A couple of weeks ago, we told you about a massive, multi-year transportation bill that could dramatically improve auto safety in the U.S. Sadly, that bill is now being carved up in Congress, and as we've seen many times before, elected officials are making a hatchet job of it.
While some of the legislation's provisions seem poised to remain in place, many of the key elements that consumer groups had sought either never made it into the House or Senate versions of the bill, or they've been subsequently removed.
Arguably, the bill's biggest shortcoming is the lack of any requirement that used-car dealers repair recalled vehicles before selling them -- something that consumers overwhelmingly favor.
The National Automobile Dealers Association adamantly opposed such a requirement, arguing that, since most recalls allow vehicle owners to continue driving their cars until they're fixed, there's no reason to stop selling used cars under recall. Though that reasoning may sound a bit non sequitur-ish, for now, it appears that NADA's lobbying efforts have succeeded.
(To AutoNation's credit, it's instituted its own policy of repairing used cars under recall before selling them. You might want to consider that the next time you're shopping for a secondhand car.)
NADA also opposed forcing rental car companies to repair recalled vehicles, however, that component of the bill still appears to be in play. However, the organization may have succeeded in 86ing a requirement that would keep dealers from giving customers recalled loaner cars.
Other things that are likely to end up on the conference committee room floor before the bill gets signed into law include:
- An increase for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle safety budget -- which seems weird, considering how much focus has been given to auto safety in the past couple of years.
- Any criminal penalties for car company executives who willingly and knowingly break safety rules.
And just for kicks, the committee appears poised to lower the minimum age of big-rig drivers from 21 to 18.
Stay tuned: the final transportation bill could head to the White House for a signature shortly.