Recall The NHTSA ? NHTSA, your auditor just called and

Recall The NHTSA ? NHTSA, your auditor just called and . . .

. . . suggested you get your act together.

From where you sit, do you think this organization gives the taxpayers a bang for their buck or is this a boondoggle ?
What would you recommend to them ?

Detroit News story:

Get the suggested training and add time in/time responded to the consumer database. I’m not sure that they need bureaucratic rules about when to ask for outside help. That seems to be a unique situation and should require customized review.

Give them a break. Their budget is ONLY $860,000,000. I’m sure that’s just barely enough for them to meet their fuel economy agenda goals. What, you may ask, does fuel economy have to do with safety? I have no idea.

How’s my sarcasm?

"How’s my sarcasm?"
TSM, pretty good, but I think you need to kick it up a notch.

On the face of it, $860,000,000 does seem like a very large amount of money.
However, when you factor in the current US population of ~309,000,000 people, the NHTSA budget actually works out to less than $2.80 per person. On that basis, it actually doesn’t sound very expensive–at least to me.

That information and opinion notwithstanding, improvement in the agency’s functioning–which would likely involve some degree of retraining for their employees–would undoubtedly require increased funding. In the current political environment, I doubt that their funding could be increased. So, the question of how to improve their current level of functioning without increased expenditures becomes…an interesting proposition.

For less than the price of a football stadium, every year they:

*purchase/design equipment for measuring crash impacts, including high speed cameras, test dummies, sensors, etc

*purchase/design equipment that’s as sophisticated as commercial pilot-training flight simulators to research driver behavior

*Hire qualified researchers to conduct their safety studies - researchers who could easily go work for a private company, which means they expect at least a living wage.

*Crash scores of vehicles

*Research materials and designs for future vehicles with the goal of improving crash avoidance and survivability

*Investigate claims of vehicle defects

*Investigate causes of injuries sustained in crashes (this goes toward researching safer cars)

*Lots more.

In short, they’re a bargain, and the shortfalls come because of understaffing, which come because people whine too much about having to pay for things the government does.

I compared their budget to the price of a football stadium because, at least here in MN, they’re plunging full steam ahead to build one of those, which benefits society as a whole not one bit, but they scream bloody murder if taxes go up so they can fix the collapsing bridges.

The comment wasn’t regarding the cost per taxpayer, it was regarding the budget as being sufficient if a proper infrastructure were developed to be investigating complaints. Complaints could easily be categorized, weighted, entered into a database, and the reports generated automatically to initiate further analysis into those critical complaints. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does crash testing, so that doesn’t come out of NHTSA’s budget. And what other than political reason justify NHTSA’s involvement in fuel ecomnomy? Safety regulations for the manufacturers are promulgated by the Department of Transportation, and that too is a seperate budget.

I suspect the problem isn’t too little money. I’d suspect that the problem is politically-induced lack of focus. It’ll be interesting to see what an auditor’s report would show.

NHTSA does crash testing as well. Their crash testing is, unlike the IIHS, not designed to help the insurance companies make money, but to help further vehicle safety. NHTSA does frontal crash tests to test crumple zones and airbags, rollover tests, school bus crash tests, etc.

“On the face of it, $860,000,000 does seem like a very large amount of money.” " . . . actually works out to less than $2.80 per person."

The problem is fewer than 50% pay federal taxes now and the number keeps shrinking.
A billion dollars may seem like chump change, but a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. This isn’t the only government office full of people and coffee makers doing inadequate work. So, $2.80 x 2 (half ride for free) x every important government agency = $$$


Other than agreeing with CSA there’s the issue of exactly how much of that 860,000,000 is wasted through fraud, mismanagement, plain old bureaurcratic paper shuffling, and countless conferences to allegedly gain knowledge; info which can easily be faxed, emailed, or dredge off of the internet. My guess (a wild one) is probably a third.

