• Cargo theft has been a topic of concern for fleet managers for as long as there has been cargo; maritime pirates of the 16th and 17th centuries where cargo thieves, just as stagecoach robberies of the 18th and 19th centuries and train robberies of the 19th and 20th centuries were cargo thefts. Thwarting this ever present injustice continues to burden fleets with stress and the issues that arise from micro-managerial tactics. However, there are simple practices that, if implemented, can prevent cargo theft, a $35 billion industry in 2011.

    Cargo Theft Prevention


    With the advancement in technology that fleets have access to in the 21st century, criminals have had to devise alternative methods of stealing. Systems like Lo-Jack®, and other GPS tracking systems have led to a decrease in violent acquisition. Unfortunately, cargo theft overall has not seen a significant decline due to these technological advancements.  There have been numerous reported cases of employees of shipping companies transacting the theft because they have garnered trust from the corporation.  In addition to interior offenses, lack of clear communication in the logistics channel has led to countless other robberies. This lack of communication is the area that fleet managers and fleet operators should place the greatest focus. Without knowing precise drop-off and pick-up details beforehand, drivers have succumbed to feats of deception and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of cargo because of this oversight in transparency. To ward off these efforts of deceptive crookery, fleet managers need to ensure that the receiving and shipping teams are on the same page with time and location of drop-off.

    Theft Prevention Tips for Fleet Operators

    ~  Before departing verify delivery location, time and with whom the cargo is being left with at the destination
    ~  Secure tractors with air-cuff and tractor steering joint locks
    ~  Implement tracking devices in both the trailer and on products in the event of theft
    ~  Secure both unloaded and loaded trailers with ISO 17712 compliant barrier seals
    ~  Utilize hardened padlocks for access doors.
    ~  Ensure unattached trailers remain immobile with kingpin locks
    ~  Avoid leaving trailers unattended, if abandoning equipment is an absolute necessity be sure they are in a secure location
    ~  Utilize a theft prevention device like SafeKey or the Ravelco Anti-Theft Device

    These are simple steps that all fleets should already be implementing as habit. Do not make a costly mistake as a fleet manager by believing that your deliveries are not going to be targeted. Having a fleet be reduced in size negates all other cost saving practices that have been tediously executed, from meticulous fleet maintenance, training drivers safe operation habits, and most importantly, money saved from fuel efficiency is now null due to the liability ensued by theft.

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • Now that you're replacing your fleet, the decision needs to be made on whether to settle on a gasoline or diesel powered fleet. Rather than just jumping in and saying that one or the other is the superior choice, it's important to know the differences between the two engines aside from what goes into the tank.

    Difference between Diesel and Gasoline

    Right from the start of the refinement process, distinctions emerge that set both combustion systems far apart in the eyes of a consumer.  At the turn of the century, diesel engines were noisy, aggressively vibrational and released a cloud of noxious exhaust. However, many of these drawbacks have been reduced since, while still being able to retain the advantages that originally piqued consumer interest.

    The primary distinctions that most consumers focus on in regards to these two options is price at the pump and fuel efficiency. Understandably so because these are two of the most prevalent topics in today's petroleum driven economy.  In terms of diesel, consumers are seeing a higher price at the pump than "regular unleaded" and in many areas higher than "premium unleaded" as well.  While this can be a breaking point for a fleet manager who is purchasing 1000 gallons a month, the 11% increase in energy output that diesel provides generally offsets this price difference due to the distance allowed between fill-ups. 

    This price dichotomy is additionally negated by the method of fuel-injection that is utilized in diesel engines; diesel is injected directly into the cylinders rather than being mixed with incoming air within the intake manifold.  Direct fuel-injection causes little fuel to be wasted in the down-stroke of combustion.

    Then, if hauling heavy weight is necessary, direct fuel-injection combined with lack of spark plugs create a high torque environment that often doubles the lb-ft output of gasoline. The aforementioned higher energy output is due to the higher energy density of diesel which leads to a high compression ratio (17:1 for diesel versus a 9:1 ratio for gasoline). Which means that diesel creates low-end torque, while gas creates high-end power. An example of this is clearly seen with comparing a market leader's 5.7L V8 gas engine to one of its 6.7L I6 turbo diesel blocks. The former produces 383 Hp and 400 lb-ft of Torque at 5,600 RPM while the latter puts out only 385 HP at 2,800 RPM but an astounding 850 lb-ft of Torque at 1,600 RPM.

