Finally: House Passes Bill Requiring Rental Companies To Repair Recalled Cars (But It's Not Perfect)

November 6, 2015

The quest to move a multi-year transportation bill through the U.S. Congress met with a bit of success yesterday, as the House of Representatives passed its own version of the legislation. A similar version of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 was previously approved by the Senate.

The good news is that the House bill includes a number of important provisions, including one that would require companies like Enterprise to fix recalled cars before renting them to consumers.

The bad news? Plenty of important stuff was cut out or left out of the final version.

Here's what survived:

  • Six years of transportation funding, at a cost of $325 billion. That's a good bit better than the last time Congress passed a transport bill.
  • A requirement that automakers repair recalled vehicles up to 15 years from the date of manufacture.
  • A requirement that automakers maintain safety records for ten years instead of the current five.
  • Funds to encourage states and municipalities to roll out vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, which will allow cars and trucks to communicate with stop lights, railroad crossings, and other elements, reducing the risk of accidents.
  • A requirement that rental car companies fix recalled vehicles before renting them to the public. This has been in the works for several years and is, frankly, long overdue.
  • A waiver that would allow U.S. automakers to test prototypes on public roads without securing permits car by car.

And here's what's missing:

  • Any requirement for used-car dealers to fix recalled vehicles before selling them.
  • Any requirement for new-car dealers to repair recalled vehicles before loaning them to customers while their own cars are being fixed. That language was in the initial bill, but it was removed via a NADA-backed amendment submitted by Roger Williams (R-TX).
  • A prohibition on regional recalls -- the kind that are often used for corrosion-related problems but caused chaos during the Takata recalls.
  • An increase on the amount of fines that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can levy against automakers and other companies. Currently, that limit is $35 million, and the senate version of this bill raised that sum to $105 million.
  • Additional authority for NHTSA so that the agency can force recalls and speed up the recall process as a whole.
  • A long-overdue increase in the federal gas tax, which hasn't been raised since 1993.

What happens next? The House and Senate now meet in conference committee to resolve the differences between the two bills. Depending on the makeup of that committee and how much power those Senators and Representatives wield, the bill could get stronger or weaker. Whichever way it goes, we'll try to keep you posted.

If you're in need of some bedside reading, you can check out the full Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 here.

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