My youngest son is an accountant and oversees an office which keeps tabs on a number of things that taxpayers foot the tab for. Recently he found one that he brought to a screeching halt in spite of the item being previously approved.
The item in question? A lady was going to attend a conference in Las Vegas* and wanted to look nice so she bought a 300 dollar dress and expected the taxpayers to foot the bill for it. My son killed this on the spot and now she’s irate and ticked off at him over this.

The city attorney near here attended a conference in New Orleans* (conveniently scheduled during Mardi Gras) and took along his wife (at taxpayer expense) and apparently ate well on the taxpayers dime because the taxpayers got hit with a dinner bill (one evening alone) for $748.00 at Pat O’Briens.

*Note these conferences are never, ever held in places like Butte, Montana or Omaha, Nebraska.

$748 at Pat O’Briens? That’d be a lot of them thar things we locals call “Drinks” (they’re the hurricanes, but you can only drink one).

If you notice, the “Kitchen is open until 10pm”, but the other areas (5 separate bars) are virtually never closed. I’ve been there as early as 10AM and the place was far from empty, and as late as 4AM, and still, far from empty. It’s Nawlins, after all.

“Complaints could easily be categorized, weighted, entered into a database, and the reports generated automatically to initiate further analysis into those critical complaints.”

They already do that. Apparently the database does not currently include the time a complaint evaluation is finished.

They also evaluate child safety seats and tires. You can see the sizes, wear ratings, traction ratings, and temperature ratings for tires sold in the US.

You guys are right, my aversion to regulatory agencies and the money the gobble up caused me to not give them credit for what they do.

Having said that, I would not condone giving them more money without a detailed audirt of exactly where the existing money goes. An annual budget that size in private industry can go a long way…if it’s not eaten up in beaurocracy. My guess is that with the performance ratings detailed in the article, most of the money probably is being eaten up.

Hmmm, ever know an auditor that couldn’t produce a long list of how things should be improved? Realistic or not? On the surface it looks real good for the auditors but who audits the auditors to see if what they recommend actually is doable under current conditions? Then how many public auditors do you see rising to the level of agency heads with their fantastic ideas? Don’t know of any myself.

In Minnesota, there are per diem payments for food and lodging. You can pay $700 for lunch but you only get reimbursed for the very meager per diem limit. Also extreme limits on out of state travel unless someone else pays for it. A dress is beyond the realm of imagination. No supervisor or manager would even sign such an expense for reimbursement and the accounting director certainly would not even if the manager did. I think there needs to be some real housecleaning in Oklahoma if this kind of thing happens. Like maybe first adopting commonly accepted accounting standards and government operation standards.

I have a bit of experience dealing with NHTSA.

First is that being a government agency, they tend to be political - not good for what should be a technically driven organization - but that is the nature of the beast.

The second is that they tend to dot their I’s and cross their T’s to an almost fanatical detail level. I am sure this is part of the politics that is going on, but I am also sure it drives up the cost. Again, I think that is unavoidable.

Third, is that NHTSA tends to put little credence in reports from the general public. As we all know from being active on this web site, the general public is largely uniformed and sometimes pretty vocal. This makes it difficult to sort out fact from fiction. Everyone who posts an issue thinks theirs is the most important - and this gets us back to politics agian!

I’ve read quite a few of the reports about tires and they are all over the map. Some are complaining about wear (which isn’t a safety issue, per se.) Some are complaints about the vehicle. Some are legitimate issues. Again, it’s hard to sort this out. The only way to do this is by volume - and then you have to factor in the level of production.

A vehicle that is produced in the millions is bound to have more complaints than one that is produced in the thousands.

Then they have to work with the manufacturers. They are pretty open with the manufacturers. They are pretty non-judgemental if the manufacturer is trying to be frank and honest. It’s only when a manufacturer seems to be stonewalling them that things get steamy - and they can make life very difficult to anyone who crosses them - so manufacturers tend to work hard to keep a good relationship going.

The problem is that this tends to look like the fox guarding the hen house. But the alternative is subpeonas and injunctions, and all those other legal manuevers we all hate. Overall I think they do a decent job of it, but like most government agencies, they are overfunded when times are good, and underfunded at crunch time. There’s just no way to get this right.