    However, this high-compression ratio and torque output has one downside that is possibly offset by longevity. All of the pressure that is produced in a diesel system has a detrimental effect on the internal components; cylinder heads, shafts, block, pistons, and valves.  Beefing up these parts creates a significant weight and price difference from the gasoline options.  Choosing the 6.7L diesel from the above example is a $7,795 price increase for the engine alone; an additional $2,650 is needed for the transmission swap.  Yet, because the internal structure has greater support, a diesel engine can be expected to last more than 200,000 miles on the low end of the spectrum, creating more time between vehicle replacement schedules.

    As a fleet manager, deciding on which vehicles are being utilized is just as important as who is driving.

    The Better Fuel Solution?

    Does your company earn profits through quick trips around a small region without hauling much of a payload, and need to keep fuel costs at a minimum? Choosing a gas fleet should be strongly considered, because of the easily accessible, cheaper and cleaner fuel and smooth acceleration. However, if fuel economy is important even if it means spending a bit more in the short term and long distances are travelled towing heavy loads on a regular basis then it is recommended that a diesel fleet be your next selection. This is because of a diesel engine's greater fuel-efficiency, high torque and extended life span. Remember, saving a few bucks in the beginning might end up costing your company a fortune through the life of a fleet.

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • Fleet managers of businesses large and small need to be prepared for unforeseen natural disasters.  This is not only important for the safety of their drivers and the protection of their fleets, but for the greater community as well in regards to boosting relief efforts through their available resources.

    Protecting Fleets During Natural Disasters

    With the ever strengthening power of natural disasters in recent years, it is important that fleet managers and operators understand how to approach the inevitable effects of Mother Nature on both small and large supply chain businesses.

    For the most part, even though the value of lost physical assets is greater with a larger business, they can more easily recover lost revenue due to available capital and number of personnel.  With small businesses, this tends to be the most prevalent struggling point; loss of high value assets without enough free capital or available personnel to properly insure or replace them. Unfortunately, for a small business fleet manager, this can mean bankruptcy or liquidation.

    However, making sure that this doesn't happen to your business, no matter the size, involves only a few preventative measures:

    ~  Full coverage insurance on all vehicles in fleet

    ~  Drivers have the proper resources to get out of trouble and sustain for a few days

    ~  Plan for communication and safety in the event of a disaster

    ~  Rolling backups for important data held at headquarters/ dispatch

    ~  Set aside a % of revenue to be used as a natural disaster fund:

         1.  Required expenses that will have to continue to be paid

         2.  Repairs that are necessary due to disaster damage

         3.  Register with the Small Business Administration for supplemental aid that FEMA or   insurance will not be able to cover

         4.  Disaster kits containing nonperishable food, water, batteries, and a first aid kit at the minimum should be in each fleet vehicle

    Executing these necessary steps can mean the difference between continuing business after the storm clears and leaving the doors shut for good.

    Trucking Fleets Provide Relief Efforts

    Trucking fleets can be an incredibly helpful resource after a catastrophic storm or earthquake. The recent tornadoes that struck through the Midwest leveled whole towns and left thousands in need. Transport Topics reported that Dart Transit Co. partnered with it’s shipping customers to help aid Moore, OK by hauling loads of bottled water donated by Target Corp. 

    Generally being in a more secure location than the drivers, fleet managers need to be in constant communication with their team to provide direction on where assistance is most needed. Fleets that can provide refrigerated trucks are even more helpful in providing relief as they can deliver fresh foods and vegetables, and temperature sensitive medicines. However, this should not negate the relief through shelter and delivery of emergency supplies that unrefrigerated trailers can provide.

    Keeping your fleet drivers and vehicles safe is important and offering relief aid to those in need is priceless.  Take care of your fleet, repair the community.

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips



  • Ask any fleet manager if he or she enjoys managing the budget for fuel costs, and you’ll likely receive a cold response. And nobody blames them for feeling stressed about that part of the job. They must consider so many ever-changing variables that affect fuel consumption – including number of trips, length of trips, size and weight of cargo, driving behaviors, fluctuating gas prices, and more. Fleet managers not only must establish a reasonable dollar allotment for fuel expenses, they must also constantly look for new ways to reduce those expenses.

    Fortunately, fleet managers can apply a few simple strategies to improve fuel efficiency, and thus save their company money. These strategies include, but are not limited to, enforcing a strict vehicle maintenance schedule and changing the fleet’s driving behaviors.

    Vehicle Maintenance

    Fleet vehicles that are properly maintained yield better gas mileage and a longer lifespan on the road – both of which saves fleets money. Here are some maintenance musts: 

    ~  During each fuel up, check the air pressure of all tires. Properly inflated tires resist roads less, which reduces the amount of gas required to power the vehicle.

