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Posts Tagged ‘Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’

Toyota Congressional Hearings: What to Expect

Here comes political posturing, pointing and posterior protection with your tax dollars at work, or is it non-work?

by on Jan.31, 2010

As all of the House is up for re-election this year. Need we say more?

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, is embroiled in two controversial U.S. recalls for unintended acceleration involving ~5.3 million vehicles so far, and sluggish-to-sticking accelerator pedals, at least 2.3 million vehicles.

In addition, this week Toyota is halting production at five North American assembly plants that make the affected vehicles to free up revised pedal assemblies for repairs. The company apparently knew of the problem and has been working on a fix for quite a while. This is shaping up as a classic coverup, according to the many critics of the company.

Millions of  heretofore mostly satisfied Toyota owners are potentially affected, and until root causes are established and fixes put in place, the anxiety of the unknown continues in the growing and increasingly skeptical media coverage.

As all of the House is up for re-election later this year, amid a growing voter revolt against incumbents for their partisanship, “pay for play” politics and lack of action on unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, among other things, this sets the stage for the classic, three-ring, political circus.

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a February 10th hearing titled, “Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?” Lest you have forgotten, this same committee held the well-publicized Firestone tire recall hearings back in 2000. I know, I was there.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee also said that it would hold a hearing on February 25th to look at unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Bart Stupak, Democrat Michigan, and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said, “Staff has met with Administration officials and Toyota officials as part of our investigation. Members of Congress and consumers need to know exactly what the problem is, how to fix the problem and what must be done to protect drivers of Toyota vehicles,” he said.

Translation: Private meetings will not get me or any other congressman the press and TV footage I need to convey to voters that I should be re-elected and keep my lucrative job and medical insurance plan. (Alternate translations for this and all of the following are of course welcome in our comment section. Civil language please. )

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Comedy or Tragedy?

Expect: Statements that allow Stupak and other congressmen to express to the cameras their deep concern, while questioning the effectiveness of regulatory agencies. I do not expect he will explain why we need an expensive public hearing when the committee has already been meeting privately with Toyota and NHTSA on this matter. Moreover, both need to solve the problem or problems – and they will – without Congressional “help.”

Also expect: Leaked documents in the days ahead of the hearings with apparently damaging excerpts from Toyota’s required written responses by politicians to favored Washington Post and New York Times, and other political media. Toyota’s fuller explanations will not be leaked. (more…)

Administration Rolls Out New Fuel Economy Rules

The art of compromise is in view under the proposed changes.

by on Sep.16, 2009

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An initial analysis indicates that none of the special interest groups spreading money around Washington got all that they wanted.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today jointly proposed a rule establishing what they called “an historic national program” that would improve vehicle fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases.

Under the proposed program, which covers model years 2012 through 2016, automobile manufacturers would be able to build a single, light-duty national fleet that satisfies all Federal requirements as well as the standards of California and other states.

The proposal includes miles per gallon requirements under NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) program and the first national emissions standards under EPA’s greenhouse gas program. Earlier, EPA said that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health.

Since the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the tailpipes of new vehicles is the natural by-product of the combustion of fuel, the increased standards would also address climate change by reducing tailpipe emissions of CO2. Those emissions represent 97 % of the total greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

The collaboration of federal agencies for this proposal also allows for “clearer rules for all automakers,” instead of three standards (DOT, EPA, and a state standard), according to the administration.

An initial analysis indicates that none of  the special interest groups spreading money around Washington got all that they wanted. However, several questions remain about the granting of wavers to producers of luxury vehicles for the rich, among others, that will be debated as the  rulemaking process continues into next spring.

Another area of debate is the controversial estimate from NHTSA and EPA — that U.S. consumers who purchase their vehicle outright would save enough in lower fuel costs over the first three years to offset the increases in vehicle costs. This remains to be demonstrated.

MNPG- More News Per Gallon!

MNPG-More News Per Gallon!

Some industry estimates put the average increase in vehicle price at more than $3,000, which means recovery could take decades, depending on the price of fuel and the improvement in economy.

(more…)

Teenaged Motorists Targeted In Latest “Click It or Ticket” Seat Belt Use Campaign

The seat belt remains the single most effective safety device ever invented, but only if you use it.

by on May.20, 2009

Unbuckled Poster from NHTSA

"Teen belt use rates are especially low at night."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is paying particular attention to subnormal seat-belt wearing rates among teenaged motorists in this month’s nationwide “Click it or Ticket” campaign.

According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, of the 4,540 16-to-20-year-old vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2007, 2,502–more than half–were unbelted at the time.  “Teen belt use rates are especially low at night,” he noted, while kicking off the campaign at a Virginia high school last week.

Overall, the Department of Transportation estimates 1,652 lives could be saved and 22,372 serious injuries avoided annually if Americans raised their belt-wearing rates to 90% in every state.  Based on 2007 data, 15,147 lives were saved that year because crash vehicle occupants were wearing their belts.

As reported in this TheDetroitBureau.com, there is wide variance among the states in belt-wearing rates.  Naturally, those states with primary seat belt laws have the highest rates. A “Primary” state authorizes police to make stops if they note lack of restraint system use; whereas Secondary states permit issuance of tickets only after a vehicle has been stopped for some other violation. Primary state Michigan, for example, has consistently shown usage rates over 90% for the last five years.     (more…)