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Ryder Top Choice For Terror? Rental Company Says String Of Attacks Just A Coincidence Knight-Ridder

Over the last two years, Ryder rental trucks have been involved in three highly publicized crimes - the bombing of the World Trade Center, the killing of a German tourist in Miami and now the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Is there a reason Ryder trucks have been sought out for crime?

“Absolutely not,” said Art Stone, public relations director for Ryder Systems Inc., headquartered in Miami. “Why should they be?”

Patrick Ford, senior executive on the Ryder account at Burson-Marsteller public relations firm, emphasized, “It’s just a coincidence. They’re a leader in their business. The trucks in these cases just happen to be rented by Ryder.”

Ryder has 5,000 dealers and rents 30,000 trucks and vans in the United States and Canada, Stone said. Its major competitor, U-Haul International Inc., says it has nearly 13,000 dealers and 78,000 in the two countries.

Within the last two years, trucks rented by Ryder Consumer Truck Rentals have been used in several major crimes:

In 1993, a yellow Ryder truck parked in the World Trade Center garage and carrying a 1,200-pound bomb exploded, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000.

That fall, police in Miami said a Ryder rental truck was used to bump the car of a German tourist, in an apparent attempted robbery. The man was shot to death when he refused to pull over.

On Wednesday, investigators say, a Ryder truck rented in Junction City, Kan., was filled with the explosives that tore apart the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing more than 60 people.

Ford said Friday the sequence did not create a public relations problem for the company. “It is not an image problem at all,” he said.

“I can’t talk about this case,” Ford said, “but as far as the World Trade Center, I would say, ‘Thank God’ that they did rent a Ryder truck because if they rented from another company it could have taken weeks to track the people down.” It was the advanced computer system Ryder uses in its rentals, he said, that allowed authorities “to get the descriptions of these people.”

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