Root Cause of Recalls & Remedies


Root Cause of Recalls & Remedies

June, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The NY Times reports ahead of the June 2, 2015 House Hearing on Takata airbag recalls. “Those results contributed to Takata’s decision to stop manufacturing inflaters with the batwing-shaped propellant, the company said. But Takata maintains that it still has not pinned down a definitive root cause of the ruptures.

The problems with the airbags date to almost 15 years ago when drivers began lodging complaints about them with federal regulators. In November, The Times reported that Takata had ordered tests on the airbags in 2004 and found signs of defects, but did not convey the results to the regulators. Takata has disputed that report.

The first recall for the airbag issue came in November 2008 when Honda recalled 4,205 vehicles, a small number, with the Takata products. The company recalled an additional 510,000 cars six months later after a teenager was killed by an exploding airbag.

Those two recalls prompted regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open an investigation in 2009 into the two companies’ handling of the defect. Six months later, it closed the investigation without requiring that Takata turn over all of the documents that had been requested.

In the document officially closing the inquiry, the agency wrote that there was “insufficient information to suggest that Honda failed to make timely defect decisions on information it was provided….

“What concerns me today are multiyear safety investigations where we can identify a problem but a solution is nowhere in sight; where the preferred approaches are Band-Aids instead of an effective cure,” said Representative Fred Upton, the Republican from Michigan who is chairman of the committee.”  See 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/02/business/takata-says-it-will-no-longer-make-side-inflater-linked-to-airbag-defect.html?ref=business&_r=0

As for the root cause of failures to protect the public in corporations and government regulatory agencies, consider money. 

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  1 Timothy 6:10

Whether it be relentless cost cutting demands by OEMs or the corruption of government regulatory policy the root cause is money.

Whether it be airbags exploding dangerously, or airbags not deploying when needed examination will find money at the root of corporate and governmental failures to protect.  See report of June 2014 at

http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/blog-nhtsaexec2004.php

We can and must do better than this at protecting people before profits.

Lou

 

Progress on Uncovering Deadly Defect Information


Progress on Uncovering Deadly Defect Information

June, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

NHTSA & Industry Deadly Secrecy – Delay, Denial & Obfuscation

For many years the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has had to fight both the NHTSA and the auto companies to reveal for the public deadly defect information – as required by law.  Delay at Justice Department – see the 2011 CAS letters to the Justice Department seeking transparency for Death and Injury Inquiries (DI’s) athttp://www.autosafety.org/cas-letter-attorney-general-eric-holder-re-nhtsa-freedom-information-act-and-transparency-0Denial at NHTSA – see 2012 CAS Letter to NHTSA Administrator Strickland (before the Administrator resigned and exited through the NHTSA revolving door to join a law firm representing auto industry clients) at http://www.autosafety.org/sites/default/files/imce_staff_uploads/Strickland%20No%20More%20DI%20FOIAs%208-3-12.pdf 

The CAS had to file FOIA after FOIA to obtain lists of Death Inquiries for the public.  After one gets a list, one then has to FOIA for the underlying documents obtained by the DI which may consist of legal complaints, police reports, insurance claims, accident reconstruction or simple demand letters. 
Obfuscation at NHTSA for years.  The CAS reports:

“Under 49 CFR Part 579 (Early Warning Reporting Rule), automakers must submit summaryinformation to NHTSA on death and injury claims filed against them. (See http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=cc0a454e9c9e15c24f2be4bd364ddc68&mc=true&node=pt49.7.579&rgn=div5. As described in attached NHTSA Fact Sheet “NHTSA-ODI-EWR Facts, one can search the EWR reports for the summary information on death and injury reports but it is so vague as to be useless.

EWR submissions by manufacturers and NHTSA summary reports on passenger vehicles are grouped into 28 component categories so broad one doesn’t know what the report is. E.g., onecategory covers the fuel system – is this the fuel filler neck, the fuel rail, the fuel injection, the throttle body, the evaporative canister, the fuel tank, the electronic control unit that controls fuel  metering or what? 

