Rental car industry - "We are active on safety"
The NZ Rental Vehicle Association (RVA) has revealed to Crux a number of measures that are being taken behind the scenes in Queenstown to manage problem drivers.
At the top of the list are 587 recent emails exchanged between the main Queenstown rental operators, working with local police, in order to identify drivers who have had their contracts terminated.
The move stops potentially dangerous rental car drivers going to another rental car operator if they have already had a contract ended as a result of bad driving.
The RVA's President James Dalglish says that the industry is well aware of how the local community feels about poor driver behaviour by rental car drivers. He says he understands the strength of emotion involved as well.
"I think people are bound to get emotional because we're dealing with situations where we have unfortunate fatal accidents and lives are lost. And that's incredibly sad for all of us, particularly as operators. The last thing we ever want is one of our vehicles and one of our customers or anybody else from the public involved in the fatal accidents.
"From the RVA perspective there are a lot of things being done behind the scenes. There are many protocols in place but I think that the general public isn't aware of actually what is being done but under the terms of the rental vehicle service licence our responsibility as operators is to ensure that the customer has a license that is valid and fit for use in New Zealand."
Mr Dalglish pointed out that New Zealanders expect access to rental cars all over the world, and that these access agreements are part of reciprocal international agreements that would be hard to change.
Asked if there needs to be a change in the way that New Zealand is marketed, as an easy place to drive on remote scenic roads, Mr Dalglish disagreed, but he does acknowledge that driver skills are required.
"We've got wonderful diverse landscapes and we are sparsely populated. However the roads are different and they are challenging. For many people from other parts of the world that are more heavily populated, they come to New Zealand and end up driving on what I would call country back roads. So the conditions are different, the conditions are challenging. We're also dealing with customers from other parts of the world who drive on the other side of the road."
Mr Dalglish, who also runs GO Rentals, has been at the forefront of moves to mitigate risk including introducing a driving simulator to their Queenstown rental operation and helping push a new industry code of practice that aims to educate and inform rental car drivers using instructional videos and other tools.
In July 2018 Crux spoke to James Dalglish about the Queenstown simulator and some of the challenges in managing rental drivers.
RVA members work closely with local and national police to help keep our roads safe, but the idea of testing every overseas driver is not something they say can work.
"We can't actually genuinely test every driver. It's not practical. It simply isn't practical. And it isn't in the spirit of these international agreements. We don't choose who can drive here. And I think New Zealanders need to consider what happens when they travel overseas. Are they prepared to be governed by similar protocols?
"Part of travelling on the roads whether you're from New Zealand or Australia or China or Malaysia or India or Denmark or Sweden or Germany or the UK or the Americas - accidents happen on the road. That's natural. People make mistakes. So as rental operators, the last thing we ever want to see are accidents. We don't want fatal accidents and certainly we're not getting profitable when people are having accidents. So we're doing our best to eliminate them. We've all got a duty to do our best to keep people safe."
Mr Dalglish is planning to attend the public forum in Queenstown next Friday and has today been in talks with the Christchurch company Vault that has proposed an app based, real time driver monitoring solution.