• Here’s another useful fleet safety tip from the guys over at Automotive Fleet:

    Here’s some advice, culled from the California Driver Handbook, on when and when not to use a vehicle horn. You may want to pass these tips along to your fleet drivers as a friendly reminder. 

    Use Your Horn:

     

    • When necessary, to avoid accidents.

    • To try to get “eye contact” with other drivers. Tap your horn to alert another driver, who might otherwise turn in front of you.

    • On narrow mountain roads, where you cannot see at least 200 feet ahead.  

     

    Don’t Use Your Horn:

     

    • If a driver is going slowly, and you want him or her to drive faster. The driver may be ill, lost, intoxicated or having problems with the vehicle.

    • If slowing or stopping your car will prevent an accident. It’s safer to use the brakes than honk the horn.

    • To show other drivers that they made a mistake. Your honking may cause them to make more mistakes.

    • Because you are angry or upset.

     

    Photo courtesy adactico under the Creative Commons License


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  • General Motors announced Tuesday that it plans to develop smartphone integration for its new vehicles using its existing OnStar driver assistance network.

    The new system is aimed to compete with Ford’s SYNC system and Mercedes Benz’s smartphone integration.  Unlike Ford, GM will be developing the apps for its cars itself, rather than relying on third-party developers.

    GM’s new system will initially focus on phones using Google’s Android operating system, like the Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Incredible.

    “We want to make smartphones work seamless with the connectivity of OnStar,” explained Chris Preuss, president of OnStar. Mr. Preuss also emphasized that OnStar wanted to ensure the safety of such new smartphone applications and believed that the best way to do that was to develop the software themselves.

    The first vehicle out of the gate to connect with Android applications will the coming hybrid Chevrolet Volt.

    The system will first focus on advanced navigation features that use Google’s voice-based search, mapping and routing functions. There will also be a “find my car” function for drivers lost in parking lots.

    Once the car is in motion, drivers will not be able to use the smartphone to change settings in the car — a safety feature, according to Mr. Preuss.

    To request a new destination, for example, drivers should push the blue OnStar button to have an agent send the directions to the car. He sees this as offering the best of both worlds, while minimizing potential driver distractions.

    While Android is the only supported OS for now, iPhone and Blackberry support are expected in the near future.

    [via The New York Times]

    Photo courtesy of OnStar Connections under the Creative Commons License


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  • President Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) to jointly issue the first fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The new rules will be phased in between model years 2014 and 2018.

    “This will bring down costs for transporting goods, serving businesses and consumers alike.  It will reduce pollution,” said the President in a special Rose Garden ceremony today, where he signed a “Presidential Memorandum” that, along with other energy policy initiatives, tasks EPA and DOT to create the standards for new commercial trucks.

    Administration officials currently estimate that commercial trucks consume more than two million barrels of oil every day, and average 6.1 miles per gallon. They also emit 20% of the greenhouse gas pollution related to transportation.

    The government’s preliminary estimates indicate great potential for significant fuel efficiency gains and greenhouse gas emissions reductions for large tractor-trailers, which represent half of all GHG emissions from this sector.

    A report released earlier this week by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Pasadena, CA-based Clean Transportation Technologies and Solutions (CalStart) organization said boosting fuel economy of new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles could create more than 120,000 new jobs nationwide by 2030, while curbing U.S. oil dependence

    Using existing and emerging fuel-saving technology, the two groups said the U.S. could save four times more oil on an annual basis by 2030 than the volume expected from expanded offshore drilling in that same year.

    [via Fleet Owner]

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  • Ford Motor Co. has been working diligently to keep its place as the primary provider for the nation’s law enforcement fleets after the iconic Crown Victoria ceases production next year.  Now the automaker is developing a second vehicle for police departments: a pursuit-ready SUV.

    The new SUV model is based on the same platform as Ford’s new Explorer model. 

    “When you own 70 percent of the market and you understand your customers, they tell you what their needs are,” said Lisa Teed, brand marketing manager for Ford’s police vehicle program. “They need flexibility, and that’s what this second vehicle brings.”

    Ford is relying heavily on input from its advisory board of law enforcement officials to develop the new vehicle.  The most important lesson learned from this process is that the needs of agencies vary by region, which Ford is working hard to accommodate.

    The new SUV will be pursuit-ready and comes with four-wheel drive, and will also feature a modified version of the Ford SYNC system, specially modified for law enforcement needs.  Many parts will be interchangeable with the new Police Interceptor, making maintenance much more convenient and cheaper for budget-stretched departments.

    Each year, law enforcement agencies in the United States purchase about 75,000 police vehicles.

    “Their job is to protect and serve us,” Teed said. “Our job is to serve them.”

    [via The Detroit News]

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  • With fuel prices still a major concern for fleets, there is some good news regarding the cost of oil, according to this report from Business Fleet:

    U.S. oil prices fell for a fifth straight session and settled at a five-month low on May 17. U.S. crude for June delivery fell $1.53 to settle at $70.08.

    Stockpiles of crude at Cushing, Okla., the delivery hub for the U.S. contract’s West Texas Intermediate benchmark crude, have risen in the last eight weeks to a record high 37 million barrels, pushing front-month U.S. crude down relative to later futures contracts and the other global crude benchmark, Brent.

    The market will get the weekly U.S. oil inventory snapshots from industry and government, starting with the American Petroleum Institute’s report on Tuesday afternoon.

    Analysts surveyed by Reuters on Monday expected crude oil and distillate stocks to have increased last week, while gasoline stocks were expected to have declined.

    Photo courtesy of ezioman under the Creative Commons License


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  • A recent survey conducted by GE Capital Fleet Services at the annual NAFA Institute Expo in Detroit showed that almost half (48 percent) of C-level executives cite cost savings as a main focus for fleet management in 2010.

