NHTSA Oversight and Management of Its Vehicle Safety Compliance and Gray Market Programs

Gao ID: T-RCED-87-3 March 6, 1987

GAO testified on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) oversight and management of its vehicle safety compliance and gray market programs. GAO found that: (1) individuals imported only 23,900 gray market vehicles in 1986 due to the strong U.S. dollar in the foreign market; (2) NHTSA does not inspect firms that modify vehicles to ensure that they have the capability to conform the vehicles to the safety standards or test vehicles to determine that they did the modifications properly; (3) although the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) certification program has more internal controls than does NHTSA, it does not provide for periodic inspection of the modifying firms or testing of the vehicles; (4) substantial percentages of gray market vehicles that NHTSA and EPA approve do not conform to the federal standards; (5) NHTSA has not selected 10 of its 39 testable safety standards for testing for periods ranging from 5 to 17 years and has never tested three additional testable standards; (6) NHTSA has developed neither milestones nor standard procedures for processing noncompliance investigation and civil penalty cases; and (7) NHTSA lacks guidelines concerning which investigation cases it should forward to its Chief Counsel's office for penalty assessment. GAO also found that: (1) neither NHTSA nor EPA have responded to its recommendations to improve internal controls; and (2) the Department of Transportation plans to implement GAO recommendations to ensure testing of safety standards over a period of time and develop milestones and procedures for processing and monitoring investigation and civil penalty cases.

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