The categories are: 01 steering system, 02 suspension system, 03 foundation brake system, 04 automatic brake controls, 05 parking brake, 06 engine and engine cooling system, 07 fuel system, 10 power train, 11 electrical system, 12 exterior lighting, 13 visibility, 14 air bags, 15 seat belts, 16 structure, 17 latch, 18 vehicle speed control, 19 tires, 20 wheels, 22 seats, 23 fire, 24 rollover, 25 electronic stability control system, 26 forward collision avoidance system, 27 lane departure prevention system, 28 backover prevention system, 98 where a system or component not covered by categories 01 through 22 or 25 through 28, is specified in the claim or notice, and 99 where no system or component of the vehicle is specified in the claim or notice. If an incident involves more than one such code, each shall be reported separately in the report with a limit of five codes to be included.

In the case of the Toyota 4Runner steering rod relay recall, 05V-389, for which NHTSA opened a timeliness investigation on May 10, 2009, Toyota coded a clear steering rod relay fracture that led to a rollover crash with 3 injuries as rollover and power train but not steering. In a September 2004 Audit of EWR, the DOT Inspector General found that EWR can’t identify steering defects & NHTSA Administrator Runge agreed to that finding.”

Senators Markey and Blumenthal have campaigned to require NHTSA to not only make all DIs public and searchable but also to require that the underlying documents behind a death claim be provided to the agency along with the initial EWR death claim report so that one doesn’t have to wait for NHTSA to request the documents.

Markey, Blumenthal Statement on NHTSA’s “Path Forward”

New Hope From NHTSA and CAS

“Under new NHTSA Administrator Rosekind, the walls of secrecy surrounding Death Inquiries are beginning to crumble. In response to a FOIA, NHTSA just provided CAS a complete list of all DIs from 2010 to present.  The Center then took that list and combined it with earlier DI lists to make a searchable list by manufacturer of all DIs.”   See

 http://www.autosafety.org/nhtsa-ewr-death-inquiry-di-index

The CAS has now produced “How To Find EWR Reports Based on NHTSA DIs” that is an example of the deadly – and potentially life saving – information that now can be found through careful examination.  See attached CAS “How To Find EWR Reports“.

Additional valuable Defect Investigations resources are now publicly available thanks to the CAS work at their Defect Investigations Page, under Early Warning Reporting at 

http://www.autosafety.org/campaigns/22

Years of hard work by the Center for Auto Safety, Congressional and public pressure, and now new NHTSA leadership are advancing auto safety.  It is about time.

Lou

 

DOT Office of Inspector General To Issue New Report Critical of NHTSA


DOT Office of Inspector General To Issue New Report Critical of NHTSA

June, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The Detroit News story on a OIG Report to be released next Monday finds problems at NHTSA.

“Washington — A devastating year-long government audit finds sweeping problems at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and says the agency failed repeatedly over a decade to discover the General Motors ignition switch defect that’s linked to more than 110 deaths.

The scathing 42-page report by the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General says the nation’s auto safety regulator fails to carefully review safety issues, hold automakers accountable for safety lapses, carefully collect vehicle safety data, or properly train or supervise its staff. And it says NHTSA rejects most staff requests to open investigations into suspected defects.

“Collectively, these weaknesses have resulted in significant safety concerns being overlooked,” the report found.

The Detroit News obtained the report Friday from a government official; it is set to be released Monday by the inspector general’s office, a spokesman for that office said.” See

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/general-motors/2015/06/19/us-auditor-finds-sweeping-problems-nhtsa/28996871/

 

NHTSA Seeks Info on Takata Airbag Defects


NHTSA Seeks Info on Takata Airbag Defects

June, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Facing Hearings, NHTSA issues Orders for Information on Takata Defects.  See attached documents.

The NY Times reports

“In the middle of what would become the largest automotive recall in American history, the Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata halted global safety audits to save money, according to internal company emails cited in a report published on Monday by a Senate committee.

That order was one of many serious safety lapses at Takata detailed in the report released by Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

On Tuesday, a Takata executive is among those scheduled to testify before the committee about its defective airbags, which can unexpectedly rupture and send metal shards flying into a vehicle’s cabin.

