It is impossible to watch the continued scenes of drenched devastation along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and not feel heartbreak at the destruction and loss of life, as well as pride in the resilience of the region's population.
Cleanup operations will be an ongoing part of life along the Texas coast for years to come. But Harvey wasn't just another hurricane.
Like Hurricane Katrina before it, Harvey left hundreds of thousands of severely damaged or destroyed vehicles in its wake.
But this is where the cleanup from Harvey must be different from what occurred after Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Authorities discovered truckloads of flooded vehicles being shipped far from Louisiana to other states, "where they were dried out, cleaned, and readied for sale to unsuspecting consumers in states that do not brand flood vehicles" in automotive titles, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The federal government responded with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which was designed to prevent vehicle histories from being cleansed of derogatory information, such as if a vehicle was in a flood or had been reported stolen.
In theory, the system collects data from every state and is accessible to every other state before a new title is issued. The database should make it nearly impossible to wash away a damaged vehicle's flood designation. We say "in theory" because, even though all titling authorities in the U.S. have had plenty of time to implement the system, it is still not fully functional. Even after a dozen years, just 38 states fully participate, providing their title info to the system and checking before issuing a title, while 12 states and the District of Columbia still have not fully engaged.
That is an unacceptable dereliction of duty to consumers everywhere. This nation's entire economic system is based in large part on trust. When that trust is endangered because of uneven levels of participation, the entire system is compromised.
It is beyond time to bring this database fully online nationwide. Consumers deserve no less.
Moreover, dealers should put their considerable political muscle behind making this happen. Why? When a consumer unknowingly buys a flood-damaged car, who's she going to blame? The feds? This flawed system hurts all dealerships' reputations.