Since 2010, Mr. Rosekind has been a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates major transportation accidents. He was a NASA official in the 1990s, where he led a program to evaluate and prevent the effects of pilot fatigue, and he founded a fatigue-management firm after leaving the agency.
At NHTSA, Mr. Rosekind must overcome his limited experience with the auto industry and with running a large organization.
“Given the GM ignition switch and now Takata, I would have expected someone with more of a hands-on experience in vehicle safety,” Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, told Reuters.
But some of NHTSA's outspoken critics were pleased with Mr. Rosekind's nomination. Joan Claybrook, NHTSA's administrator under President Jimmy Carter, called Mr. Rosekind “an excellent choice.”
“He understands regulation and law enforcement, both of which are critical as the leader of NHTSA,” she said. “And he recognizes that regulators are not necessarily popular no matter what they do.”
On the docket
Lawmakers have introduced several bills this year to improve compliance with and enforcement of federal auto safety laws. They include:
• Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2014*
Sponsor: Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
— Requires more auto maker disclosures about fatal accidents and greater public access to safety reports, increases NHTSA funding for vehicle safety programs, boosts maximum agency fine to $200 million
• Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act
Sponsor: Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass.
— Requires more auto maker disclosures about fatal accidents and greater public access to safety reports, requires NHTSA to upgrade its online databases and provide public notice of all defect investigations
• Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act
Sponsor: Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
— Doubles funding for NHTSA's vehicle safety operations over six years, raises or eliminates caps on NHTSA fines for violations, gives federal prosecutors more freedom to pursue criminal charges against safety-law violators
• Whistleblower bill
Sponsor: Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
— Provides cash incentives to encourage industry employees to alert officials about faulty products
• Hide No Harm Act
Sponsor: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
— Makes it a crime, punishable by fines and prison time, for an executive to knowingly conceal corporate actions that pose risk of death or serious injury
*Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced a similar bill in the Senate.
This report appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.