The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act which President Obama signed into law on Dec. 4 has already incorporated within all the provisions of the proposed safe car rental law. Thus, with the signing of FAST, the proposed Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act also became law.
Named after two sisters killed in a 2004 rental car crash, the safe car rental bill was introduced in May 2015 by a bipartisan group of House and Senate legislators during the debate over the federal highway program reauthorization. Eventually, the proposed Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act became part of the broader Transportation Bill, a the top congressional priority since it is an appropriations measure that will authorize funding for keeping the nation’s highways repaired and its mass transit systems moving over the next six years.
Raechel and Jacqueline Houck were two sisters who died in a crash of a Chrysler PT Cruiser they had rented from Enterprise. In a 2010 verdict following a lengthy trial, a California jury found that Enterprise had failed to make fixes after learning that there was a Cruiser recall ordered because of a defect that could cause a driver to lose steering control. Correspondingly, a $15 million judgement was made against the company.
Initially introduced to Congress in 2012, the proposed safe car rental law would make it illegal for rental car companies to engage in what the press dubbed “rental car roulette.” Vehicles would have to be grounded immediately the moment a relevant recall was issued. Now that it is part of the signed FAST Act, it is deemed a violation of federal law, enforceable by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for any car rental company with a fleet of 35 or more rental vehicles to rent, loan or sell cars that are under open recall.
As defined under the new safe car rental law, a rental vehicle is a motor vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less; that is rented without a driver for an initial term of less than four months; and that is part of a motor vehicle fleet of 35 or more motor vehicles that are used for rental purposes by a rental company. Once the manufacturer provides a rental company notification about a covered rental vehicle in the company’s possession, a rental company needs to comply with the limitations on sale, lease or rental as soon as practicable, but not later than 24 hours after the earliest receipt of the notice. If a rental company receives a recall notice covering more than 5,000 vehicles in its fleet, the rental company needs to comply with the limitations on sale, lease or rental as soon as practicable, but not later than 48 hours after the earliest receipt of the notice.