Use the Motor Vehicle Safety Act

By Tony Munter

Dear Secretary Buttigieg:

Congratulations on being named Secretary of Transportation. We look forward to seeing your lobbying efforts on behalf of an historic infrastructure bill. How would you like a way to answer those who say spending is out of control on this and can not be contained?

Take a look at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. There’s a law you may want to look at that falls under it.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act. It was passed on, get this, a bi-partisan basis in 2015. John Thune (R) South Dakota was a primary sponsor of the law in the Senate with Bill Nelson, who as of this writing, is likely to be joining the Administration at NASA. Thune is number 2 in the Republican Leadership right now.

If the rest of us know it, you – the acknowledged smartest guy in just about any room – knows, the entire industry is going to change in the next 10 years. Batteries in the structure of cars, cars that drive themselves, retrofitting buildings for electric cars, cars that are mobile offices, flying cars. Nobody really knows where the technology will take us, but we do know the technology and money being poured into this industry comes with issues. An entire industry can not completely change its entire systems without there being issues.

How about using a real safeguard? How about making sure that the public is protected?

Fortunately there is already a law, as I say, passed on a bi-partisan basis, that can help you address these issues. Unfortunately, it has barely been used since it became law in 2015.

Here’s where you, almost alone, can fix it. There are no regulations. You have a law, you have the authority to start this process at least. Right now, there are no regulations, no websites to accept submissions with your office properly. There probably aren’t many people at NHTSA who would even know how to process a tip, if somebody can figure out how to provide it to them. Set it up. We the whistleblower bar will find the whistleblower, and soon you will have real information you can use.

The other issue you may want to consider is funding it in the same manner as the SEC and CFTC offices are funded to be sure there is an actual award fund to ensure whistleblowers get the money. The financing mechanism on this law is a bit vague. You can add a line for investigators to chase the real information you may get. The law is limited in that only industry insiders can bring cases, so you are not going to be inundated with a bunch of submissions from every car owner in the country that thinks they have a problem with their 86 Rabbit. Yeah I had one of those. You may get a real tip from a real industry insider who tells you something you need to know.

What’s a couple bucks in your infrastructure bill to ensure the 4 trillion is all well spent? Some funding for a website and to implement the regulations and make it easier for whistleblowers and counsel to submit real information to the NHTSA? You don’t even have to re-invent anything. Just copy the SEC whistleblower program and watch the tips roll into your office. Then you can take important regulatory action with real information.

It’s a big industry, it needs a real whistleblower process.