• While the utilization of a corporate bank card streamlines the number of cards a fleet operator needs to keep track of and the number of reports a fleet manager needs to analyze, it is more advantageous from both a fiduciary and reporting standpoint to apply for a fleet fuel card from FleetCardsUSA.  In addition to the savings and rebates that can reduce expenses by thousands of dollars annually, the level III reporting that FleetCardsUSA's fleet cards provide to clients allows for the greatest control and transparency of all fuel related expenditures.

    Level III Transaction Data

    When looking at a personal bank statement attached to a debit card, a consumer is able to view the basic information about purchases: date and time, name and location, and total cost. This is referred to as Level I (1) data. The next available data is Level II (2) reporting and is available for most corporate cards, this report provides a greater amount of visibility of purchase details: line item detail of non-fuel purchases, type of merchant, fuel grade, number of gallons, and cost per gallon. The pinnacle of fuel transaction data is provided within a Level III (3) report. With the number of drivers vehicles that most fleet managers have to oversee, level III data is crucial for a business to keep track of all fleet related expenses. This third level of reporting provides full transparency of every purchase placed on the fleet card; odometer reading, vehicle ID number, Driver ID number, and a full description of the product type. Expense reporting of this depth allows managers to have control over spending that is not available with a corporate card.

    Fleet Card Control Features

    Through the wide selection of cards FleetCardsUSA has available, fleet managers have the capability to limit the expenditures being placed on the account.  These controls can restrict a card holder to the acquisition of a select few product types like fuel and lubricants, or to purchase time of day or day of week. In addition to this, since level III reports contain driver ID and vehicle ID numbers, if these two values don't match what was provided to the system by the manager, the card will be declined. This goes for lack of alignment with all of the controls as well.  For example, a card has been set to fuel and fluid purchases only between eight and ten in the morning on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, if a driver comes in at noon on Friday to top off the tank of their fleet vehicle and wants a snack as well, the card will be declined.

    This vast range of control over a company's finances is only available to fleet card holders; corporate cards might reduce the weight of a fleet operator's wallet, but through unwarranted expenditures and lack of fuel expense savings options, corporate cards lead to a reduction of the bottom line.

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  • A few months ago we provided some simple steps to improve fuel efficiency. However, increasing and maintaining optimal fuel efficiency is far more intricate of a process than performing basic fleet maintenance and driving responsibly. The key concepts that control fuel consumption are friction, temperature and fuel/air ratio, and with over 200 moving parts in both gasoline and diesel combustion engines – not including the mechanics of power transfer – keeping each one of them at peak efficiency is hard to come by. However, there are quite a few practices that should be executed to save your business money at the pump.

    Achieve Ideal Fleet Fuel Efficiency

    Friction is the enemy of efficiency, and with nearly 3000 moving parts throughout the entire average vehicle, there is a lot that can hinder forward motion.  To begin with point of contact, aside from proper inflation, lack of correct alignment is equivalent to dragging a vehicle as opposed to rolling smoothly.  Inquire with your fleet operators regularly if they feel any pulling left or right, this is a strong indication of wheels being out of alignment; correcting this issue can increase fuel efficiency by 1 to 2 miles per gallon. A similar reduction in fuel consumption can be seen at the wheels through the other components that enable or inhibit ideal power transfer; i.e. replacing warped brake rotors, ensuring that brake pads are not rubbing, and checking to see that wheel bearings are in clean working order.

    Further up the power transfer process are the mechanics that distribute the engine’s power to the wheels; i.e. differentials and transmission. Within the differential, sludgy fluid or improper fluid levels can increase friction within the structure. This issue is present with transmissions as well, both automatic and manual. However, transmissions present additional possible fuel efficiency issues through improper adjustments of the torque converter and throttle cable.

    Finally, at the top of the powertrain are many parts that impact fuel efficiency. The most crucial errors occur during the explosive action of the stroke when too rich of a fuel mixture enters the cylinder, and fuel literally pours onto the road out of the exhaust. A rich mixture, i.e. too high of a fuel to air ratio, can occur due to improper maintenance of many parts; primarily O2 sensor, temperature sensor (cold engines burn more fuel), timing belt, carburetor, and air intake filter. In addition to a rich mixture, clogged intake manifolds misaligned valves, late ignition timing, dirty fuel injectors and weak spark plugs each cause fuel-injected engines to lose efficiency at an alarming rate.