    ~  Align the tires regularly to help prevent the engine from over-working and requiring more  gas.

    ~  Follow regular tune-up schedules to optimize vehicle gas mileage, including the timely replacement of air filters and the usage of the correct grade of motor oil.          

    Driving Behaviors

    Fleet drivers can consume less fuel by adopting the following simple driving habits:

    ~  Avoid braking and accelerating constantly. Keep vehicle speed at a steady pace –   cruise  control is helpful for achieving this.

    ~  Put the engine into overdrive while driving at higher speeds – it helps reduce RPMs, which reduces fuel consumption.

    ~  Reduce the weight a vehicle carries, when possible.

    ~  Turn off a vehicle if idling is expected to last for more than a minute.

    ~  Drive slower to reduce drag and fuel consumption.

    ~  Limit the use of AC – turn it off 5-10 minute before reaching the destination, and park in the shade, if possible.

    A Note on Hybrids

    Fuel-efficient vehicles, such as hybrid-electric models, are obviously engineered to consume less gas, however, not all fleet vehicles can be outfitted with hybrid technology. And in some cases, hybrid vehicles used in a fleet capacity may not prove to be as fuel-efficient as consumer-driven cars. Depending on the needs of a fleet, certain light-duty cars and trucks may offer a noticeable improvement in fuel efficiency. Otherwise, when hybrid fleet vehicles are not a viable option, fleet managers may wish to consider purchasing vehicles with manual transmissions, which are widely known for providing better gas mileage than vehicles with automatic transmissions.

    Start your fleet gas card application today to see how top fleet management services can save your business money. 

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • Recall Roundup

    Aug 09, 2011
    Recall Roundup

    Some more vehicles used throughout the fleet industry are under recall, so take a moment to check and see if your company needs to make any immediate repairs:


    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced Honda is recalling a total of 1,521,107 MY-2005-2010 Honda Accord, 2007-2010-MY CR-V, and 2005-2008 Element vehicles due to an issue with the automatic transmissions in these vehicles. A broken outer race can cause the malfunction light to turn on, abnormal noise, and allow contact between the transmission idle gear and an electronic sensor housing in the transmission. This can result in a short circuit, which would cause the engine to stall. Also, broken pieces of the outer race or ball bearing can become lodged in the parking pawl. This can result in the vehicle rolling after the driver places the vehicle in park. The recall is expected to begin on August 31.

    Chrysler is recalling a total of 299,718 MY-2008 Town & Country, Voyager, and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans due to an issue with potential inadvertent airbag deployment. NHTSA stated these vehicles can experience a heating and air conditioner (HVAC) condensate leak from the HVAC drain grommet onto the occupant restraint control (ORC) module. This leak can lead to the airbag warning light illuminating and to a potential inadvertent airbag deployment without warning. The recall is expected to begin this month (August 2011.)

    If your fleet operates any of the affected vehicles, make sure you contact the appropriate company promptly.


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

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • IRS Raising Standard Mileage Rates

    Not all driving for business purposes is performed by fleet vehicles; many employees occasionally need to use their personal vehicles for business purposes, with mileage reimbursed at a rate dictated by the government. With fuel costs rising and the economy still in need of some recovery, the IRS is increasing the Standard Mileage Rate for business expenses to 55.5 cents per mile, up from 51 cents per mile.

     

    The new mileage rate applies to deductible transportation expenses, to mileage allowances paid to an employee, and to transportation expenses paid or incurred by the employee.

     

    Employers should start using the new rates for reimbursement on July 1, 2011. Any miles accumulated in the first half of 2011 should still be computed at the old rate of 51 cents per mile.

     

    The mileage deduction rates for miles driven for medical and moving purposes are also being increased from 19 to 23.5 cents per mile. The current deduction rate for miles driven for charitable purposes remains at 14-cents-per-mile.

     

    Unless the IRS extends the changes, rates will return to the pre-July standards on January 1, 2012.

     

     

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

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • In a consumer advisory launched June 2, the U.S. Department of Transportation urged all motorists to inspect their tires for proper inflation and signs of tread wear and damage before driving in hot weather.

    Fleet Safety Summer Heat

    The consumer advisory coincides with National Tire Safety Week, June 5-11, and comes at a time when driving increases with the kick-off of the summer travel season.

    "As the weather warms up, it's especially important for drivers to ensure their tires are properly inflated," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "For your safety and the safety of others on the road, inspect your tires regularly and maintain the proper inflation."

    The latest data from the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that over the five-year period from 2005 to 2009, nearly 3,400 people died, and an estimated 116,000 were injured in tire-related crashes.

