WASHINGTON (June 1, 2010)—The Rubber Manufacturers Association is opposed to some key passages in the latest House version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 and is pledging to keep working with key legislators to resolve its concerns.
The RMA and its members are concerned that the bill, HR 5381, as approved last week by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, could result in the disclosure of critical business information that will cause competitive harm to manufacturers in the U.S., RMA President and CEO Charles Cannon said.
The RMA's primary concern is wording that could weaken safeguards in existing motor vehicle safety regulations covering proprietary business information collected as part of federally mandated early warning data.
“(The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) conducted a rigorous process using strict Freedom of Information Act principles to develop a federal regulation that balanced public disclose of some early warning information with the need to protect some critical business data it receives each quarter from manufacturers,” Cannon said.
According to provisions in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000, automotive industry manufacturers are required to report substantial amounts of production and performance data and consumer claims to NHTSA to assist federal safety officials with identifying potential safety issues, the RMA said. Consumer claims regarding fatalities, injuries and property damage claims are made public on NHTSA's website.
When NHTSA created the Early Warning Reporting System, the RMA said, it also created categories of information that would be protected from public disclosure as confidential business information. For tire manufacturers, this included production data, warranty claims and common green tires, which are tires that have not been cured.
“(The) RMA strongly supports and our members fully comply with the current early warning reporting system to provide federal safety regulators with information to help enhance motorist safety,” Cannon said.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act also includes a mandate requiring a brake override system in vehicles to help prevent the possibility of sudden unintended acceleration.
Additionally, the measure gives NHTSA the authority to declare that a vehicle, tire or automotive part presents an “imminent hazard” to motorist safety. Such a declaration would allow the agency to impose a range of remedies to force manufacturers to address a potential safety issue.
The bill also boosts federal penalties on manufacturers for safety-related issues to a maximum of $200 million. The House version would allow individuals to sue the agency if they disagree with an agency determination in answering a petition to investigate a possible vehicle defect.
“Permitting lawsuits to overturn NHTSA's thorough investigation of potential safety issues would force the agency to divert critical resources to redundant tasks and legal defenses to answer likely lawsuit challenges to defect petition decisions,” Cannon said.
The House bill is expected to go to the House floor in the coming weeks. A Senate committee is expected to consider its version of the bill, S 3302, in early June. The RMA has voiced similar concerns with that measure as well.