    By focusing on just what quick lube stations tell you is necessary for proper maintenance, a fleet can be losing thousands of dollars a year on unnecessary fuel expenses. As a fleet manager, it is important to ensure that your fleet vehicles are in full working order from the wheels to the spark plugs. Protect the bottom line and don’t make costly mistakes; utilizing a fleet card is the first step, and proper maintenance of fleet vehicles is next in line.

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  • Acquiring new units to upgrade your fleet is a convoluted process that often leaves many scratching their heads and settling for the first available opportunity that seems like a good deal. While settling shows a lapse in judgment, avoiding the decision altogether is a tremendous mistake for fleet managers. Before getting into the details about when to upgrade, it is important to know what the associated costs are that come with maintaining a profitable fleet.

    Fleet Costs

    Maintaining a fleet to be utilized for a business' primary source of revenue has quite a few areas that detract from the bottom line. These expenses range from "hard" costs that are clearly visible in the books to "soft" costs: those which have an indirect impact on profit.
    "Hard" costs are accounted for in the budget and predictably vary based on number of orders and foreseen expenses. In regards to fleet management, these costs include but are not limited to fuel, insurance, scheduled repairs, and depreciation of the value of fleet vehicles.

    When developing a business model that involves fleet based logistics or other vehicle intensive services, many plans tend to omit the other side of Fleet expenses; the "soft" costs that cannot be accounted for in a budget but can end up breaking a company if stacked up at an inopportune moment. These "soft" costs, which fall under Murphy's Law, include but not limited to lost business, lost sales, corporate image, diminished productivity, and employee retention.

    Each of these cost groupings need to be taken into consideration when trying to establish the appropriate time to upgrade your fleet.

    When to upgrade the Fleet

    Like all business decisions, upgrading your fleet needs to begin on a cost-analysis basis. At the most simple level there is one, two-part question that needs to be answered: "How much is being spent to maintain this fleet in its current state, and how much will it cost to replace these vehicles?" By approaching this with the aforementioned cost groupings in mind, this becomes much easier to deduce.

    The overall "hard" costs of a fleet include the previous list in addition to resale value of the vehicles, title & license fees, acquisition price, and sales fees. With a sizable fleet this number can escalate at an alarming rate, making replacement seem like a daunting task. However, you need to keep in mind that "soft" costs can either offset these expenses or greatly increase them.

    Due to the inevitability of labor intensive repairs that come with aging vehicles, "soft" costs become exceedingly important to acknowledge as vehicles approach the 100K mark. The questions that need to be asked during this risky period of a fleet's lifecycle are:

    1.  What are the incurred rental expenses when a vehicle is inoperable?

    2.  What are the repair costs?

    3.  Will clients leave because of delays?

    4.  Will employees leave because of undesirability of working with an aging, finicky fleet?

    5.  Will potential new business be lost due to the corporate image that is presented by a run-down fleet?

    Then, most importantly, will fleet replacement remove these potential lofty expenses?  If the answer to these last four questions is "yes," then without a doubt fleet replacement needs to occur during the ideal new-model year or mid-model year selling periods.

    Additional deciding factors that provide definitive affirmative responses when considering a fleet upgrade:

    1.  Repair costs exceed value of vehicle

    2.  Fuel efficiency of new vehicles greatly reduces fuel costs [AB1] currently incurred

    3.  Employees are frustrated with state of current vehicles

    4.  Potential employees are put-off by the state of current vehicles

    5.  Every vehicle is over the 100K mile mark

    This latter issue can present the biggest problems because if all fleet vehicles are in a dilapidated state then it can mean that all vehicles will have to be replaced in one fell swoop; a tough proposition to present to accountants. Spacing apart big purchases diminishes the pecuniary impact and also provides the opportunity to build a profitable relationship with a dealer.

