Congress Considers Vehicle Safety Reforms While Extending Short-Term Highway Bill

SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

President Obama signed into law a bill to continue current federal highway spending through the end of October. It marks the 34th short-term extension since 2009. While Congress has traditionally passed six-year laws for investing in transportation projects, declining gas tax collections and divisions over how to raise revenues have resulted in the patchwork approach.

With yet another short-term solution in place, the U.S. Senate passed a transportation bill which may serve as a blueprint for the next showdown in October. The Senate bill has been referred to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is expected to be considered in September.

The bill includes a provision requiring tire retailers not owned or controlled by a manufacturer to register tires at the point of sale.  Currently, the customer is responsible for voluntarily registering their tires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would also be required to establish an online tire recall database, enabling the general public to search for recalls using the Tire Identification Number (TIN).  

The bill also includes provisions tightening auto industry oversight by NHTSA, including:

  • Establishing minimum tire performance standards for fuel efficiency and wet traction;
  • Updates the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) standard to ensure that the TPMS setting can’t be overridden, reset, or recalibrated to an unsafe pressure;  
  • Triples the maximum civil penalties for auto manufacturers that violate vehicle safety standards;
  • Provides consumers with more information about advanced safety technologies such as blind spot detection, active braking and lane departure warning; and
  • Clarifies that event data recorders data remains the property of the driver and specifies conditions under which it might be accessed by law enforcement.

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