Government shutdown halts vehicle recalls, safety notices

Government shutdown
Federal workers demonstrate against the government shutdown in front of the US Capitol in Washington on Friday.
(NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP/Getty Images)

Add it to the long list of things affected by the government shutdown: vehicle recalls.

With the shutdown entering its fourth day on Friday, the number of recalls has slowed to a trickle, with only one automaker opting to announce a recall voluntarily.

Traditionally, announcing vehicle recalls is the duty of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an arm of the Department of Transportation. Like many government-funded entities, NHTSA has had to dramatically curtail its operations since the federal government shutdown on Tuesday.

PHOTOS: Has your vehicle been recalled?


“During the federal government shutdown some key agency functions have been discontinued until funding is restored,” NHTSA said in a statement.

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.


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