In 2015, Congress passed legislation to protect and reward whistleblowers at automakers, after the Takata airbag scandal and as Dieselgate was brewing. It presumably forgot about this program the moment President Trump was sworn in, but now that Biden is president, NHTSA says it wants dirt and is making it easier for whistleblowers to hand that dirt over.
What kind of dirt, exactly? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says “information relating to a motor vehicle safety defect, noncompliance with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, or violation of the Vehicle Safety Act.” NHTSA says that, with limited exceptions, whistleblowers will remain confidential. And to give you a better idea of what NHTSA might be looking for, here is a list of recent NHTSA enforcement settlements.
The carrot part of this is that if what the whistleblower brings spawns enforcement actions, the whistleblower could get 10 to 30 percent of sanctions over $1,000,000. The law also protects against retaliation for whistleblowers.
“Safety is the top priority for NHTSA and the entire U.S. Department of Transportation,” Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator, said in a news release. “Whistleblowers play a critical role in safeguarding our nation’s roadways, and we will do everything in our power to protect them.”
NHTSA says that whistleblowers should send their submissions to NHTSAWhistleblower@dot.gov, or if you want to use a different method to also email NHTSAWhistleblower@dot.gov to “discuss other options.” You can read a full FAQ on the NHTSA program here.
NHTSA did not say to email your dirt on the automakers to firstname.lastname@example.org, but NHTSA also didn’t say not to do that.