Friday, December 11, 2015

Importer Faces Huge Fine After Illegal Trailer Lights Marketed

NHTSA Shows its Teeth
Shipping News Feature
US – The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has imposed a $1 million civil penalty on equipment importer and retailer, Harbor Freight Tools for failing to issue a product recall, notify owners, and file a quarterly recall completion rate report in a timely manner for more than 800,000 after-market trailer light kits that violate Federal safety standards.

After inquiries from NHTSA, Harbor Freight Tools acknowledged in October 2014 that certain light kits it imported and sold did not include rear side-marker lamps to improve night visibility, as required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The company did not indicate its willingness to issue a recall until December 16, 2014, and did not actually file notice of the recall until February 26, 2015. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act requires companies to issue a recall within five days of discovering a safety defect or noncompliance with Federal safety standards. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, said:

“Safety is the responsibility of everyone in the motor vehicle market, including equipment importers. It is essential for companies to act as quickly when safety standards aren’t met, otherwise we will fine those who put the public at risk.”

In addition, the company notified owners of the recall 21 days later than is required under NHTSA recall regulations, and filed its first quarterly report on recall completion 18 days late. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, commented:

“These deadlines exist so that safety issues are addressed and risks are removed from our roads quickly. Businesses covered by the Motor Vehicle Safety Act are required to meet those obligations, period.”

Harbor Freight Tools will pay $400,000 in civil penalties now, with an additional $600,000 to come due if the company fails to perform its obligations under the consent order or the Safety Act. In addition to the civil penalties, the order requires Harbor Freight Tools to retain a third-party consultant to assist the company in its compliance programme; to provide compliance test reports to NHTSA as requested; and to authorise third-party testing laboratories the company uses to communicate directly with NHTSA.

The case illustrates the level of seriousness with which the NHTSA takes its responsibilities. With a huge swathe of car and truck accessories being imported, principally from the Far East, it is up to suppliers to ensure their products comply with all current US regulations, and to act rapidly if this is found not to be the case after they have been marketed.