Takata quickly disputed the report’s findings as misleading, however, saying that the emails had been taken out of context. The company said that it had conducted regular reviews of product quality and safety and that the halted global audits referred to in the report related only to worker safety, not product quality or safety.” See

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/23/business/takata-is-said-to-have-stopped-safety-audits-as-cost-saving-move.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

 

House Hearing on Takata Airbag Defect(s) Recall and Root Cause Reality


House Hearing on Takata Airbag Defect(s) Recall and Root Cause Reality

June, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Perhaps the most important revelation at yesterday’s hearing was the refreshing truth spoken by NHTSA’s new Administrator Dr. Mark R. Rosekind.  “MARK ROSEKIND: Some factors appear to have a role, such as time and absolute humidity. The full story is not yet known and a definitive root cause has not been identified. In my recent experience as an NTSB board member and a veteran of many major transportation investigations, it may be that there is no single root cause, or the root cause may never be known.”  Seehttp://www.npr.org/2015/06/02/411533526/questions-remain-about-airbag-recall-after-takata-testifies-before-house

Finally!  There is now hope for safety progress from NHTSA once again.

Lou

 

Judgement Against Trinity Industries (and DOT FHWA)


Judgement Against Trinity Industries (and DOT FHWA)

June, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

When DOT fails to protect us, we all pay in more ways than one.

“WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Marshall has ordered Dallas-based Trinity Industries to pay $683 million in a whistleblower case that accused the company of defrauding the U.S. government.

Trinity said it plans to appeal the order by U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap.

“The company believes the evidence clearly shows that no fraud was committed,” Trinity said in a statement Tuesday evening. “The judgment is erroneous and should be reversed in its entirety.”

Gilstrap’s judgment caps a 2012 suit brought under the federal False Claims Act by whistleblower Joshua Harman, a former competitor of Trinity’s. Harman alleged that Trinity committed fraud when it continued to sell its popular guardrail system, known as ET-Plus, after making small changes to its design without first telling the Federal Highway Administration.

In October, a seven-member federal jury in Marshall agreed. It pegged the damages to the highway agency to be $175 million.

The statute automatically triples those damages when a whistleblower proves his or her case. Gilstrap also fined Trinity $138.4 million. Each of its more than 16,000 transactions involving the guardrails carried a fine of $8,250.

In addition, he ordered the company to pay nearly $20 million to cover Harman’s legal fees and costs.

The FHWA refused to join Harman’s suit, and said in a statement after it was filed that even though it should have been told of the changes, the changes Trinity made to the guardrails were not big enough to have caused the agency to stop reimbursing states that bought them.

That resistance will cost the U.S. government plenty. Because the FHWA had refused to back Harman’s claims, he’ll get to keep 30 percent of the total, or $199 million.”  See

 

House Hearing on NHTSA & Airbag Recall Reveals Propellant Status


House Hearing on NHTSA & Airbag Recall Reveals Propellant Status

June, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The NY Times reports on the House Hearing:

“Can you guarantee that as long as ammonium nitrate is used in those products that the products are safe?” asked Joseph P. Kennedy III, Democrat of Massachusetts.

“We believe that when properly manufactured and designed, ammonium nitrate — phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate — can be done properly,” Mr. Kennedy of Takata said. He was referring to one of the changes the company’s engineers had made to stabilize the compound to prevent it from breaking down. Takata’s new design would alter the shape of the propellant wafers, but not the composition.

He acknowledged the concerns with the propellant, and added that Takata’s use of ammonium nitrate “would go down significantly.” He also noted that Takata was continuing to investigate the compound as one of the causes of the airbags’ failure.

Some lawmakers questioned why the compound should be used at all, given the circumstances.

“Why would I buy a car that has a potentially dangerous airbag?” said Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois. “I’m not understanding.”

Mr. Kennedy urged some patience. “In a vehicle, it’s not as easy as changing the color of the car,” he said.  See

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/business/takata-hearing-airbag-recall.html?ref=business

Lou