LONDON: British drivers would find themselves subject to extra checks when renting cars and vans as part of a crackdown on extremists planning to use vehicles to carry out terror attacks.
Officials are looking into ways to make sure would-be terrorists can’t use hire cars and vans to carry out atrocities like those seen in Spain this week, and in Britain, France and Germany before that.
Potential measures would include rental companies sharing drivers’ data with the Government so it can be cross-checked against terror watch lists before a vehicle is released for hire.
Toby Poston, director of external relations at the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), told the Sunday Telegraph: “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.”
The Government has confirmed that the Department for Transport is working with police and the vehicle rental industry to look at tightening up regulations.
A spokeswoman said: “The threat from terrorism is changing and so must our response. That is why we are reviewing our counter-terrorism strategy and powers and why we have ploughed extra resources into counter-terrorism.”
“The Department for Transport is also working with the police and the vehicle rental industry to explore what more can be done to prevent the malicious use of hire vehicles.
“This includes looking at what more rental companies could do before an individual can hire a vehicle.”
In July last year a lorry was driven through crowds gathered to celebrate Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people and injuring many more, then in December 2016 an attack in Berlin saw a lorry driven into a crowded Christmas market, leaving 12 people dead.
And this year in the UK, vehicles were at the centre of attacks on Westminster, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.
Since the London Bridge terror attack, it emerged that ringleader Khuram Butt had tried to hire a 7.5-tonne lorry hours before the attack, but was forced to resort to his ‘plan B’ when his payment failed and instead rented a white van which ploughed into pedestrians.
As well as looking at more stringent checks for rentals of vans and cars, UK authorities are looking at physical security measures, such as use of the National Barrier Asset – a collection of temporary equipment including security fences and gates – to protect crowded events.
Guidance for armed police has also been tweaked, allowing police to fire at a car, van or lorry when it is on the move in incidents such as those seen in Nice and Westminster.