Hire cars being used in terror acts. Let’s Discuss…

Historically, rental vehicles have been involved in high-profile terrorist attacks, not just here in the UK but for example, rental vans were used to deliver bombs that detonated in the World Trade Center in 1993 and in the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.


Also more recently, Omar Mateen, rented a vehicle and drove it to Orlando to a nightclub and carried out a horrendous attack murdering numerous amounts of club goers. A Belgian rental car was also used in the attack on the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris last year that killed 89 people. Quoting Bob Kolasky from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “We have recognised that terrorist activity is very frequently tied to someone renting a vehicle, either using the rental vehicle while committing the act of violence or in pre-attack plotting.”

Therefore we need to ask the question how can we ensure that another vehicle is not hired for this purpose?

RGI Solutions have been trying to raise awareness in the rental sector for a while now that more needs to be done at the front end to ensure that vehicles are not being placed into the wrong hands whether this be for potential terrorism, criminal activity such as drug use or simply an individual looking to take the vehicle from you for financial reasons.

Quick question for all those in the vehicle rental sector, can you confidently say that your front end checks on all of your rental services, whether that is for a one day hire of a small vehicle, a van or a prestige vehicle, are robust? Can you confirm the ID of the hirer, their address, employment details, ensure there is no adverse information on this individual in the media or on social media?

All rental companies have checks in place, this is commonly seen as a piece of ID, a credit card and a utility bill. All of these documents are easily obtained fraudulently and it may be that your front end checks have served you well over the past years but we live in a new era and we need to evolve with it. Terrorists are slipping through the cracks and therefore it is clear more needs to be done.

I asked a question earlier in this article in relation to whether hire companies can confidently say there is no adverse information on a potential hirer when checked against open source data, my guess is that anyone who is not a client of RGI Solutions will not be able to say this is the case. This is worrying…

Khuram Butt who was involved in one of the terror attacks in London was shown on a channel 4 documentary prior to hiring the van used in this horrendous attack. It appears that checks on his identity, address and possibly even employment details were all clear but a check on open source data could have found this information and an informed decision on whether to hire this van to a known ISIS member could have been made.

The issue over what checks are completed by rental companies also opens up a can of worms over insurance. The government have recently confirmed that a crackdown is needed amid growing concern over how easily extremists are renting vehicles. If stringent front end checks are not completed could your insurance company potentially not indemnify you should that vehicle be involved in another act of terrorism?

This is an interesting question which RGI Solutions are opening up for discussion as this issue appears to be complex.

From my understanding insurers of vehicles are unlikely to have any policy or legal obligation to pay victims of a vehicle based terrorism attack and over the coming weeks and months, we understand that the MIB will be discussing the many and complex issues with members and other stakeholders but in the meantime what is your opinion on this?

It is understandable that hire companies want to make sure their customers are put into vehicles quickly which means any front end checks are expected to be done instantly, this however is not realistic for the type of checks that need to be completed and therefore it would appear these thorough checks are not being done. This opens up the possibility that a terrorist can get their hands on YOUR vehicle and if involved in another terror attack and these checks have not been completed by YOU will you be left with your insurance company refusing to indemnify you? It is already the case that families of victims killed in these attacks are bringing lawsuits against the rental companies themselves.

This can be avoided by simple front end checks completed quickly and cost effectively.

Further to front end checks what else can be done?

Paying more attention and asking more questions is key, asking what the hirer is using the vehicle for is important as if they can’t give you a quick calm answer why can’t they? If the potential hirer doesn’t seem fazed by the vehicles features or vehicle type shouldn’t this raise red flags and further checks be completed?

In America following the September 11th incident there has been many changes regarding discussions between businesses, the general public, and law enforcement in relation to understanding potential terrorist activity and reporting it. Just one example is their Protective Security Advisors programme whereby a group of government liaisons will work with businesses to provide security consulting and help implement and strengthen security procedures. We can learn from this…

According to Toby Poston, director of external relations at the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) “The industry is looking at ways to share data with the authorities in as real time as possible so it can be cross-referenced with counter-terrorism watch lists and a Government spokeswoman confirmed that the Department for Transport is working with the police and the vehicle rental industry to look at tightening up regulations which all sounds promising but this takes time.
As members of BVRLA RGI Solutions will be following this closely and of course involve ourselves in the necessary discussions.

In the meantime however, talk to RGI Solutions about how we can help you.