Inspector General Finds NHTSA Over Budget and Under Performing in Early Warning System

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a second audit report related to NHTSA performance and cited the agency's poor implementation and cost overruns associated with the Advanced Retrieval Tire, Equipment, Motor Vehicle Information System (ARTEMIS). ARTEMIS is the NHTSA system developed to analyze and identify trends in the early warning reporting data required from manufacturers (following the TREAD Act) that includes reports on deaths and injuries, property damage and warranty data.

The OIG report (Follow-Up Audit of the Office of Defects Investigation) found the development of ARTEMIS proceeded without a development strategy, proper sequencing of events and milestones, or reliable cost and schedule estimates. As a result, development costs increased from 76 percent ($5.35 million to $9.4 million) and the schedule was extended four times. OIG also found that $17.12 million in funds needed for future operations and maintenance couldn't be verified and were reduced to $11.46 million. Adding to the problems, ARTEMIS, which was fully operational in July doesn't have the capability to perform advanced predictive analyses that can point out potential defect trends as intended. In an attempt to remedy this shortcoming, NHTSA began working with the FAA and other organizations to determine how to obtain this capability.

OIG also noted that the agency has a duty to ensure that EWR data is thoroughly and consistently analyzed, particularly because of the decision to limit public release of the data to only death, personal injury, property damage, and production numbers for light vehicles. However, even this limited data is still unavailable. Despite public claims that the data were available or would be available NHTSA backtracked on its promise claiming that they would wait to see the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which seeks to keep the data confidential. RMA claims the data won't help consumers, that there is already plenty of data available to the public, and the data should be used by trained federal investigators only-something agency officials are sympathetic to as they are concerned that they will be inundated with petitions for defect investigations from those who don't understand how to use the data. The vehicle manufacturers have not supported the RMA action and claim that NHTSA's position on releasing a portion of the data is acceptable. In addition to the RMA lawsuit, Public Citizen has also filed suit to obtain release of EWR data-including warranty claims. In the meantime, NHTSA claims it will wait for the courts to decide before any data are released.

Copyright © Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., 2004

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