Transportation bill included release of technical service bulletins

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Part of a recently passed transporation bill is mandatory release of technical service bulletins from carmakers. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Recently, lawmakers in Congress passed a transportation bill which was duly signed by the president. Among its other functions, which includes funding for highway repairs, was the release of technical service bulletins to the public, which normally are only between car makers and dealers.

Public now has easier access to technical service bulletins

Just hours ago, President Obama signed HR 4348, according to C-SPAN, a joint piece of legislation which included a student loan bill and a transportation bill. The student loan bill extended low interest rates on federally subsidized loans to college students and the transportation bill authorizes $105 billion in spending on highway repairs and maintenance along with other programs.

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One of the clauses in the bill, though, provides consumers with direct access to information from car makers that they ordinarily don’t get, according to AutoGuide, called “technical service bulletins.” Technical service bulletins are memorandums sent from car makers to dealerships and dealer service locations, similar to the information contained in recall notices.

Formerly hard to find

A technical service bulletin is a notice from the company that made the car that there is a problem with a particular model, just like a recall notice a car maker might announce to the press and/or file with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, TSBs, as they are called, go into greater technical detail, often listing what is causing the defect, how the defect will present and also how to fix it.

According to Consumer Reports, a key difference between a recall and a TSB is that TSBs are not mandatory; it can merely consist of a noted tendency in an older model for a particular problem. TSBs, according to Edumnds, consist of everything from difficulty in starting a particular car in cold weather to cigarette lighters that stop working to issues with the paint. Unlike recalls, many are not safety issues at all. Unfortunately for consumers, they aren’t always made available to the public as the NHTSA publishes them somewhat selectively, though there is an NHTSA database of TSBs it has received on

Full disclosure

Portions of some TSBs are already published on the NHTSA website. However, the NHTSA charges for the information, as they have to look it up and send the consumer a copy. Full disclosure of all TSBs to the NHTSA is supposed to be mandatory, but it’s rarely enforced. The new bill, according to Consumer Reports, mandates that any and all bulletins are fully provided to the NHTSA in a format that’s easily indexed for consumers to look up on the NHTSA’s database and is completely available to the public.




Consumer Reports

Edmunds: TSB database :

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