The Administrator of a DOT modal administration, which regulates safety of motor vehicles and the roads, announced that he intends to move the regulatory perspective of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from reactive to proactive. His remarks cited the example of the FAA’s data-driven safety regime.
Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D., assumed the Senate-confirmed position of NHTSA Administrator on December 22, 2014. His previous job was as a Board Member of the National Transportation Board, an independent organization which investigates accidents of airplanes, trains, buses, transit and pipelines. During his time with the Board he was exposed to the FAA’s Safety Management Systems approach.
The key introductory line of the Administrator’s speech was, “So today I’d like to discuss the concept at the heart of NHTSA’s efforts, the drive to create a more proactive safety culture in the auto industry.” He fleshed out his proposal in the following paragraph:
“Success for NHTSA is collaborating with this industry to foster a proactive safety culture, a culture that makes safety an essential element in every activity an organization undertakes. A proactive safety culture doesn’t avoid talk of problems. It certainly doesn’t conceal them. A proactive safety culture is one that seeks out problems, rewards those who identify them, and addresses them aggressively. A proactive safety culture infuses every part of an organization, from the lab to the test track to the factory floor to the C-suite. A proactive safety culture means safety isn’t the responsibility of an office or a division – it is the responsibility of every single individual. A proactive safety culture means embracing the idea that customers will demand, should expect, and definitely deserve zero safety defects. And it means an industry, everyone from the engineers in the software labs to the sales managers at the dealership, that doesn’t just talk about safety but is willing to sacrifice other priorities in order to make its customers safer.”
While the speech did not explicitly reference the FAA’s data accumulation, sharing and analysis, the reporters covering Dr. Rosekind’s presentation at the Detroit Auto Show recognized the origins of this NHTSA initiative in the following quote:
“A top safety regulator says automakers have agreed to fundamental changes in their relationship with the U.S. government to promote greater safety using the aviation industry as a model.”
The reports also mention that this cooperative regulatory relationship will (a) reduce the delay which is required to advance a new standard from NPRM to final rule and (b) reduce the frequency of NHTSA press releases announcing car recalls and massive fines. Sound similar?
It is comforting to know that aviation safety is the leader in advancing a proactive, preventative approach. This may be a very visible example of why all the safety agencies were combined under the DOT umbrella; do you have a better example?