The Oct. 31, 2017, vehicle ramming attack in New York City was just one example of a growing threat emerging around the globe, with notable upticks throughout Europe in recent years. These attacks have used trucks and cars; some rented, some stolen and some that were owned by the terrorists themselves.
The attacker in the New York incident used a rented truck to drive through a park, killing eight people in what was an undeniably horrible tragedy. But no law on the books can prevent the lone-wolf intentions of a madman set on harming people with a vehicle. The terror-inspired driver was in the U.S. legally, had valid identification and, according to news reports, was not listed on any terror watch lists.
Terrorism experts repeatedly say it is nearly impossible to stop vehicle-based attacks when the perpetrators are acting alone.
But we can take steps to prepare.
Members of the Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA) have long been proactive in working to help prevent terrorist attacks that use rented or leased vehicles, and they work closely with law enforcement toward that goal. Two initiatives in particular can currently help the industry guard against future incidents.
In 2012, we partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to develop the Rental Security Guide. This guide provides truck rental and leasing businesses with the framework to create effective safety and security protocols. It also educates businesses about the use of trucks as possible weapons of terrorism, provides an overview of terrorist behaviors and offers guidance on training employees to spot suspicious activity. A few suspicious characteristics to look for:
• What a prospective renter says
• How a prospective renter acts
• What type of truck a prospective renter requests
A second resource is our Self-Assessment Guide that helps companies test and assess their internal security measures against federal security recommendations. This guide was formulated in part by our security committee that meets regularly to share best practices regarding security measures within their rental and leasing operations. The committee includes security leaders who are former local and federal law enforcement officials. It meets regularly and coordinates with the FBI, DHS and other federal law enforcement agencies on truck security.
By working directly with federal law enforcement, TRALA and its security committee are able to garner critical information that can help truck rental operations identify trends and better prepare for possible threats. We then disseminate this information to all of our members.
The commitment of those involved in this effort helps keep the truck rental industry prepared for the potential of a terror incident. However, lawmakers in the United States, Canada and Europe recently have proposed or discussed the possibility of new legislation aimed at rental trucks and cars. TRALA asks federal, state and city governments and legislators to refrain from imposing reactionary, burdensome legislation and taxation on the truck rental industry without understanding what we do on a daily basis to combat threats. Proposals suggested thus far would not have prevented the New York City attack, but they would make renting or leasing vehicles more difficult and more expensive for businesses and consumers.
Some state lawmakers have suggested prohibiting someone holding an out-of-state driver’s license from renting a truck, requiring detailed background checks for consumer truck rentals or requiring that a rental company track its vehicles once they leave its facility. Put simply, these options are neither practical nor realistic as average consumers generally rent trucks for short durations and often cross multiple state boundaries. The logistical and technological limitations that would arise from some of these suggestions would make consumer truck renting nearly impossible.
When deciding how best to react to acts of terror now and in the future, legislators must consider the wider, unintended consequences of proposing incident-based legislation that can negatively impact security, jobs and the free flow of commerce. Instead, lawmakers should work with the truck and car rental industries in a cooperative effort. Working together will result in a more practical and effective approach to combating this growing threat.
We encourage lawmakers to engage in a dialogue with our industry and with federal security officials. Let us work together to form a cooperative approach to dealing with those who intend to do our homeland and its people harm.
TRALA is a national trade association of nearly 500 companies whose members rent and lease vehicles in interstate commerce. Based in Alexandria, Va., TRALA serves as the unified voice for the interests of the truck renting and leasing industry.