    As a vehicle advances in mileage, depreciation presents a compounding decrease in resale value while the average maintenance cost per mile steadily increases. Take care of the bottom line by replacing fleet vehicles before preventative maintenance and repairs become unjustified expenses.

    Overall, things to keep in mind during the replacement process:

    1.  Replace a vehicle before it is absolutely necessary to do so

    2.  Leasing is financially more responsible than purchasing

    3.  Having newer business tools is appealing to both employees and potential clients

    4.  Be sure to get the best fleet vehicle insurance coverage

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  • It doesn't seem that long ago when fleet managers were emphasizing the importance of preventing gelled fuel during the winter months. But summer is already on its way and fleets will soon switch their focus to preventing the season's biggest threat to their operation: overheated engines. Fortunately, as long as fleet managers and drivers closely obey a predetermined maintenance schedule, truck engines can survive the summer heat just fine. Below are three essential maintenance focus points fleets cannot afford to neglect this summer.

    The first step to preventing breakdowns induced by overheating is through routine maintenance of the fleet. The regrowth of life in spring and the dry months of summer generally lead to an exorbitant level of particulates in the air that can cause engine lubricants to become a sludgy abrasive. As small particles get through the oil and fuel filters, the oil itself begins to take on a stickier, thicker consistency that negates the primary reason for utilizing petroleum based oil as an engine lubricant. This dirty oil progressively wears down piston heads and all other enclosed, moving parts of an engine. Regular oil changes throughout a summer will reduce extraneous heat from building in the engine block caused by tainted oil.

    With oil changes occurring on a regular schedule, the next step to assuring a fleet is summer fit is through filter changes. There are three filters that are crucial to a strong diesel engine: Air Filter, Oil Filter, and Fuel Filter. It is generally accepted practice to change the air filter every other oil change. However, depending on air quality of fleet location this interval should be increased or decreased. The oil filter prevents many of the larger airborne particles from entering the enclosed engine environment so that the lubricant has a longer lifespan; these should be changed at every oil change, a more frequent changing of these will extend the necessary time between summer oil changes. The fuel filter for diesel engines is often overlooked, but with some of the low quality diesels that are being refined at higher temperatures, the filters are getting blocked at a much faster rate than in decades past. This is an issue because it limits the flow of fuel to the injectors which will push air into the fuel system; one of the most damaging things that can occur to a diesel fleet.

    The final step that is absolutely the most important for summer fleet care is making sure the cooling system is in ideal working order. With a reliance on high temperature combustion provided by extreme air compression, a diesel engine operates at a higher temperature than its internal combustion counterpart. Due to this characteristic in conjunction with the warmer ambient air temperature, the cooling system of a diesel motor is pertinent to prevent a breakdown during the busiest season for a fleet manager. Don’t make this fleet manager mistake and overlook cooling system maintenance.

    Overall Summer Fleet Care Focus Points:

     

    ~  Oil Changes

    ~  Filter Replacement

    ~  Cooling system maintenance

    As the thermometer rises, Fleet managers need to be aware of the inherent risks that this new season presents to their vehicles. Managers need to be in constant contact with the Fleet drivers in regards to necessary on-road vehicle maintenance. A good fleet management service can help with this coordination. With the proper care, fleets will be cruising around the country this summer in top-notch condition.

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  • Fleet operations depend on proficient guidance from fleet management as much as vehicles depend on fuel. Yet fleet managers must balance many challenging responsibilities, such as overseeing maintenance, financing and telematics details for vehicles, as well as monitoring fleet driver performance, safety conditions and fuel usage. The most successful fleet managers, therefore, are those who keep all of these tasks skillfully under their control.

    Fleet managers can employ one of the most powerful fleet service tools available for managing fuel costs and controlling budgets: the fleet fuel card.

    Fleet fuel cards are designed to give fleet managers control over spending through carefully engineered features. For example, fleet managers can restrict the types of purchases cardholders make, and regulate the day of week and time of day fleet cards can be used. They can even take control of critical situations remotely with the ability to stop the flow of fuel at the pump in real-time!

