In a previous post, we spoke about a U.S. Congressperson who introduced legislation to respond when known or suspected terrorists rented large vehicles and trucks in an attempt to prevent vehicle-based terrorism. We wondered aloud at the time whether it was more prudent to actually do something about the known or suspected terrorists before those individuals actually rented said vehicles rather than react. Across the Atlantic, there's a call for similar regulation but in that case, the call doesn't come from the government but from a voluntary trade organization for rental car companies, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).
As the BVRLA says in their press release, report, and Executive Summary, vehicle-based terrorism is a threat to the members providing an "affordable and convenient service". No one wants to see any vehicle used in a terrorist act but a rental car used in a terrorist act could well be an insurmountable financial loss. The BVRLA specifically wants to work with government to meet basic counter-terrorism standards, find a way to insure the possibility of an unwanted terrorist event, and simultaneously provide no disruptions to the rental car companies or users -- that's a tough ask.
It's fantastic that the BVRLA organization wants to help prevent terrorism in rental cars and they already strongly promote the U.K. national initiative ACT: Action Counters Terrorism. However, the prospect of vehicle-based terrorism extends far beyond rental cars; just as in the United States, it's a possibility with any vehicle. An individual who steals my Chrysler Town and Country (don't judge -- it's my company car) poses just as much of a threat as an individual who rents a similarly-sized vehicle at the neighborhood rental car location.
Rental cars -- just like in the U.S. -- represent a small proportion of the potential vehicles on the road. Excluding motorcycles, there are over 30 million licensed vehicles in the United Kingdom and less than 20% of those are rental or lease vehicles. If there's a problem with any vehicle being used for criminal purposes, additional regulation on vehicles rented directly pushes the criminal element to privately owned vehicles, borrowed vehicles, and even stolen vehicles. So while we appreciate the BVRLA seeking to protect their business interests, initiatives to protect society from vehicle-based terrorism either need to address all vehicles (not just rental cars) or all known/suspected terrorists. Ideally, our social structures can help us prevent the latter.
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