    While it's true improperly maintained tires can contribute to a crash at any time of year, it is particularly critical for motorists to check tires during hot weather, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland warned. "Underinflated tires spinning on hot asphalt for extended periods of time can be a recipe for disaster."

    The DOT urges motorists to check their tire pressure before long trips and to inspect tires periodically. Motorists should also be aware that aging tires and hot weather can be a potentially deadly combination, as older tires are more susceptible to heat stress, especially if they are not properly inflated. Motorists should check the tire sidewall to see how old their tires are, and check with the tire manufacturer or the vehicle owner's manual for recommendations on how often to change tires.

    Properly inflated tires will also improve a vehicle's fuel. According to the Department of Energy's fueleconomy.gov Web site, under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI (pound per square inch) drop in pressure of all four tires.

    For example, for a vehicle with a fuel-economy rating of 30 miles per gallon and a 35 PSI tire pressure recommendation, a drop of 25 percent in tire pressure would equate to a loss of 8.8 percent in fuel economy, or a drop of 2.6 miles per gallon.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

     

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

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • If you work for or own a small business, this Wall Street Journal article might be of interest to you.

    The article profiles companies that have used the struggling economy as an opportunity to diversify the services they offer and found that doing so has not just helped them survive, but in many cases thrive.

    Smaller companies are able to adjust faster than larger businesses and whether it’s finding new markets, or increasing profits with existing clients the general consensus is that there is still money in the marketplace if you know your business well enough to find it.

    From a personal trainer who turned his one-on-one sessions into smaller group training, to the landscape service that shifted its focus to environmental awareness, the article provides great examples that could help you generate some idea for your own business.

    Photo copyright of jurveston under the Creative Commons License

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • Identity theft has been a hot topic for some time, but as news about the economy continues to make people anxious, corporate fraud has also become a real issue.+

    The Federal Trade Commission’s website has an extensive list of tips and tricks to protect yourself from identity theft. However, the same tips that you use to keep your personal finances protected should also apply to your company’s finances.

    Below is a list of some of the most helpful tips from the FTC site:

    DO:

    • Sign your credit cards as soon as they arrive
    • Keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates, and the phone number and address of each company in a secure, preferrably locked, place
    • Keep an eye on your card during the transaction, and get it back as quickly as possible
    • Void incorrect receipts
    • Destroy carbons
    • Save receipts to compare with billing statements
    • Open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly, just as you would your checking account
    • Report any questionable charges promptly and in writing to the card issuer
    • Notify card companies in advance of a change in address

    DO NOT:

    • Leave cards or receipts lying around
    • Sign a blank receipt. When you sign a receipt, draw a line through any blank spaces above the total
    • Write your account number on a postcard or the outside of an envelope
    • Give out your account number over the phone unless you’re making the call to a company you know is reputable. If you have questions about a company, check it out with your local consumer protection office or Better Business Bureau

    These are just a few — but important — tips on fraud prevention from the FTC web site.

    What would you add to the list?

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • A recent story that should be of interest to fleet managers and small business owners in general showed up in the news earlier last week, where a former employee was arrested for accumulating thousands of dollars in personal charges on a company card.

    Tami Nation Trull, who used to work at the Sunshine House school in Greenwood, South Carolina, was brought into custody by authorities after running up personal charges on an American Express Business Card and a Wright Express fleet fuel card.

    Trull had worked for the company for 10 years and had access to the company card as a part of her job where she made travel arrangements for other employees, but over time had used these cards to pay for items for herself and family members that included airfare, hotel rooms, rental cards, tickets to a variety of events, meals and much more. Trull’s charges quickly added up to more then $20,000 in unauthorized expenses.

    Unfortunately for you and your business, hearing stories like these are not that uncommon.  The challenge is being able to trust employees–especially if they’ve worked with you for as many years as Trull had for her company–but also creating a system of accountability so that there is more than one person looking at what is being spent on your cards.

    For fleet managers in particular, entrusting a number of drivers with gas cards can prove to be a challenge. However, many fleet fuel cards allow you to monitor spending and put controls on what can and cannot be purchased on your company’s card. If you’re not already set up and working with these controls, be sure to contact your fleet card provider as soon as possible to ask about how to set them up.

    The Sunshine House would also have benfitted from a corporate lodging card. Similar to a fleet card, a corporate lodging card will set restrictions on the types of hotels your employees can stay at (since they may want to stay at the W, but the travel budget is more Best Western) as well as electronically audit your hotel bill before your card is charged.

    You’ll sleep better at night knowing there’s one more layer of protection over your company’s expenses.

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips