• According to a recent study by SmartDrive Systems, a leader in fleet safety and efficiency, commercial fleet drivers are distracted an average of 8% of total measured driving time, with a range of 1.1% to 19.9%.  The study reviewed almost 6,200 vehicle-years of data across nearly 25,000 drivers picked from 384 commercial fleets.

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    he study, which was conducted mainly by in-vehicle video monitoring, recorded distractions that cannot be quantified by traditional approaches, such as using a cell phone, using maps, eating/drinking, smoking, or any other distraction that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds or have their hands engaged with something besides driving for more than three seconds. The study identified more than 50 types of driver distractions.
    The study also allowed fleets to proactively prevent these distractions.  SmartDrive kept ongoing improvement records for individual drivers during the course of the study, which enabled fleet managers to review video footage of their drivers and coach them on proper practices, scored and prioritized by the SmartDrive Expert Review.  Drivers reduced distracting behavior by a significant percentage with this mitigating strategy:
    -54 percent: smoking
    -52 percent: maps or navigation
    -52 percent: mobile phone- handheld
    -51 percent: beverage
    -44 percent: mobile phone – hands free
    -40 percent: food
    -30 percent: general distraction
    “These recent studies demonstrate the importance of fleets taking proactive measures to minimize the risk of driver distraction in their operations,” said Greg Drew, president and CEO of SmartDrive Systems. “Fortunately, it is possible for fleets to realize significant reductions in specific behaviors. The effort spent can have a dramatic impact on collisions, saving lives and money.”
    The study, which was conducted mainly by in-vehicle video monitoring, recorded distractions that cannot be quantified by traditional approaches, such as using a cell phone, using maps, eating/drinking, smoking, or any other distraction that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds or have their hands engaged with something besides driving for more than three seconds. The study identified more than 50 types of driver distractions.

    The study also allowed fleets to proactively prevent these distractions.  SmartDrive kept ongoing improvement records for individual drivers during the course of the study, which enabled fleet managers to review video footage of their drivers and coach them on proper practices, scored and prioritized by the SmartDrive Expert Review.  Drivers reduced distracting behavior by a significant percentage with this mitigating strategy:

    • 54 %: smoking
    • 52 %: maps or navigation
    • 52 %: mobile phone- handheld
    • 51 %: beverage
    • 44 %: mobile phone – hands free
    • 40 %: food

    30 percent: general distraction

    “These recent studies demonstrate the importance of fleets taking proactive measures to minimize the risk of driver distraction in their operations,” said Greg Drew, president and CEO of SmartDrive Systems. “Fortunately, it is possible for fleets to realize significant reductions in specific behaviors. The effort spent can have a dramatic impact on collisions, saving lives and money.”

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  • Bus Drivers in the Pacific Island country of Samoa are fuming over the decision to switch all traffic to driving on the left side of the road.  Some drivers say they would rather set fire to their buses than make the switch, according to the Brisbane Times.

    The historic and highly controversial road rule change will take place on September 7th. It is designed to align Samoa with the driving regulations in nearby Australia and New Zealand and encourage relatives living abroad to export vehicles home.

    A group of 24 local bus operators are refusing to pay the charge of $50,000 USD per bus to convert the vehicles to right-hand drive and move the passenger door to the other side of the bus, claiming that the cost of doing so would put them out of business. The Samoan government has offered a six-month waiving of license fees, but that compensation only comes to $1,180.

    Bus driver Nanai Tawan from Mapuitiga Transport said the price of conversion was so excessive that he would set his buses on fire before driving on the left: “In protest I would rather bring my buses to parliament and burn them there for parliament to see what they are doing to us.”

    Villagers angry over the road changes have pulled up the new “keep left” road signs, repainted directional arrows on the roads to reflect the old orientation, and have even stated that they will not allow cars to drive through their villages if the vehicles are driving on the left side of the road.  A group known as People Against Switching Sides (PASS) has filed a suit against the government.

    Samoan Prime Minister Tullaepa Sailele Malielegaoi stands firmly behind the switch despite criticism that he made the decision without consulting the community or first determining the feasibility of the switch.  This month he further angered the opposition, saying that it would only take a person three minutes to learn how to drive on the left side of the road.

