• Another Friday, another Fleet Safety Tip of the Week from Automotive Fleet This week, they’re offering up some advice on sharing the road with motorcyclists.  With more of these vehicles on the road every day, it is important to pass this information along to your drivers:

     

    • When you change lanes or enter a major thoroughfare, make a visual check for motorcycles. Also use your mirrors. Motorcycles are small, and they can easily disappear into a vehicle’s blind spots.  
    • Allow a four-second following distance. You will need this space to avoid hitting the motorcyclist if he or she falls.  
    • Allow the motorcycle a full lane width. Although it is not illegal to share lanes with motorcycles, it is unsafe.  
    • Never try to pass a motorcycle in the same lane you are sharing with the motorcycle.  
    • When you make a turn, check for motorcyclists, and know their speed before turning.  
    • Motorcycles may travel faster than traffic during congested road conditions and can travel in the unused space between two lines of moving or stationary vehicles, which is commonly called “lane splitting.”  

     

    Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to you pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement can cause motorcyclists to change speed or direction sud­denly. If you are aware of the effect of these conditions and drive with care and attention, you can help reduce motorcyclist injuries and fatalities.

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  • From Automotive Fleet, here’s another reminder to encourage safe driving and discourage alcohol use by fleet drivers:

    Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has filed drunk driving charges against L.A. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

    Santana, the top budget advisor at City Hall, was arrested March 29 in Covina as he was driving a city-owned car home from a charity event. The event, ironically, was a roast honoring District Attorney Cooley. 

    According to Cooley’s office, the 40-year-old Santana had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent. Santana faces one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol and one misdemeanor count of driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. 

    In the days following his arrest, Santana turned in his city car and took a leave of absence to enter an alcohol treatment center. He returned to work at City Hall on April 15.

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  • Fuel prices may have experienced some drops lately (diesel is down to a national average of $3.28, down from $4.76 last July), but fuel costs are still a major strain on most fleet budgets. 

    Kevin Knight, chairman and CEO of Knight Transportation in Phoenix, Arizona, addressed the issue of fleet fuel costs in his company’s third quarter statement.

    “…Despite the decline in fuel prices, the U.S. Department of Energy national average diesel fuel price for the [third] quarter of $4.34 increased $1.44 above the third quarter of 2007 average of $2.90,” he said. “We continue to focus on improving the fuel efficiency of our fleet through reduced empty miles, decreased idle time, improved fuel purchasing, and controlling out-of-route miles.”

    The issue with rising fuel costs is a general lag between any price increase and the necessary increase in a carrier’s earnings.  Regardless of compensatory measures like fuel surcharges, there is an operational cost that cannot be made up by anything other than a lowering of prices.  The recent drop in overall fuel prices is a good sign, but industry players warn not to get too comfortable; carrier Werner Enterprises issued a recent statement that said “If fuel prices remain stable going forward, the company does not expect the temporary favorable trend to continue.”

    It’s important to do everything you can to save money on your fleet fuel costs.  Learn better driving habits, adopt the most efficient technologies… and don’t forget that you can cut up to 15% out of your whole fuel budget with a fleet fuel solution from FleetcardsUSA.

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  • A leading transportation safety economist has called for major changes to U.S. highway infrastructure, citing a detailed report that claims more than half of roadway fatalities in the country are related to poor roadway conditions.

    “The cost of crashes involving deficient roadway conditions dwarf the costs of crashes involving alcohol, speeding, or failure to wear a safety belt,” said Ted Miller, Ph.D., with the Beltsville, MD-based Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation (PIRE), in testimony before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week.

    “Focusing as much on improving road safety conditions as on reducing impaired driving would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year,” Miller added.

    According to Miller’s report, crashes related to poor conditions cost American businesses $22 billion annually, as well as $12 billion in government costs and $12 billion in medical spending.

    “Immediate solutions for problem spots include: using brighter and more durable pavement markings, adding rumble strips to shoulders, mounting more guardrails or safety barriers, and installing traffic signals and better signs with easier-to-read legends,” said Miller.

    “More significant road improvements include replacing non-forgiving poles with breakaway poles, adding or widening shoulders, improving roadway alignment, replacing or widening narrow bridges, reducing pavement edges and abrupt drop-offs, and clearing more space on the roadside,” he added.

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  • From Business Fleet, here’s some good news for GM.

    General Motors Company Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre announced Wednesday that the company fully paid off over $8 billion in loans to the United States and Canadian governments ahead of schedule.

    The loans were paid in full with interest five years ahead of schedule and two months ahead of the timeline Whitacre announced in January. In exchange for the federal loans, the U.S. and Canadian governments took equity stakes in the new GM.

    “GM’s ability to pay back the loans ahead of schedule is a sign that our plan is working, and that we are on the right track. It is also an important first step toward allowing our stockholders to reduce their equity investments in GM,” said Whitacre. “We still have much hard work ahead of us, but we are making progress toward our vision of designing, building, and selling the world’s best vehicles.”

    Whitacre made the announcement at GM’s Fairfax, Kansas assembly plant where the company will invest $257 million to build the next generation Chevy Malibu.

    In addition, Whitacre announced that the Chevy Volt will go on sale in October, nearly two months earlier than originally scheduled and ahead of its competition, the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

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  • Last week’s SAE World Congress concluded with a speech by Bill Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman.  His focus: the future of electric vehicles.

    “All the early cars were electric,” said Ford. “They’ve been around for the past century or so, but they haven’t really had mass-market appeal.”

