City | 7:45 pm | November 28, 2011 | By Michelle Hackman

Blumenthal calls for federal review of rental vehicles

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Photo by Victor Kang.

In the wake of the fatal U-Haul accident at the Harvard-Yale tailgate on Nov. 19, Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 is calling for a federal probe into the safety regulations surrounding rental vehicles.

Blumenthal submitted a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday asking him to review the gap in safety standards for certain rental vehicles. The letter urges the need for regulation on these often older fleets and cites standards for similarly-sized commercial vehicles as a model of government oversight.

“This absence of safety oversight is particularly troubling because many rental truck companies have fleets that are older and more heavily used than similar commercial vehicles,” Blumenthal wrote, citing a 2007 Los Angeles Times survey which indicated that more than half of rental trucks surveyed were overdue for maintenance reports. “Recent reports of rental truck safety violations are revealing and alarming.”

Blumenthal said that, in addition to the Department of Transportation’s independent review, he will consider drafting legislation in Congress to address the issue, which he said is one “of clear and urgent national importance.”

Read the full text of Blumenthal’s letter below.

The Honorable Ray LaHood

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave, SE

Washington, DC 20590

I am writing regarding federal oversight and safety inspection requirements for rental vehicles — particularly large trucks — that are used by millions of Americans. I understand that many of these vehicles are similar in size and carrying capacity to trucks used in commercial fleets but are not subject to the same stringent federal safety standards. This absence of safety oversight is particularly troubling because many rental truck companies have fleets that are older and more heavily used than similar commercial vehicles.??Recent reports of rental truck safety violations are revealing and alarming.

An investigation in 2007 by The Los Angeles Times found that more than half of 200 rental trucks surveyed were overdue for a monthly safety check of the vehicles’ brakes, tires and other equipment, with some vehicles more than a year overdue for inspection. A 2005 Canadian review found similar, significant safety concerns. Most recently, a fatal accident in Connecticut has raised serious concerns about safety and reliability of rental trucks. Although no conclusions are possible at this point as to the cause of this tragic accident, it squarely raises the issue of rental truck safety and scrutiny generally, which I now request your involvement in addressing.

I ask for your assistance and independent analysis as I consider legislation or other steps necessary to eliminate any gaps in present safety standards and oversight–and in the Department of Transportation’s authority to set such standards and impose oversight. Thousands of rental trucks are driven millions of miles every year across state lines–possibly without adequate inspection, maintenance, or repair required of commercial vehicles. The comparative absence of safety scrutiny for rental trucks is an issue of clear and urgent national importance, plainly within the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation. You need and deserve ample statutory authority to effectively address these safety issues just as surely as the public needs and deserves assurance that rental trucks are as safe as commercial trucks.

Your recommendations as to gaps or shortcomings in safety standards and oversight applicable to commercial trucks would be appreciated as well. My office is conducting our own review, in which I hope to make use of any information you can provide, and I will be consulting with my colleagues in the Congress to determine whether additional federal oversight of the rental vehicle industry is warranted.??Thank you for your consideration of this request. I share your goal of ensuring the safety and reliability of our nation’s roadways and vehicles, and hope that you will join me in addressing the need for additional statutory authority that your Department should have to close apparent legal loopholes and protect the public.

Sincerely,

Senator Richard Blumenthal

Comments
  • redlady

    What a hypocritical stance this is to take! A CT U.S. Senator calling for oversight of safety on any vehicle is a joke! The State of CT (unlike her neighbors to the north and to the west) does not require safety inspections of passenger cars, opting to only concern itself with emissions. And this guy is waving his AG arm around in the air as if that is the only thing our country is in need of right now. Is it because he is out of his league in a bigger fish tank? Or, is it more about his distaste for the business sector?