    Photo courtesy of Felipe Skroski under the Creative Commons License.
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  • Now that the Cash for Clunkers program is over, the numbers are rollin’ in.  During the program, 690,114 cars were destroyed.  However, only 40% of cars purchased by consumers after trading in their old vehicles were American-made.

    Secretary of Transportation
    Ray LaHood called the CARS program “wildly successful” because of the large jump in sales during its run and added that “American consumers and workers were the clear winners thanks to the Cash for Clunkers program.” Consumers definitely won with CARS.  Demand was so high that the program’s initial funding was exhausted in less than a week.  It is not yet known exactly how many of the 690,114 sales were pull-forward sales and how many were purchases that would not have been made without the incentive.

    Sales of more fuel-efficient vehicles saw a huge spike during the run of Cash for Clunkers, with the average mileage on trade-ins at 15.8 mpg compared to new vehicle mileage of 24.9 mpg.  That’s an average improvement in fuel economy of 58%.  Although, it is debatable whether the sales of environmentally friendly cars offset the impact of manufacturing those cars.

    American automakers did get a boost from Cash for Clunkers.  Ford reported its first increase in sales since 2007 and GM added factory shifts to meet product demands.  Manny of the cars sold were at least assembled in the United States, but the Big Three automakers only had 38% of total sales.

    The biggest seller under the program was Toyota, with 19.4% of final sales.  GM and Ford had 17.6% and 14.4% respectively.
    An interesting side note: all of the ten most traded-in vehicles come from US companies.
    10 Most Traded-In Vehicles under CARS
    1. Ford Explorer 4WD
    2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
    3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD
    4. Ford Explorer 2WD
    5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD
    6. Jeep Cherokee 4WD
    7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD
    8. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD
    9. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD
    10. Ford Windstar FWD Van
    10 Most Purchased Vehicles under CARS
    1. Toyota Corolla
    2. Honda Civic
    3. Toyota Camry
    4. Ford Focus
    5. Hyundai Elantra
    6. Nissan Versa
    7. Toyota Prius
    8. Honda Accord
    9. Honda Fit
    10. Ford Escape FWD

    Sales of more fuel-efficient vehicles saw a huge spike during the run of Cash for Clunkers, with the average mileage on trade-ins at 15.8 mpg compared to new vehicle mileage of 24.9 mpg.  That’s an average improvement in fuel economy of 58%.  Although, it is debatable whether the sales of environmentally friendly cars offset the impact of manufacturing those cars.

    American automakers did get a boost from Cash for Clunkers.  Ford reported its first increase in sales since 2007 and GM added factory shifts to meet product demands.  Manny of the cars sold were at least assembled in the United States, but the Big Three automakers only had 38% of total sales.

    The biggest seller under the program was Toyota, with 19.4% of final sales.  GM and Ford had 17.6% and 14.4% respectively.

    *An interesting side note: all of the ten most traded-in vehicles come from US companies.

    10 Most Traded-In Vehicles under CARS

    1. Ford Explorer 4WD
    2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
    3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD
    4. Ford Explorer 2WD
    5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD
    6. Jeep Cherokee 4WD
    7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD
    8. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD
    9. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD
    10. Ford Windstar FWD Van

    10 Most Purchased Vehicles under CARS

    1. Toyota Corolla
    2. Honda Civic
    3. Toyota Camry
    4. Ford Focus
    5. Hyundai Elantra
    6. Nissan Versa
    7. Toyota Prius
    8. Honda Accord
    9. Honda Fit
    10. Ford Escape FWD
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  • A 32-year-old Anaheim man miraculously escaped serious injury after he was struck by an Anaheim Parks and Recreation truck as he napped underneath a tree in a city park.

    According to the Los Angeles Times, the incident occurred sometime around 11:45 a.m., when a city maintenance worker drove his truck across the grassy portion of the park to get to a trash receptacle.  The injured man was taken to an area hospital, where he was found not to have suffered any serious injuries.  City investigators are trying to determine if a visual obstruction may have contributed to the accident.

    This incident highlights the dangers of any non-paved or marked area where pedestrians may be lying down or otherwise difficult to see.  The risk becomes even greater in areas with sloped surfaces or when in the presence of bright sunlight.

