NHTSA’s Revolving Door: It’s About Feathering Your Nest, Not Safety

Marietta product defect attorney

NHTSA’s Revolving Door: It’s About Feathering Your Nest, Not Safety

Today is David Strickland’s last day as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), the federal agency charged with regulating the automotive industry.   Part of NHTSA’s regulatory function is to investigate alleged automotive defects, and to create new and better safety standards for cars and trucks.   The process is typically an adversarial one, as the industry usually opposes the most meaningful new regulations or safety standards because of cost (namely, profit) concerns.  Strickland, as head of NHTSA, is supposed to be America’s safety watchdog and lead the fight in creating and imposing new and better automotive safety standards.

Unfortunately, Strickland, like so many of his politically-appointed predecessors, appears to have spent more time feathering his nest and planning his future than actually regulating the industry.  Why does that seem so?  Because Strickland, again like his predecessors, is going to work now as a lobbyist for the very folks he once claimed to regulate.  Yes, that’s right, he going to work for the automotive industry.   Those same folks he was supposed to aggravate, harangue, cajole, and beat into regulatory submission are now his bosses.  One imagines he did not spend as much time aggravating them as the job would demand.  This is what is known in Washington D.C. as the “revolving door.”   While there are now some restrictions on lobbying former colleagues, there are not enough and Strickland will work for industry and lobby Congress to oppose new safety regulations and standards.

Because of this revolving door, and each new NHTSA Administrator’s desire eventually to walk through it into a lucrative lobbying career, automotive safety suffers.   As one former veteran NHTSA worker has said, “NHTSA has become increasingly captive—it’s essentially run by General Motors and the other auto companies.”  In other words, because NHTSA administrators want to work for the industry when they leave office, NHTSA is less adversarial and less combative, thus only giving America the safety regulations or standards that the automotive industry is willing to allow—and they really don’t want to be regulated much at all.   That’s not effective oversight or regulation.  That’s putting the fox in charge of the hen house.  Write your Congressman and ask that the revolving door be shut once and for all.

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