Additional Efforts Are Needed To Ensure NHTSA’s Full Implementation of OIG’s 2011 Recommendations
In October 2011, we issued an audit of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) oversight of vehicle safety, which made 10 recommendations to enhance the ability of NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) to identify and address potential vehicle safety defects. In March 2014, the Secretary of Transportation requested that we assess NHTSA’s vehicle safety procedures related to NHTSA’s handling of the February 2014 General Motors Corporation recall. Our subsequent review determined that ODI’s inadequate processes for collecting and analyzing vehicle safety data resulted in significant safety concerns being overlooked.
Because of the importance of highway safety, we also reviewed NHTSA’s efforts to address recommendations from our 2011 report. While NHTSA completed all agreed-to actions from our 2011 review, we have concerns with the implementation of some actions—especially NHTSA’s lack of mechanisms to ensure that staff consistently apply the actions. Specifically, ODI adequately implemented the actions it proposed for three recommendations but did not consistently apply the actions it implemented for six recommendations. In addition, ODI developed a training plan in response to recommendation 9, but it has not executed the program to ensure its investigators have the needed skills and expertise to carry out ODI’s mission. As a result, ODI’s staff may not be sufficiently trained to identify and investigate potential vehicle defects or ensure that vehicle manufacturers take prompt and effective action to remediate issues. NHTSA concurred with the two recommendations we made to enhance ODI’s quality control mechanisms for complying with the policies and plans established to address our 2011 recommendations.