    Yes, Fuelman customers have actually stopped fuel at the pump to prevent drivers from accidentally adding unleaded gas into a diesel-powered vehicle. Fleet managers can avoid this type of simple mistake, which can cost companies thousands of dollars to fix, and ensure vehicles stay active on the road by being alerted before the mistake occurs.

    With fuel prices in constant fluctuation, fleet managers frequently feel the pinch of economic turbulence. They know how critical it is to make every dollar count. Fleet fuel cards help to budget and track every dollar spent on fleet fuel and fleet maintenance, and allow fleet managers to control and monitor spending – even in real-time.

    For more information about fleet cards and how they can help your company, check out our fleet cards FAQ page, contact our fleet fuel professionals at (800) 633-3271, or start your fleet card application today!

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  • Here’s a fact: excessive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere contributes to global warming.   Day after day highway vehicles burn fuel that leads to the creation of carbon dioxide.   Why should you as a fleet manager care about how much CO2 your fleet emits?  Because you can not only use this information to determine how much your fleet impacts the environment, but you can make better, well informed decisions about vehicle maintenance and vehicle purchases.

    How 6 Pounds of Gasoline Creates 20 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide

    So just how much CO2 are we talking about?

    A gallon of gasoline weighs roughly 6.3 pounds. It seems unlikely that a gallon of gas could create 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned. Interestingly enough, the weight of the carbon dioxide doesn’t come from the gasoline itself but from the oxygen in the air.

    When gas burns, carbon and hydrogen separate. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water (H2O) and carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.

    A carbon atom weighs 12 amu (atomic mass units), and each oxygen atom weighs 16 amu, which means each single molecule of CO2 weighs 44 amu (12 from carbon and 32 from oxygen).

    Therefore, to calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a single gallon of gasoline, multiply the weight of the carbon in the gasoline by 3.7 (44 ÷ 12).

    Since gasoline is about 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen by weight, the carbon in a gallon of gasoline weighs 5.5 pounds (6.3 pounds x 0.87).

    When we multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.7, our total is 20 pounds of CO2!

    Bottom line—fuel-efficient vehicles not only save your business money but they help protect the environment from harmful CO2.

    Sources: Physical and chemical properties of gasoline: Department of Energy (DOE), Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), http://www.afdc.energy.gov/pdfs/afv_info.pdf.

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  • Millions of people nationwide live in monitored   areas with unhealthy air pollution levels.

    It’s no secret that highway vehicles contribute significantly to air pollution in the U.S. by producing 26-62% of key chemicals that cause smog and lead to serious health problems.

    Recent government-mandated regulations enforce federal emissions standards for all new vehicles, but pre-regulation-era vehicles continue to pollute the air, especially those with poor fuel economy.

    That said, fleet managers looking to add vehicles to their fleet have another reason, beyond cost savings, to choose options from among the most fuel-efficient on the market. Below are two helpful tips for choosing either used vehicles or new green technology.

    Choose a Green Vehicle

    The EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide provides information to help you choose the cleanest used vehicle that meets your needs, including emissions data and vehicles equipped with advanced technology or alternative fuel capabilities.

    Choose Green Technology: Stop-start

    “Stop-start” technology is a newer alternative that also helps reduce fuel costs and air pollutants. The system eliminates engine idling by shutting off the engine when the vehicle stops and immediately restarting when the brake is released or when the vehicle begins to accelerate. Stop-start vehicles improve fuel economy by 5–10% and help fleets meet strict Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which will increase to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

    Johnson Controls reports that 97% of American consumers are interested in and ready for stop-start technology. Best of all, fleet managers who take advantage of stop-start technology can save on fuel costs without sacrificing performance.

    Environmentally friendly vehicles can be found and added to today’s fleets, provided managers stay persistent with their search. The most fuel-efficient fleets will reduce their fuel costs and do their part in reducing air pollution. It’s a win-win arrangement.

    Data sources:

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/airpoll.shtml

    http://www.johnsoncontrols.com/content/us/en/about/our_company/featured_stories/start-stop_battery1.html

    Population exposed to air pollution: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air & Radiation website, accessed August 15, 2008.

