There was a time when nothing would stop rental car companies from renting vehicles that had been recalled without first repairing them. In fact, rental car staffers didn’t even have to disclose to customers that the car had been recalled or that it wasn’t yet fixed. That time was over as of June 1, 2016.
Now, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 is now formally in effect, which means rental car companies are prohibited by law from renting out recalled vehicles. Previously, the law only barred selling someone a car with unfixed recalls, but there was no law against renting such a vehicle to the unsuspecting public.
Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, if the company has fewer than 35 vehicles, it’s exempt. But the good news is most rental car companies have fleets that are much larger than that.
Although the move seems common sense, industry insiders have complained that this will be a great detriment to their business when auto manufacturers, which have logged record-breaking defective vehicle recalls in recent years, don’t have the capacity to keep up with the repairs. It is true that sometimes auto manufacturers will announce a recall even though they don’t have a plan or exact timeline for repairs. This often means they are short on the parts or service power to conduct a proper fix.
It’s true this will result in some losses for the rental car industry. It’s also true that it may affect the availability of rental cars moving forward. That’s been a noted issue in Boston, where brutal winter weather has in the past resulted in a notable shortage of rentals. As Boston.com reported, cars can’t get into the city, weather-related damage and repairs take time to fix and more people are seeking rental cars because their own vehicles are damage.
However, we must ask ourselves if the money that would have otherwise been saved by rental car firms is worth the grave risk to consumers – and the rest of the public who shares the road with them. And is it truly better to avoid a shortage of rental cars if the only reason for that is that a percentage of them are death traps?
Ask the mother of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck. These two sisters died in a rental vehicle that had been recalled, but had not yet been repaired. They were the fourth customers to rent the vehicle after it had been recalled for leaking steering fluid. While they were driving, the fluid began to leak. The 24-year-old elder sister, who was driving, lost control of the car. The vehicle slammed into a semi-tractor trailer and both young women died of their injuries in that car accident. That was in 2004.
Their mother, who said she never imagined it was legal for rental car companies to rent out defective vehicles, has been fighting for change ever since.
In 2014, there were a record number of recalls in the auto industry – 900 total affecting some 51 million vehicles across the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it will be seeking a 100 percent completion rate in future open recalls.
If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
More Blog Entries:
Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Estate of Chee – Maximizing Insurance Benefits After a Crash, July 3, 2016, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog