSA’s response to the OIG’s report is included as an appendix to the report. NHTSA concurred with the OIG’s two recommendations and agreed to implement these recommendations as written by June 30, 2016.

Companies: General Motors Corp.; Toyota Motor Corp.

MainStory: TopStory NHTSANews ReportsandStudiesNews

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