The American Car Rental Association (ACRA) was a sizeable organization 25 years ago when Auto Rental News published its first magazine. The car rental industry had not yet gone through the consolidation it has evolved into today.

Over the years, ACRA’s member roster has been a veritable “Who’s Who” in car rental: Gary Paxton with Dollar, Don Himelfarb and Ken Elder with Thrifty, Philip Shailer with Alamo, Bob Aprati and Sandy Miller with Budget, James Shapiro with American International, Charles Bovino and Robert Muhs with Avis, Jack Taylor and Ray Wagner with Enterprise, and Michael LaPlaca, ACRA’s legal representative.

Currently, our members include Mark P. Frissora with the Hertz Corp., Ron Nelson with Avis Budget Group, Dick Radzis with ACE Rent A Car, Joe Knight with Fox Rent A Car, Rick Stevens with Payless Car Rental Systems, Bill Cash with Rent-A-Wreck of America, Frank Colona with Triangle Rent A Car, Bob Barton and Tom McDonnell with U-Save Auto Rental of America and Advantage Rent a Car, representatives of Sixt Car Rental, and numerous other franchised and independent owners.

Established in 1978, ACRA has served the car rental industry by establishing a cohesive coalition of industry members that are dedicated to the betterment of the car rental industry by supporting and promoting sensible legislation that will benefit all its members. In 1998, Gary Paxton was the ACRA president and he wrote: “Missions and objectives mean little without the commitment of industry supporters.”

Robert Aprati, ACRA’s president in 1997, wrote: “The need for a strong and unified trade association is as critical today as it has ever been.” Sixteen years later, even with all the changes the industry has experienced, there is still a continuing need for ACRA to identify and coordinate member action on key legislative and legal issues.

Excessive taxation and vicarious liability have plagued the car rental industry for decades. Every year ACRA fights against the efforts of state and local governments to add layer upon layer of discriminatory taxes on car rental customers. ACRA is, once again, pursuing a federal solution to this local tax problem that will prohibit future discriminatory taxes imposed upon car rental customers by state and local governments.

ACRA has been successful in stopping or decreasing many of the individual state or county taxes that have been introduced, but the need to balance budgets and obtain more revenue has caused a tremendous burden on the car rental consumer that ACRA must monitor and lobby diligently. 

The Graves Amendment, which eliminated vicarious liability (the law places the burden of liability for the safe operation of the rental vehicle on the rental car company) has been challenged numerous times since its passage. ACRA has assisted each legal confrontation and has successfully won them all.

Primary versus secondary legislation is another legal concern that ACRA has lobbied hard to create change. The concepts of primary and secondary liability are closely related to vicarious liability. In a primary state, the rental company is responsible for paying the third-party claims and the rental company can’t seek recovery from the driver. In a secondary state, the renter is responsible. ACRA is working to challenge this state by state until primary liability for car rental companies is no longer an issue. Just last year, with the efforts of ACRA, we took another state off the list when Arizona became a secondary state.

As the car rental industry changes and evolves, so must ACRA. The first ACRA was founded to monitor and document legal, public policy and legislative issues affecting the car rental industry. The founders knew that every successful industry has a national trade association that works on behalf of its members. The industry’s greatest strength lies in its ability to work together. Legislatively, we are now closer than ever in our endeavor to be one voice.

ACRA’s current president, Bob Barton writes: “An association can only be as strong as its underlying members. Uniformity and cooperation can be a very powerful influence on those who hear our cause. ACRA’s creed of acting as the voice of the American car rental industry can only be accomplished with your continuing membership and economic support. Together, we can make a difference.”

ACRA congratulates Auto Rental News on its 25th anniversary and thanks it for granting the association the forum to keep ACRA members informed on the many issues facing the car rental industry today.

Additional features from Auto Rental News' March/April issue can be found here.