    This is not the first incident of its kind in California.  The state has had similar problems on its beaches, only a few have resulted in serious injury.  In 2005, a lifeguard vehicle ran over a 21-year-old student lying on a beach in Santa Monica.  He suffered serious injuries, losing his spleen in the accident.  The incident led to a ban against lifeguards driving their pickup trucks on beaches between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

    Make sure your drivers understand the proper safety precautions for the environmental conditions they experience during the workday.  Some tips about driving safely in different weather conditions can be found by clicking here.

    Photo courtesy of jondoeforty1 under the Creative Commons License.
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  • In 1983, John Schnatter sold his gold-and-black 1971 Chevrolet Camaro to keep his family’s business afloat. Now, 26 years later, the pizza mogul has been reunited with his long-lost car.

    Schnatter sold the Z28 Camaro for $2,800 to save his father’s tavern in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  He used what little was left over to start his own business, which would eventually become the internationally successful Papa John’s Pizza.  Years later, Schnatter found himself still missing his old car and began an arduous search for the missing auto.  He created a website dedicated to his search, made promotional appearances to promote the cause, and eventually offered a reward of $250,000 to whoever found the car.

    The search finally paid off.  The original buyers of the car saw Schnatter on television during a pre-game interview for the NFL talking about his determination to recover the Camaro and tracked it down through the auto blog Jalopnik, which contacted Papa John’s about the situation.  The car had ended up 165 miles from Papa John’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky in the town of Flatwooods after changing hands only twice since the original sale.

    The owner, Jeffrey Robinson, delivered the Camaro to Schnatter this week, earning the $250,000 bounty.  Schnatter is also giving $25,000 to the original buyers for their help in finding the car.

    In honor of the find, Papa John’s is offering a free pizza this Wednesday to all Camaro owners. So if your fleet is made up of Camaros, treat your employees to lunch.

    Photo courtesy of Zuiun under the Creative Commons License.
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  • Automotive Fleet’s latest report on vehicle theft sheds light on what is a common and incredibly frustrating problem for fleet managers and companies.

    On average, fleets experience a loss of two vehicles per year to theft.  Just over half of fleets (53 percent) recover all of the stolen vehicles, but many fleets never recover their vehicles.  The financial loss incurred by stolen vehicles can take a serious toll on the bottom line of a small fleet.

    Fleets are taking steps to prevent vehicle theft; many cars are equipped with alarm systems either from the manufacturer or installed after-market depending on the importance of the cargo.  Not all fleets can afford to equip their vehicles with alarm systems, which can be costly.  Some fleets even pass on installing alarms because the cost of equipping them is greater than the amount they would lose from vehicle theft.

    So what is the best way for you to prevent theft in your fleet?  Automotive Fleet offers these suggestions:
    • Do not leave vehicles and/or company equipment unsecured.
    • Install alarms on vehicles with sensitive equipment.
    • Designate specific parking areas.
    • Request drivers remove valuable items from eyesight. One option is placing these items in the vehicle trunk.
    • Instruct drivers to lock vehicles at all times and park in well-lit, safe areas.
    • Install a GPS system in vehicles to track them in the event of theft.

    Vehicle theft is on the rise over the past two years in commercial fleets, along with vandalism and practices such as fuel siphoning.  These consequences don’t just fall on fleet managers; in most fleets, drivers are responsible for their vehicles and any items left inside.  If theft is a result of negligence, drivers can quickly be terminated.  New vehicles are not the only targets for theft, and all vehicles should be carefully monitored and protected to keep your fleet safe and secure.

    Photo courtesy of kowitz under the Creative Commons License.

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  • With the Cash for Clunkers program now over, car dealers are about to find themselves with a lot of extra money from the recent rush of customers.  They may do well to save that money for a rainy day.

    Now that Cash for Clunkers is over and customers have purchased a great deal of dealers’ surplus inventories, prices on auto dealers’ lots are significantly higher than they were before the program started.  The demand for new vehicles during Cash for Clunkers was so high that dealers were having trouble finding enough cars to fill orders; many customers ended up with cars in a different color or with different options than they originally wanted.

    As of Monday morning, 625,000 claims had been made by dealers for a total reimbursement sum of $2.58 billion dollars.  The Department of Transportation had to extend the deadline for filing claims to after noon on Tuesday due to the rush of last-minute submissions taking down the program’s website.

