Car recalls and government safety crash tests have been shutdown due to a lapse of Federal Government funding, forcing automakers to issue their own warnings during this period until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reopens.
A message on the agency’s website reads:
“Due to a lapse of Federal Government funding, NHTSA is unable to post any new recalls after close of business September 30, 2013. Recall searches will remain available but are only current as of that time. Consumers can continue to file safety defect complaints via this website, but they will not be evaluated by NHTSA staff until funding and services are restored.”
Users searching for information about recalls will continue to be able to do so, but will not be updated during the shutdown, meaning that no new recalls will be announced until funding is restored.
Of the agency’s 597 employees, 333 have been furloughed as a result of the shutdown, according to the DOT.
The list of activities that have been halted include testing new vehicles for safety ratings and compliance, investigating defects on vehicles, reviewing complaints from the public and information from automakers on possible defects, issuing and reviewing vehicle recalls, and researching safety measures.
Hidden within this list is the fact that the only way consumers will know whether an automaker is recalling a vehicle during the government shutdown is if the automaker itself announces it.
This isn’t something companies are always keen to do, though it does happen. Jeep this week announced it was recalling 92,000 new Grand Cherokee models for a problem with the vehicles’ warning light.
During the shutdown, the only NHTSA functions that will continue are those paid for by the Highway Trust Fund. This fund draws its monies from a federal tax on every gallon of gas sold. As of August of this year, the fund has just under $5 billion in it, which is down 32% from a year ago.
This fund pays for functions (and the people working on them) like Highway Safety Grants, NHTSA’s research and development in the office of Traffic Injury Control, and the National Driver Register, a nationwide database of problematic drivers.