    Of 75 fleet managers polled in the survey, 48 percent found cost savings to be deserving of primary focus, with 36 percent declaring it their top priority.  Coming in second was driver safety, with 21 percent of respondents claiming it as their top concern.

    “As we emerge from the downturn, companies continue to be strategic about their fleets while remaining attentive to costs and working to improve overall fleet efficiency,” said Clarence Nunn, CEO of GE Capital Fleet Services. “With today’s advanced fleet management tools and services such as telematics and data analytics, fleet managers are able to help their company reach financial and operational goals.”

    Fleet managers also said that real-time data such as miles driven and fuel consumption are the most important metrics for managing their fleets. Twenty-one percent of fleet managers surveyed selected workforce productivity metrics, such as jobs per day, travel time and deliveries per day, as another important data point that allows them most efficiently manage their fleets. 

    If you’re looking for ways to control your fleet’s operational costs, you can always sign up for a FleetCards USA card and save up to 15% on your fuel budget!

    [via Automotive Fleet]

    Photo courtesy of Photos8.com under the Creative Commons License


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  • A Utah truck driver has been arrested after blood tests indicated he was driving under the influence of illegal drugs when he crashed his rig carrying diesel fuel in March, according to the Salt Lake Tribune

    Shane Oliver was booked into the Weber County Jail and charged with driving under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia and unsafe lane travel, the Utah Highway Patrol told the newspaper. 

    The single-vehicle crash occurred March 17 on Interstate 15 in Roy, Utah. Oliver was not seriously injured, although the crash caused a fire. 

    Court records reference a toxicology report that found methamphetamine and metabolite amphetamine in Oliver’s blood. 

    Oliver had been traveling to Ogden with about 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel from Golden Eagle Oil Refinery in Woods Cross.

    Make sure you educate your drivers on the dangers of drugs and alcohol and enact policies to keep your fleet clean.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • If your fleet operates in Florida, be aware; you can now be fined for violations by new red-light cameras being deployed in the Sunshine State.

    Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on May 13 signed into law a bill authorizing red-light cameras as enforcement devices in the state, the Associated Press reported. 

    Though at least 30 cities in Florida have already installed red-light cameras, the cities’ legal authority to operate them had been in question. Previously, state law neither permitted nor prohibited the use of red-light cameras. On July 1, when the new law goes into effect, that all changes. 

    Crist said he signed the bill, called the Mark Wandell Traffic Safety Act, because he believed it would save lives. The legislation was named after a Bradenton man who was killed by a motorist running a red light in 2003. Melissa Wandell, Mark Wandell’s widow, was an activist lobbying for the bill’s passage. 

    “The legislation provides law enforcement with another effective tool to enforce safe and responsible driving on our roads,” Crist said in a released statement. 

    Supporters of the bill shared Crist’s view that it would make roads safer. Opponents argued that it would compromise motorists’ privacy rights and that it was simply a ploy for cities to raise more revenue. 

    According to the law, motorists caught on camera running a red light can be fined $158. Of that amount, $75 will go to local governments. The remainder will go to the state. 

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • A new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration examines the costs of post-collision repair among several major automakers. The result: if you’re concerned about repair costs, your best bet is a Ford.

    Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles all “cost less to repair after a collision compared to other automakers’ vehicles in the same segments” according to Motor Trend.  “Nearly 80 percent of Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln vehicles matched or beat the industry average in vehicle repair.”  Second place Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) placed about 40 percent of its vehicles below the average cost.

    The savings don’t end at the repair shop, either; insurance companies often take repair costs into account when calculating rates, so owning one of these low-risk autos will actually reduce your payments.

    Ford has made an effort to develop new repair procedures and techniques to lower repair costs for its customers.  It’s obviously working for them, as Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles lead ten of 26 segments in the study. 

    For a list of all the segment leaders, click here.

    [via U.S. News and Motor Trend]

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  • General Motors returned to profitability in the first three months of the year, the automaker reported Monday. It was GM’s first profit since 2007.

    GM, which emerged from bankruptcy last July, earned $865 million on revenue of $31.5 billion. A year ago, GM’s predecessor company lost nearly $6 billion on revenue of only $22.4 billion, as sales plunged and the company hurtled toward bankruptcy.

    GM had reported losses the two previous quarters since emerging from bankruptcy. But the profit in the first quarter was expected.

    Worldwide vehicle sales jumped 24% to 1.9 million vehicles, as sales in the U.S. rose 15% and sales in China surged 71%. GM also had free cash flow of $991 million in the period, leaving it with $35.7 billion in cash on hand.

    “We’re pleased with our first-quarter performance, in particular achieving profitability,” said chief financial officer Chris Liddell in the company’s statement. “We’re also steadily growing in emerging markets, keeping our costs under control, generating positive cash flow and maintaining a strong balance sheet.”

    This return to profitability is an important first step for the company being able to sell shares in an initial public offering, and for taxpayers to get back some or all of the $50 billion in bailouts the automaker received last year. GM repaid its government loans in April, but most of the help was in return for Treasury receiving a 61% stake in the automaker. A sale of stock and a strong earnings stream are necessary for the government to get that money back.

    GM had previously said it hoped to be ready for an IPO by the end of the year, but that timing would depend on both profitability and market conditions. Liddell wouldn’t give any further guidance on the timing Monday.

    “Making a profit in the first quarter means we’re better off than we would have been otherwise,” he said. “That’s heartening. I wouldn’t take too much from that. The IPO will happen in good time when the company is ready and the market is ready.”

    [via CNN Autos]

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