I am in the regulatory affairs business so every year around this time, I put together a list of NHTSA regulations that I think will be issued in the coming year. Each year I somehow manage to get it wrong and in 2016, things were no different. Only a handful of my predictions came true. Yes, rules concerning V2V communications, minimum sound requirements for electric vehicles, fuel consumption rule for heavy trucks were issued as expected. Many other rules, however, addressing important topics like child restraint side impact testing, bus rollover, and EDRs never made it out.
What happened in 2016 is that the Administrator called an audible and ran an end-run around regular order and pursued a number of non-regulatory measures – things like the automatic emergency braking agreement, automated vehicle guidance, distraction guidelines for portable devices, cybersecurity guidelines, and a major upgrade to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). Of these initiatives, only the AEB agreement was finalized and now, as a result of the recent lawsuit filed by consumer and safety advocates who think that AEB should be a mandatory, even it may be in jeopardy.
As we prepare for a new era of regulation under Donald Trump, folks are now wondering what will become of these initiatives and the backlog of rules. To get a hint at how 2017 will play out, we should probably take a look at what transpired back in January of 2001 when George W. Bush took office. It’s been almost sixteen years since Andy Card (George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff) issued his January 20, 2001 memorandum to heads of agencies advising them not to send any new regulations to the Office of the Federal Register until they could be reviewed by the new administration. Those of us who were around back then know that this memo had a chilling effect on regulatory activity. Consequently, in 2001, only a few rules were issued by NHTSA. Not-so-critical issues like headlight glare and trunk entrapment were addressed.
If history repeats itself, Reince Priebus will issue a similar directive on January 20, 2017 and there will be few, if any, new regulations published in the year to come. No shocker there. Afterall, Trump campaigned on eliminating regulations. But what about all those non-regulatory actions Mark Rosekind initiated in 2016? What will become of those? As proposed, the NCAP upgrade will incentivize manufacturers to install important crash avoidance technologies such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, semi-automatic headlamp beam switching, rear automatic, and pedestrian automatic emergency braking. But the NCAP upgrade will also force manufacturers to redesign their vehicles to comply with new oblique crash test and pedestrian protection requirements. It is fine for NHTSA to push the adoption of crash avoidance technology via NCAP but crash test standards and new injury criteria are probably best pursued via traditional rulemaking procedures.
Then there is NHTSA’s automated vehicle policy. Pretty much everyone involved in this space would like to see leadership at the federal level. Every month that goes by where we have a federal policy that lacks the clarity stakeholders require presents another opportunity for state DOTs and their legislatures to create a patchwork of state requirements that could stifle innovation and delay the realization of benefits. Leadership and swift action in this area is needed. We cannot afford to have state agencies issuing rule after rule while the new administration does nothing. We will also need leadership from NHTSA on the V2V communication rule as this is another complex undertaking that requires the support of the federal government. With distraction rampant and fatalities on the rise in the U.S., we need a V2V framework that will make it possible for important safety applications to be delivered in the future. If the agency puts the V2V rule on hold or the FCC takes back the spectrum that was granted to our industry, live saving applications life Left Turn Assist and Intersection Movement Assist may never be realized.
So, as we prepare to say goodbye to 2016 and ring in the new year, I hope that the new administration will resolve to follow regular order and take the actions necessary to support the testing and deployment of promising new technological safety advancements.
President, Dale Kardos & Associates, Inc.
About Dale Kardos: Dale Kardos is a regulatory affairs consultant based in Washington, DC. For over 20 years, his firm Dale Kardos & Associates, Inc. has been assisting vehicle OEMs, suppliers, automotive trade associations and others in confronting environment, energy and safety regulation and legislation. He is also the founder of Mobilis Trading LLC which offers an online auction platform for buying and selling regulatory compliance credits.