The town of Revere, Mass., bordering Boston’s Logan International Airport, recently enacted a $10 tax on each car rental generated in the city. The windfall will be used to build police and fire stations. How car rentals are tied to police and fire stations is anyone’s guess, but that doesn’t much matter to Mayor Tom Ambrosino.
"We try to shift the (tax) burden away from our citizens as much as we can," he told USA Today.
Ambrosino is, of course, protecting his constituents. But he and the legislators in Revere are raising money with bad legislation and bad tax policy because it is politically expedient. It is the path of least resistance.
The car rental companies in Revere may have tried to get their voices heard on this tax issue. But if they had a national organization to bring their grievance to—-an organization that could help them mobilize a local coalition of agencies, one that could give them the blueprint to fight the legislation, and speak on their behalf—-the tax may not have passed.
That organization will be the new American Car Rental Association, says Sean Busking, ACRA’s executive director. It is the only national association exclusively representing the auto rental industry on the legislative front.
ACRA’s prime directive is the betterment of the industry by fighting excessive excise taxes and supporting and promoting sensible legislation that will benefit all of its members. “We are aligning current and prospective members with the fact we are standing on a platform that is 100 percent legislatively focused,” says Busking. “That fact, and that fact alone, is the reason for our existence.”
Meet Sean Busking, Executive Director
The new ACRA was born in 2005. After assembling the board of directors the first order of business was to search for and hire a full-time executive director.
Sean Busking brings 16 years of managerial, operational, financial and instructional experience in the car rental industry to the table.
Busking directed customer service and incremental sales on a national level for Vanguard, oversaw sales and operations training for Vanguard on a regional level, managed fleet and staff for National and Alamo in major markets and got a Payless franchise off the ground and profitable (to name a few of his accomplishments).
Busking saw personally the effects of excessive excise taxes on the front lines. Part of his training duties included educating the counter employee on how to reasonably and intelligently explain to the renter where all the taxes come from.
Busking knows how these taxes hurt incremental sales, an important source of income for a rental agency. When taxes outweigh the cost of an optional item such as a collision damage waiver, the customer starts to prioritize his or her spending and cut out the extras.
“Customers generally have a total price in mind on whether to include various optional items and services prior to reaching the rental counter. Unfortunately, excise taxes are not optional,” says Busking. “They are an additional, unbudgeted expense that often forces the consumer to remove wanted and needed products.” [PAGEBREAK] Hit the Ground Running
ACRA has already created a working relationship with the Industry Council for Vehicle Renting and Leasing, an influential political action committee of TRALA, the National Truck Rental and Leasing Association. This Council was instrumental in TRALA’s success in passing the federal preemption of vicarious liability law in 2005. As a participating member, ACRA will send Busking to sit at the 2006 Industry Council Meetings in Washington, D.C. in November.
ACRA has been coalition building with other groups taking up the excise tax fight, such as leading car rental companies, the National Business Travel Association, the American Society of Travel Agents and other consumer and tax reform groups.
While those relationships are important, “These taxes directly affect our industry,” says Busking. “We intend to be out front in this fight.”
Did You Know?
California Pass-Through Legislation AB 2592, a tourism assessment bill, was amended to include language that would allow the industry to pass airport fees through to all customers. This bill passed the legislature and has been sent to the Governor, who is expected to sign it soon. The legislation goes into effect January 1, 2007. Find this and other important legislative actions on the ACRA Web site!
American Car Rental Association Board
Frank Colonna, Triangle Rent A Car
Sharon Faulkner, Thrifty Car Rental Licensee
Joe Knight, Fox Rent A Car
Dick Radzis, Ace Rent A Car
Rick Stevens, Payless Car Rental
Gary MacDonald, Midway Car Rental
Jim Shapiro, Past ACTIF President
Robert W. Klyce, Avis Rent A Car Licensee
Chuck Aton, National Car Rental Licensee
Stay Informed, Get Educated
ACRA will keep its members informed in a number of ways.
ACRA will supply members with a State Legislative Guide, which contains the specific legal guidelines governing the car rental industry in a specific state. Each member can choose a guide for two states.
Members also receive a bi-weekly Federal and State Vehicle Rental Law update.
The association is making plans to implement education programs and discounts with vendors.
The Web site, www.acraorg.com, is the best and immediate way to stay informed. The Web site serves as the association’s communications network and is a conduit for operators to provide input and suggestions. [PAGEBREAK] ACRA’s New Structure
Many know that ACRA is a successor to the Association for Car and Truck Rental Independents and Franchisees (ACTIF). ACTIF’s board of directors was made up of both car rental operators and vendors.
As part of the bylaws of the new ACRA, the current board of directors consists of those directly involved in the management and operations of car rental businesses.
Though associate members cannot vote or sit on the board of directors, product and service providers remain an integral part of the association. ACRA intends to form a vendor’s council that will coordinate special programs and activities.
“I’m proud of the fact that we’re doing very well in garnering new associate members who see, understand, and support our efforts on the legislative front,” says Busking.
Associate members will have other benefits, though, including: access to the ACRA database of rental operators, booth discounts at the annual car rental show in Las Vegas and ACRA endorsement and use of its logo for marketing purposes.
By joining ACRA, vendors will be part of a structured business community comprising hundreds if not thousands of potential customers.
The Board Speaks Out
"This industry needs to be represented on the local, state and national level and be ready to respond to political and legistlative events that will affect us," says Joe Knight, vice president, business development for Fox Rent A Car. "I am giving my time because I am confident that ACRA will give the industry this platform."
"Being unaware of what is happening to your industry is a very dangerous place to find yourself," says Sharon Faulkner, owner of a Thrifty Car Rental franchise near Albany, N.Y. "Being a member of ACRA, no matter what your fleet size, is essential to your company's ability to quickly respond to any burdensome tax, surcharge or fee that will impact the state you do business in."
"This industry has been its own worst enemy," says Frank Colonna, president of Triangle Rent A Car in Raleigh, N.C. "We have been taken advantage of by legislative actions and groups that could pass legislative agendas by virtue of their organizational skills that we [as an industry] have not had in the past."
Membership Dues and How to Join
For operators, membership dues are tiered by fleet size, from less than 200 vehicles up to 20,000. The smallest fleets pay only $150 a year. The final two tiers consist of operators under a nationwide affiliate system, and the eight major corporate brands. Associate membership is based on annual revenue and starts at $1,000 a year. The complete membership fee breakdown can be found on the Web site under “Member Benefits.”
Call Sean Busking toll-free at the ACRA office and he’ll answer your questions. You may even catch some of his fervor for the mission. “The larger we grow this association, the more mass we create and the louder our voice becomes,” says Busking. “When they see ACRA coming they will know it speaks for the car rental industry.”
When you’re ready, log on to the Web site to join.
How to Contact ACRA
12324 E. 86th St. N. #130
Owasso, OK 74055-2543
Phone: (888) 200-2795