The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) is encouraging member companies to consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with 49 CFR 579.5, which requires manufacturers to submit to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) copies of communications such as notices and technical service bulletins to dealers, owners or purchasers of their vehicles.
On March 25, NHTSA issued a notice further ratcheting up its enforcement activity concerning compliance of motor vehicle manufacturers with 49 CFR 579.5.
In releasing Enforcement Guidance Bulletin 2016-01, NHTRSA reminds manufacturers of a statutory requirement that all such submissions are accompanied by an index page indicating the make, model and model year of the affected vehicles and a concise summary of the subject matter of the communication. This requirement has been in effect since October 1, 2012. But the bulletin notes that since issuing original 2012 requirement “no manufacturer to date has submitted compliant indexes” and that “to come into full compliance with the law, a manufacturer must submit complete indexes to the communications it previously submitted to the Agency.”
Further, the bulletin states that manufacturers may not simply supplement earlier submissions of communications by providing an index, but that all prior submissions must be re-submitted. This requirement does not apply to recall communications but does apply to all other submissions required pursuant to 579.5. The bulletin continues, “The Agency expects manufacturers to make a good faith effort to expeditiously comply with the requirement to provide an index to accompany the communications they submit to the Agency.”
According to NATM executive director Pam O’Toole Trusdale, “NHTSA intends to exercise its enforcement discretion and allow manufacturers ‘a reasonable period of time’ to come into compliance. Retroactive submissions must be made and the Agency intends to take into consideration the volume of re-submissions when determining what constitutes a reasonable period of time for a given manufacturer. According to the notice, ‘All manufacturers must begin immediately making a reasonable good faith effort to take steps to comply expeditiously for both retroactive and future submissions.’
“NHTSA has advised us that indexes can contain information from multiple submissions rather than a separate file for each submission.
“Failure to comply with the index requirement and the re-submissions noted in the bulletin carries potential civil penalties of up to $21,000 per violation per day up to a maximum penalty of $105 million for a series of related daily violations. Though no particular software is required, the bulletin requests that manufacturers submit indexes as searchable Microsoft Excel files. Concise summaries of the subject matter ‘should identify the defect or noncompliance, describe the effect of the defect or non-compliance, and describe the purpose or type of the communication.’ NHTSA plans to make further recommendations concerning the specific format for indexes – that will be posted on a forthcoming webpage at http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/mc/.
“Manufacturers are encouraged to visit this site as well as look for future communications from NATM as additional guidance on this topic is released. Should you have any questions, please contact NATM headquarters.”