Whistleblowers are an important source of information for NHTSA about potential vehicle safety problems and violations of law.
The Vehicle Safety Act protects the confidentiality of whistleblowers and allows NHTSA to pay a monetary award to a whistleblower whose information leads to the successful resolution of an enforcement action for violations of law. This page provides a high-level summary of NHTSA’s whistleblower program.
The Vehicle Safety Act also protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. Those protections are administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). More information is available on the OSHA website.
|In November 2020, NHTSA issued Consent Orders with Hyundai and Kia reflecting the agency’s assessment that both Hyundai and Kia conducted untimely recalls of over 1.6 million vehicles equipped with Theta II engines and inaccurately reported crucial information to NHTSA about the nature of serious defects in the engines. The whistleblower provided NHTSA with information related to Hyundai and Kia’s violations of the Safety Act.
|RQ17-003, Kia Motors America; RQ17-004, Hyundai Motor America
Frequently Asked Questions
NHTSA receives information from whistleblowers on a wide variety of topics, including potential vehicle safety defects, noncompliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and violations of the Vehicle Safety Act. NHTSA investigators consider information provided by whistleblowers, which may lead to formal actions like an investigation, recall, or civil penalty enforcement action. NHTSA protects the confidentiality of whistleblowers.
NHTSA may pay a monetary award to a whistleblower who provides information that leads to the successful resolution of an enforcement action for violations of law. Information on NHTSA’s prior enforcement actions is available on our website.
Any employee or contractor of a motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, or dealership may be a whistleblower.
There is no required form for whistleblowers to submit information to the Agency at this time. The Agency encourages whistleblowers to contact us via NHTSAWhistleblower@dot.gov. That will help us ensure confidentiality and route the submission to the appropriate Agency personnel. For those whistleblowers who have large attachments or materials that they do not wish to submit by email, they may email NHTSAWhistleblower@dot.gov to discuss other options. Individuals can also contact the NHTSA Hotline toll free at 888-327-4236 or 800-424-9153 (TTY).
Whistleblowers may want to include information relating to a motor vehicle safety defect, noncompliance with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, or violation of the Vehicle Safety Act. NHTSA asks that no material that is subject to the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine be included in the submission.
Whistleblowers are afforded protections by law. With some limited exceptions, generally, the U.S. Department of Transportation (including NHTSA) is not permitted to disclose any information which could reasonably be expected to reveal the identity of the whistleblower. In some cases, we may request that a whistleblower provide prior written consent for information to be disclosed (a “waiver”), but this is entirely voluntary. If a “waiver” is filled out by the whistleblower, NHTSA still takes reasonable measures not to reveal the identity of a whistleblower.
Once the submission is received, the submission is reviewed by a NHTSA attorney and routed to the appropriate investigative office(s). NHTSA investigators review the information and may contact the whistleblower (or the whistleblower’s attorney, if the attorney submitted on the whistleblower’s behalf) for additional information.
NHTSA posts information on open investigations and recalls on its website. We are unable to provide additional information on the status of potential safety issues and violations of law under consideration. NHTSA investigators will reach out to a whistleblower if we have any questions or need any additional information concerning a whistleblower submission, and we encourage whistleblowers to provide us with any new or updated information regarding their submissions.
If the requirements are met, a whistleblower may receive anywhere from ten to thirty percent of collected monetary sanctions over $1,000,000.
If you believe your submission led to a successful resolution of an enforcement action and you meet the qualifications for an award, you may submit an award request. At present, there is no required form for whistleblowers to submit an award request to the Agency. However, we encourage you to reach out to us at NHTSAWhistleblower@dot.gov to help ensure that you submit the information we need to evaluate your award request.
The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships from discharging or otherwise retaliating against an employee for reporting motor vehicle defects, noncompliance, or violations of notification or reporting requirements enforced by NHTSA or engaging in other protected activities. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), part of the U.S. Department of Labor, investigates these complaints. For more information, and for one way to submit a complaint to OSHA, please go to https://www.whistleblowers.gov.
NHTSA does not yet have regulations in place. However, it is important to note that whistleblowers are protected by law, without need for regulations. NHTSA may also make monetary awards to whistleblowers before it issues regulations.