    The end of Cash for Clunkers is likely to cause a significant lull in auto sales for the next few months, but it may only be temporary.  During the program’s implementation automakers began restarting factories and adding shifts for workers to meet the demand.  This may help to kickstart a gradual increase in sales later this year, already predicted by market analysts.

    Gary Ditts, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates is confident that sales will rebound. “Improved consumer confidence and credit availability during the past six months have combined with the CARS program to lift industry sales out of their slumping year-to-date levels, which have been down approximately 35% year-over-year,” Ditts asserted in a press statement, adding that “Reduced inventories will likely hold back some of this momentum, but the automakers are moving quickly to ramp up production and rebuild stock.”

    So when will it be a good idea to buy cars again?  Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds.com, expects prices to fall sharply in the wake of the sales lull and new incentives will be presented to lure customers back to the showroom.

    “I would probably wait until November,” Anwyl stated.

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  • Enterprise Rent-a-Car saved millions of dollars by deleting side-curtain air bags from thousands of fleet vehicles, according to the Kansas City Star.

    Enterprise purchased about 66,000 2006-08 model-year Chevrolet Impalas missing side-curtain airbags.  The lack of airbags saved Enterprise about $175 per vehicle, for a total savings of $11.5 million.

    After the Impalas were removed from fleet service, the rental company and several dealers nationwide made the cars available for resale to consumers.  However, when the cars were advertised online, they were listed as having the missing safety feature.  745 buyers took the company up on their offer, unaware that the cars were missing side-curtain airbags.

    Enterprise maintains that no federal mandates prevented them from omitting side-curtain airbags from the vehicles and stand behind their decision to do so.  The St. Louis- based company did admit, however, that they made a mistake in online advertising.  Enterprise VP for Corporate Communications Christy Conrad stated that there was a “glitch” in Enterprises’s system that listed the cars (only online) of having side-curtain airbags.

    Enterprise plans to rectify the issue by sending letters to every person who bought one of the vehicles explaining the problem.  The company will also offer to buy back the cars at $750 above Kelley Blue Book

    value.

    Roughly 3,000 Impalas have been sold to consumers on Enterprise-owned lots, both properly and improperly advertised.

    GM
    says it has since discontinued the option of removing side-curtain airbags for the 2009 model year.

    Remember: always make sure you know what your fleet is getting when you buy and sell vehicles. Thorough inspections and communications with sellers are essential to ensure the health of new fleet vehicles.

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  • CNN Money has reported that Chrysler Group LLC will discontinue its lifetime powertrain warranty starting with the automaker’s 2010 models.

    Instead of the lifetime warranty, Chrysler will instead provide a 5-year or 100,000 miles warranty for all of its products, according to Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson. Tinson explained that the lifetime warranty was scrapped because consumers were confused by the terms and unhappy with the inability to transfer the warranty to the new owner if the car was sold second-hand.

    Chrysler
    has offered the lifetime powertrain warranty since 2007, which covered the costs of repairs to the engine, transmission, and drive system.  The lifetime warranty replaced Chrysler’s existing 3-year or 36,000-mile coverage.

    The new warranty covers all Chrysler models except for diesel-powered trucks, the Sprinter truck, and Sterling trucks.  The Chrysler-built Mitsubishi Raider and VW Routan are also excluded.

    Fleet vehicles, including limousines and police cruisers, which were not covered under the lifetime warranty are covered by the new 5-year deal.
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  • Penske Truck Leasing has announced the availability of used truck sales direct to consumers through eBay Motors starting this week.  A full range of used vehicles will be available to bidders, including light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks, utility trucks, buses and sedans.  Each vehicle is inspected and meets Penske’s standards for quality.  Vehicles also come with a complete history of maintenance so that prospective buyers will have the ability to make an informed decision.

    “Innovation and entrepreneurship are part of our DNA at Penske Truck Leasing,” said Jack Mitchell, vice president – Remarketing, Penske Truck Leasing. “Leveraging this new sales channel and being among the first major truck leasing companies in our industry to bring used truck sales direct to the retail market via eBay Motors exemplifies this.”

    Penske will also offer financing options through a partnership with netLoan as well as available extended warranties from National Truck Protection, the largest independent used truck warranty company in North America.

    You can visit Penske’s eBay Motors site or for a complete listing of vehicles for purchase, check here.

    Photo courtesy of Scott.Markwell under the Creative Commons License.
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