    Highway vehicle emission shares based on EPA's National Emissions Inventory (NEI) Air Pollutant Emissions Trends Data. (Highway vehicle shares calculated based on 2006 total emissions, excluding "miscellaneous" sources such as fires.)

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  • A recent video detailing the Distracted Driving incidents faced by two Kentucky Power Company workers sheds new light on the growing problem of distracted driving:

    As you can see, distractions come in a variety of forms on the road, yet the discussion of distracted driving has remained largely defined by cell phone use or texting behind the wheel. Drivers can be distracted at any moment by common occurrences that are found along common routes. Remind your drivers that paying attention doesn’t mean just staying off the phone. They must keep their eyes on the road at all times, avoiding many other distractions:

    • Adjusting the frequency of a CB radio, or even the vehicle’s radio dials

    • Picking up dropped objects from the floor

    • Reaching for objects in the back seat

    • Straining to read billboards or other business signs

    • Changing a CD

    • Searching for documents in the console or glove compartment

    • Eating or drinking

    • Fidgeting with vehicle controls

    • Entering information into GPS systems

     

    These behaviors and more can take your drivers’ eyes off the road and put them at risk for an accident. Being distracted for even a few seconds can mean your vehicle is barreling down the road for hundreds of feet without a chance to stop or avoid hazards. It is important to stop drivers from texting or talking behind the wheel, but fleet safety goes much further than that. Encourage good driving habits and costly accidents won’t be a part of your fleet budget.

     

    Photo courtesy of Endlisnis and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Preparing Your Vehicles For Summer Driving

    We’ve been talking about preparing your drivers for summer conditions this week, but what about your vehicles? Hot summer weather presents a new set of challenges for vehicles, so it’s important to be prepared. Use these tips to make sure your fleet is ready for summer.

    • Make sure that the air conditioning system is filled with refrigerant and is free of leaks.

    • Take the opportunity to check headlights, brake lights and turn signals to make sure they are in proper working order.

    • Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition and replace if necessary; sudden summer downpours can spring up at any time.

    • Check the levels of all engine fluids, especially coolant.

    • Examine all of your vehicle’s belts and hoses, and replace any that show wear.

    • Have your vehicle’s emissions tested and make sure they comply with federal standards.

    • Check to see that tires are inflated to the correct pressure- pressure should be slightly higher during summer due to heat.

    Making sure that your vehicles are ready for summer will help to avoid costly repairs and delays. Perform these checks on your fleet and keep your cool all summer long!

    Photo courtesy of comedy_nose and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • With the extreme weather conditions that have hit the country hard over the last few months and tornado season still in effect across the nation’s heartland, it’s a good time to think about educating your drivers on what to do if a tornado hits while they are on the road.  Pass along the following tips from Automotive Fleet to your drivers:

    Fleet Safety Tip: Tornadoes

     

    -A "tornado warning" means a twister is developing or is actually on the ground. It is more severe than a "tornado watch," which means conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms, which may or may not spawn tornadoes.

    -Tornadoes can toss cars and large trucks around like toys. Never try to outrun a tornado.

    -If you see a funnel cloud or hear a tornado warning issued on the radio or by siren, get out of your vehicle and seek a safe structure.

    -Seeking shelter indoors is best, if possible. A basement is safest. Closets or small interior rooms are preferable. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture or mattress and stay away from south and west walls and all windows.

    -Do not seek shelter in a mobile home. These structures, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

    -If you are caught in the open, with no indoor buildings available to you, find a ditch, ravine or low-lying area and lie flat. Stay away from roadway overpasses. Cover the back of your head and neck with your hands; keep alert for flash floods.

    -In general, whenever you're driving during a storm, remember that wet roads mean poor traction. Conditions are most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a heavy downpour as oil and debris wash away. Driving on wet roads in the rain is just like driving on ice. Take it easy and allow extra time.

     

    Keep these tips in mind and be safe on the roads!

     

    Photo courtesy of Donald Lee Pardue and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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