    But Ford, a dedicated environmentalist, hopes to change that.  He claimed that the automotive industry is on the verge of a major shift, and wants his company to be ready.

    “It appears that the biggest game-changer will be electric vehicles,” said Ford during his speech.  “Our new plan includes the introduction of five new high-mileage vehicles.”

    Citing diminishing oil reserves, climate change and consumers’ desire to save money on fuel, Ford said that the industry has no option but to embrace more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    Ford plans to introduce its five new vehicles (the Transit Connect Electric commercial van, electric Ford Focus, two new gas-electric hybrids and a plug-in hybrid) over the next three years.  Ford will also improve the fuel economy of its established vehicles in new model years.

    “Nobody is getting cocky, or overconfident,” Ford said. “Because, frankly, we’ve only taken baby steps on the long journey to where we really need to go.”

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  • Satellites are responsible for lots of things in our modern times.  They allow for worldwide communication, monitor and predict weather patterns, and even let you know where your next right turn is going to be as you drive to a dinner across town. But now, satellite technology is becoming yet another tool for catching speeders on our roadways.

    The new cameras use a combination of plate-reading technology with GPS receivers to measure average speed over longer distances.  The new system is intended to cover a network of streets, rather than a straight line down a major thoroughfare.

    The system is currently being tested in the United Kingdom, with hopes to deploy elsewhere at a later date. The “SpeedSpike” system, which calculates average speed between any two points in the network, has been developed by PIPS Technology Ltd, an American-owned company with a base in Hampshire, UK.

    Officials hope for the new system to reduce speeding in residential areas and reduce avoidant behavior by speeders, such as leaving main roads to “beat the system.” 

    Concerns have been voiced that such a system would add to already-prevalent government surveillance in the UK, although plate-recognition cameras are already prevalent even in the US.

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  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head David Strickland addressed attendees at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers’ World Congress Thursday, laying out solutions for some of the safety concerns facing the automotive industry.

    One of the most pressing issues Strickland discussed was the high incident of pedestrian collisions with hybrid vehicles. Strickland said “hybrid electric vehicles do have a significantly higher incidence rate of pedestrian crashes than internal combustion engines for certain maneuvers — like slowing or stopping, backing up, entering or leaving a parking space, and making a turn.”

    Other concerns such as back-over accidents and distracted driving were discussed at the event, but some safety experts are advising the NHTSA not to be too hasty in its fixes.

    “You have to look at the consequences of improving one aspect of a vehicle that it doesn’t harm another,” said David Champion of Consumer Reports.

    For example, wider pillars may prevent roofs from crushing in rollover accidents, but they may impede drivers’ vision.

    A global safety standard for all vehicles was cited as an important goal, as well as releasing new safety technologies as soon as they are ready. Ford’s James Vondale warned that “if you don’t roll [new technology] out when it’s ready, you risk litigation [that you didn’t release it quickly or widely enough].”

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  • From Business Fleet:

    Walt Disney World installed GPS-equipped computers in each of its nearly 300 buses, with a goal to reroute buses in real time to handle the heaviest crowds. But critics of the program say the initiative has been a hindrance, with drivers complaining that working with a computer while they operate their vehicles has proven to be a distraction, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

    The program, called Magic in Motion, has led to more-efficient bus scheduling and lower wait times for guests, according to Disney. Features such as prerecorded passenger announcements broadcast automatically rather than by the drivers has made it easier for drivers to concentrate on the road in front of them, Disney contends.

    Under the new program, whenever a Disney World bus completes a round trip, it is issued a new destination based on which stops currently have guests waiting. As soon as a bus finishes one route, a new one is calculated and then displayed on a small computer monitor to the driver’s right.

    But some drivers say the system can be distracting. Each time a bus is nearing the end of its route, the driver must radio to a dispatcher to get a five-digit code that the driver then enters into the computer. The computer then displays the new route, updates the bus’ marquee and even changes the music.

    Adding to the complaining drivers’ argument was the fact that Disney’s bus system recently recorded three crashes in two weeks.

    To help solve the problem of driver distraction, the resort is developing software to automate the process entirely. Disney hopes to roll that out within a year.

    Disney also puts all of its drivers through a four-week training program that ensures they are comfortable with the system and that they have driven all of Disney World’s bus routes, during the day and at night.

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  • It’s Friday, and you know what that means: another edition of Automotive Fleet’s Fleet Safety tip of the week.  This week, we take a look at how to avoid becoming distracted by the monotony of driving long distances:

    On a long and uneventful drive, it’s sometimes easy to find yourself staring down the middle of the road, as if you’re in a trance. In such times, it’s important to remind yourself to keep your eyes moving and scan the scene. You may want to pass this along to your fleet drivers as a friendly reminder. 

    - Take in the whole scene: If you only look at the middle of the road, you will miss what is happening on the side of the road and behind you. Scanning helps you to see:

            – Cars and people that may be in the road by the time you reach them.

            – Signs warning of problems ahead.

            – Signs giving you directions.  

    - Watch for hazards: Look beyond the car ahead of you. Don’t develop a “fixed stare.” Keep scanning. Check your rear-view mirrors every two to five seconds so you know the position of vehicles near you. 

    - On the freeway, be ready for changes in traffic conditions. Watch for signals from other drivers. Expect merging vehicles at on-ramps and interchanges. Be prepared for rapid changes in road conditions and traffic flow. Know which lanes are clear so you can use them if necessary.

    Photo courtesy of Cory Leopold under the Creative Commons License.


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