The Transportation Department announced a reorganization yesterday of its highway safety agency and said the change would better serve consumers.

The department said the action will improve the ability of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to carry out responsibilities in motor vehicle safety and fuel economy regulation.

Offices and executive positions will be created and consolidated but there will be on increase in budget or personel in the 800-employee agency.

"The changes in NHTSA are intended to increase our capacity to carry out our mission comptently and responsibly, giving greater service to the consumer at no extra cost to the taxpayer," said agency head Joan Claybrook.

The changes include:

The existing motor vehicle safety programs office will be abolished to allow the writing and enforcement of motor vehicle safety standards to be separated. Two new associate administrators will be named, one for rulemaking and one for enforcement.

The agency's fuel economy program will be incorporated into the new associate administrators' offices so that fuel economy and safety requirements can be fully coordinated.

Research and development will be redirected to include more attention to commercial vehicle operations and school buses.

Research involving driver training programs, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycle safety and driver behavior will be consolidated into two offices for better coordination.

All research, development and test facilities of the agency will be placed under a central director.