We Must Make Our Rental Cars and Trucks Safe

The tragic accident at the Harvard-Yale football game earlier this month has raised serious concerns about the safety of rental vehicles even if no conclusion has been reached as to the cause, In a 2007 study, more than half of the rental trucks examined were overdue for proper maintenance, some going more than a year without an inspection. Just as dangerous, rental car companies aren’t required to fix cars that are subject to safety recalls before renting or selling them to consumers. This has had tragic consequences.

On Monday, I sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an analysis of gaps in federal oversight and safety requirements for rental vehicles. Rental trucks similar in size and carrying capacity to commercial vehicles are not subject to the same federal safety standards as commercial fleets, even though some of these rental vehicles are older and have higher mileage than commercial vehicles.

As a cosponsor of the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, I hope to close loopholes allowing rental car companies to rent and sell cars and trucks that are in need of proper safety maintenance and subject to safety recalls by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). One report indicates that the 1999 Ford F-350 U-Haul truck involved in the fatal accident in New Haven was subject to 13 safety recalls. Although investigators are still determining the cause of this tragic accident and whether the defects subject to recall were repaired, there is no doubt that we need to fill any gaps in standards and oversight to assure the safety of rental cars and trucks. Vehicles that are subject to a recall are unsafe and should not be on the road until they are repaired.

If you are renting a car or truck, I encourage you to visit SaferCar.gov. This site allows you to determine whether the make and model of your rental is subject to any NHTSA safety recalls. If so, ask the company to provide proof that the repairs were made or to provide you with another vehicle that has been repaired or has no recalls. If you experience any problems with the rental, or with your own vehicle, you can also report them on SaferCar.gov.