WASHINGTON -- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind says the agency has taken steps to keep its momentum on issues such as autonomous vehicles and cementing a “proactive” safety culture in the new presidential administration.
Speaking to reporters in Detroit last week, before Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential race Tuesday, Rosekind signaled he planned to depart the agency before the inauguration on Jan. 20. Still, the agency will maintain two of its three top leaders during the transition into the new administration, Rosekind said.
“[Transportation] Secretary Foxx supported us by allowing us to take an associate administrator and make her the acting deputy administrator. So when we leave, instead of two-thirds of the leadership leaving, two-thirds will stay,” Rosekind said. “That’s another way we’ll have senior career people making sure that things go on.”
Terry Shelton was named NHTSA’s acting deputy administrator in early September, filling a vacancy in the agency’s highest-ranking leadership role behind Rosekind. Shelton is a civil servant, meaning she won’t be immediately ousted when the Trump administration taps political appointees for agency leadership posts. She is also associate administrator for the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, a NHTSA research arm.
The second NHTSA leader to remain is Executive Director Jack Danielson, filled that newly created position last year during a restructuring of NHTSA’s organizational chart.
NHTSA has taken a far more aggressive enforcement role during Rosekind’s tenure compared than in years past, invoking its legal powers to compel companies including General Motors, Honda, Fiat Chrysler, BMW and Takata to pay big fines and make significant reforms for violations of U.S. auto safety laws.
A major theme of Rosekind’s tenure was pushing the agency and industry to adopt a more “proactive” approach to safety and catch and remedy defects before they become full-blown crises.
In remarks last week, Rosekind highlighted 12 actions taken the agency that he said would have lasting effect, including the voluntary pact it brokered with major automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard by 2020, an update its crash test program and its guidance for the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.
“The markers are down,” Rosekind said. “The next few months are all about getting those markers as deep as we can.”