New Law Proposed for Recalled Rental Cars and Trucks

black car on a country road

In 2014 there have been 52 million cars and trucks recalled, which is the equivalent of about 2 per day or one car out of every five on the road with you. In the first four months of the year 11.3 million vehicles were recalled. The vehicle recall numbers alone are shocking, but when you take into account that there are almost 2 million rental vehicles on the road and no laws requiring that rental fleets are up to code on the recall services.

The United States does not currently have a law requiring the repair of used vehicles – this includes rental cars – which have been recalled for safety reasons before they are rented or sold and placed into the public sector. Used-car dealers and rental car companies are permitted to fix problems when, and if, they see fit. There is no law requiring them to disclose to customers or buyers that a vehicle is the subject of a recall.

The Transportation Department has proposed, as part of its Grow America Act, a 350-page budget plan for the next four years. The provisions require that car dealers and rental agencies idle their vehicles under recall until they are fixed and brought back to the manufacturers new safety standards. As of October 2014, the proposed legislation has been sent to both houses of Congress and the Senate Commerce Committee has taken it up.

Though it is a step in the right direction, bill in the Senate currently applies only to rental cars. The proposed legislation began in 2011, fueled in reaction to the death of two sisters who were killed, Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, in a recalled but unrepaired rental car in 2004. Lawmakers don’t foresee this gaining enough support to pass as a stand-alone bill, but hope it will become part of a conversation towards a bigger piece of legislation.

Though rental cars are a huge focus of the legislation, used car dealerships will likely be next hit. Currently, CarMax, the nation’s largest seller of used cars, offers a “Certified Quality Inspection”as do most used car companies, but this does not include fixing recalls. “It should be a slam dunk,” David J. Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said of required repairs. “To me it is hard to oppose ensuring that people who buy a car, whether it is new or used, or whether you are renting a vehicle, can have the confidence that it is safe.”