WASHINGTON, D.C. -- To settle a dispute with the Justice Department, National and Alamo this month agreed to a plan aimed at making their fleet of airport shuttle buses more accessible to paraplegics. The settlement follows a Justice Department investigation prompted by customer complaints.
National and Alamo agreed that during any fiscal year in the future, at least 10% of their small shuttle bus acquisitions will comply with federal accessibility standards. Those standards are outlined in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
National and Alamo did not, however, admit any violation of the ADA -- a point that the agreement acknowledges. Part of the dispute stemmed from a disagreement over whether the shuttle buses fell under regulations for "fixed-route systems" or for "demand-responsive systems." Under the ADA, these two vehicle categories carry different sets of requirements.
Alamo and National argued that their shuttles were "demand-responsive systems," but the Justice Department considered them "fixed-route systems."
The agreement's 10% requirement affects both leases and purchases of shuttle buses with 16 or fewer seats. However, the 10% requirement isn't in effect during any fiscal year when large shuttle bus leases or purchases outnumber those of small shuttle buses.
The 10% requirement extends for six years, or until all of the larger shuttle buses in the Alamo and National fleet meet accessibility standards.
National Car Rental and Alamo Rent-A-Car are now part of Vanguard Car Rental USA, a unit of Cerberus Capital Management. They also agreed to place at least one working accessible shuttle bus at each corporate-owned location serving an airport.
The agreement with the Justice Department only affects existing corporate-owned operations serving airports. Franchisee-operated locations serving airports in Phoenix, San Antonio, Providence, R.I.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Akron, Ohio; and Indianapolis, Ind., are not bound by the agreement.
However, the settlement calls for National and Alamo to make the accessibility requirement part of all future agreements with new licensees. Whenever possible, the companies will also add the provision in renewal contracts with existing licensees. They also agreed to encourage existing licensees to adopt the standards voluntarily.