You don’t need to be a seasoned lobbyist or political expert to be an advocate for your business. This was the focus of two seminars at the recent 2021 International Car Rental Show. (Missed the conference or want to rewatch the sessions? Good news; the seminars are now available online!)

ACRA members and directors Sharky Laguana of Bandago Van Rental, Gregory M. Scott of ACRA, and Gordon Reel of Enterprise, presented on how the association fared in recent worldwide events and how engaging together works to represent the entire industry. - Photo: Ross Stewart, RMS3Digital

ACRA members and directors Sharky Laguana of Bandago Van Rental, Gregory M. Scott of ACRA, and Gordon Reel of Enterprise, presented on how the association fared in recent worldwide events and how engaging together works to represent the entire industry.

Photo: Ross Stewart, RMS3Digital

Make Your Voice Heard

Despite the turbulent last year and a half amidst perhaps the worst downtown the industry has ever seen, the car rental market proved its resilience and its reclaimed place at the travel industry table. Many ICRS attendees shared success stories of coming out the other side and using creative solutions to combat the supply chain shortage we’re all facing.

In the show’s second session, “Survival & Revival - ACRA presentation” with Sharky Laguana, CEO of Bandago Van Rental and president of the American Car Rental Association (ACRA); Gregory M. Scott, ACRA public affairs representative; and Gordon Reel of Enterprise Holdings and ACRA secretary, the panel discussed how to lead our own recovery.

“We want an ACRA army*, strong, informed, and engaged,” Laguana said as he challenged the audience to get involved.

“This helps the country go,” Laguana said. “We are in the middle of a very important economic chain that builds value for our country and the world,” he said, adding how easy it is to contact your state senator to share the challenges and ideas you have to make the industry better.

ACRA has a political action committee (PAC), made up of individuals who collectively serve to advocate on behalf of the entire industry without partisan bias. Joining this or any other PAC can be a great way to form relationships with elected officials across all levels of government. And as Scott reminded, it’s better to make friends before you need to ask them for something.

3 Industry Issues

In the session, the panel discussed issues that will grow in importance for car rental and that need local legislative involvement of car rental operators: vehicle supply and cost, the growth of electric vehicles, and connected vehicle data — the last of which Scott said we as operators need access to and control of, as opposed to the OEM.

To the second point, car rental customers will expect their EV rental vehicles to be fully charged at pick up, Laguana commented, but most operators aren’t yet equipped with enough chargers or available power in order to meet that demand. This is why ACRA’s PAC is at work engaging the government to secure more funding to build more substations.

“We will be totally screwed if we can’t figure this out,” Laguana said. “This is an important problem we need to talk about as an industry, and this is something all of you can do, to influence policymakers to think about. It’s up to us to inform them… We are all in this together, and we can be the tide that raises our own flag.”

Laguana said ACRA is also actively looking at more ways to engage and support small operators and entrepreneurs in the industry, mentioning Utah-based Rabbit Rentals as a recent success story.

Scott also provided an update on how the association has worked on behalf of its members, including recently making the case to the Department of Homeland Security that car rental is an essential business and can’t be shut down. It worked, too, as the industry was added to list of essential infrastructure during the pandemic. ACRA also met with the Federal Reserve Board about the liquidity crisis in the industry. When it came to payroll tax deferrals, Scott said it was “The lifeline many of us needed to survive.”

Reel closed with a call to view political action from an association as the three legs in a stool, each representing lobbyist representation, a PAC, and grasstops and grassroots advocacy.

This year, ACRA is holding its D.C. Legislative Conference virtually from Sept. 20-22, 2021. Attendees will have an opportunity to interface with politicians and decisionmakers over Zoom on the issues discussed at the seminar.

Communicating with Legislators

David Purinton of PurCo Fleet Services led a discussion with Utah State Senator Michael K. McKell on how fleet professionals can engage in the political process to advocate for the issues that matter most to their businesses. - Photo: Ross Stewart, RMS3Digital

David Purinton of PurCo Fleet Services led a discussion with Utah State Senator Michael K. McKell on how fleet professionals can engage in the political process to advocate for the issues that matter most to their businesses.

Photo: Ross Stewart, RMS3Digital

In the show’s penultimate session, a Utah state senator — Michael K. McKell — took the stage to share tips and tricks for getting through to legislators. The discussion, led by David Purinton of PurCo Fleet Services, provided proof that with intentional effort, it is possible to effect real change.

Purinton opened with a video explaining how bills work (give the ol’ School House Rock a watch below) and shared this list of suggested actions to take to start your involvement.

  • Join a political party – any party that speaks to you
  • Get involved in the party and attend events
  • Know, serve, and support your local and state legislators
  • Seek alliances with other associations (Don’t have one in your state? Create one!)
  • Know what your industry contributes
  • Tell your story
  • Encourage your employees to get involved

Senator McKell, upon asking the audience how many of them knew their state’s senators, shared the rub: “A problem in America is not knowing your House representatives and U.S. senators, and we need to fix that,” he said.

It’s also important to know what branch of government can give you the best bang for your buck. Many of the issues faced by car rental operators lies in state legislatures, McKell said. Meaning, the impact of decisions made in a state impact you first, and impact you faster than on a federal level.

His top tips? Pick up the phone and make a call, and get involved in campaigns early on. Most state legislators are pretty accessible with small staffs.

So, how are you going to get involved?

*What is the “ACRA Army”?

As ARN reported in November 2020 about ACRA’s new strategic plan, the car rental association shared this about its vision for an army: “For too long, the industry has relied on the ‘bigs’ to promote the industry in state capitols and in D.C. and to defend the industry against harmful legislation and regulation; this has been the tradition despite the fact that many smaller ACRA members – franchisees, independents, dealers, etc. – have excellent political contacts at the city, state and federal levels of government; in 2021, ACRA will be recruiting and building the ACRA ‘Army’ of citizen lobbyists – with the assistance of ACRA’s professional lobbyists – to promote state and federal legislation that help the industry and oppose ill-considered legislation that doesn’t.”

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