• Here’s another helpful set of fleet safety tips from Automotive Fleet. Long trips are somewhat normal in the fleet world, so these are some tips for keeping your drivers alert on long trips:

    News headlines provide a constant reminder of just how dangerous drowsy driving is. In the past month, for example, a 20-year-old driver from Lake George, N.Y., was traveling on I-87 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at about 1 a.m. when, according to police, she fell asleep. The vehicle struck a guard rail, left the roadway and rolled over several times. The driver and two passengers, also in their 20s, suffered injuries but survived, the North County Gazette reported. They were lucky. 

    Here are some tips, taken from the California Driver Handbook, on staying alert behind the wheel. You may want to pass these along to your fleet drivers as a friendly reminder, especially before a long road trip. 

    When you are tired, you are less alert. The body naturally wants to sleep at night, and most drivers are less alert at night, especially after midnight. You may not see hazards as soon, or react as quickly, so your chances of having a crash are greater. If you are sleepy, the only safe cure is to get off the road and get some sleep.

    To keep from getting tired on a long trip:

    -Get at least a normal night's sleep before you start.

    -Don't take any drugs that can make you drowsy.

    -Don't drive long hours, and try not to drive late at night.

    -Take regular rest stops, even if you are not tired.

    -Keep shifting your eyes from one part of the road to another. Look at objects near and far, left and right.

    -Try chewing gum or singing along with the radio.

    -Roll your window down and get some fresh air. If you are tired all the time and fall asleep often during the day, ask your physician to check for a sleep disorder.

    (Tags: Road trip, long trips, safety, tips)

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  • After approaching nearly $5/gal. during a meteoric rise in 2008, diesel fuel prices dropped along with the economy in 2009. But since falling to nearly $2/gal. in early 2009, prices have steadily climbed, a trend that should continue through 2011, according to Neil Gamson of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    Gamson told Fleet Owner that EIA is predicting diesel prices will average $2.96/gal. this year and climb to $3.11/gal. in 2011. In 2009, on-highway diesel fuel retail prices averaged $2.46/gal.

    The U.S. and world economies have a significant impact on prices, according to Gamson. “If the economy gets worse than expected, then crude oil prices would go down more than expected.”

    While there is plenty of economic unrest in Europe these days, Gamson said to keep a closer eye on fuel consumption in Asia, particularly China. EIA forecasts world oil consumption growth of about 1.5 million barrels a day in 2010 and 1.6 million in 2011, with much of that consumption coming in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. However, that growth can change based on the political winds and the opinion of OPEC.

    “OPEC has been fairly disciplined,” Gamson says. “They seem comfortable in the $70-$80 range (for crude oil). The major player in the field is Saudi Arabia; if they see prices dropping, they could cut output” and that could drive up prices.

    A barrel of crude oil was trading at $76.83 this morning ahead of an Energy Dept. report that was expected to indicate U.S. oil supplies declined for the quarter.

    For the U.S. trucking industry, though, if the predictions play out as expected, the sudden pain of rising diesel prices that hampered much of the industry in 2008 won’t be returning anytime soon.

    [via FleetOwner]

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  • Honda has announced that it will begin selling two new plug-in electric vehicles in the United States in 2012.  The automaker also noted that these vehicles will serve as an intermediate step to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

    The new product line from the Japanese automaker will consist of a small plug in “commuter car” and a midsize plug-in hybrid.  In addition, Honda will release a more efficient version of the popular Civic Hybrid next year. 

    Honda’s new plug-in vehicles will begin testing in California this year.  Participants in the test study will include Google, Stanford University and the City of Torrence, California.

    Honda hopes to use the new vehicles to compete with other electric vehicles being released in the near future such as the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Ford Focus BEV.  However, the automaker sees its new electric vehicles as a stepping stone towards hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars in the future.  A Honda spokesman referred to hydrogen technologies as the “ultimate solution” for dependence on fossil fuels, but cited issues such as lack of infrastructure as major obstacles.

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  • California-based safety company DriveCam Inc. conducted a study on long-haul truckers, examining the frequency of collisions and near-collisions among the group. Their findings: Trucks are significantly more likely to be involved in a collision or near-collision depending on the season and time of day.

    DriveCam’s data shows that the rate of collisions and near-collisions is quite low during the first half of the year, staying at around 1% from January to June and rise drastically beginning in July, peaking at 18% and remaining over 14% through the month of November.

    The time of day was also a significant factor in crash risk, with collisions peaking between 3 and 4 PM, and again between 8 and 9 PM.  The least likely time for an accident?  Between 11 PM and 9 AM.  Tuesday and Friday proved to be the most dangerous days of the week, with rates of 21% and 20% respectively.

    “Crash statistics don’t lie. It makes sense that driving gets riskier as the day goes on,” David Kelly, former Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told FleetOwner.

    “For example, people aren’t generally getting drunk in a bar in the morning,” he said. “While it happens, it is much more predominant at night. People are also getting more tired as the day progresses. Visibility is also more of an issue as it gets darker.”

    [via FleetOwner]

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  • It’s time for another helpful fleet safety tip from Automotive Fleet.  Pass this information along to your drivers to keep them safe when driving after sunset.

    Here is some advice on driving at night, culled from the pages of the Colorado Driver Handbook:

    • Use your bright lights when driving in rural areas and on open highways away from urban and metropolitan areas.
    • If you are driving with your high beam lights on or your low beam lights with fog lights on, you must dim them before coming within 500 feet of any oncoming vehicle so the oncoming driver is not blinded by the glare.
    • When following another vehicle, you must use your low beam lights, with your fog lights off, if you are within 200 feet of the vehicle ahead of you.
    • Never look directly into an approaching car's headlights. As the car draws near, watch the right edge of your lane, noting the position of the oncoming car out of the corner of your eye.
    • When driving through fog at night it is best to use your low beam lights and fog lights, if you have them. Driving with high beam lights is like shining your lights on a mirror.
    • Be alert to vehicles, particularly darker vehicles, traveling after sunset without their headlights on.

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  • The new Mercedes-Benz CL-Class will introduce two new safety features based on state-of-the-art radar, camera and sensor technology.

    The 2011 CL-Class debuts Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, both designed to help the driver avoid danger through corrective braking. Building on the innovative technologies introduced last year on the E- and S-Class, the CL-Class now showcases the height of safety technology form Mercedes-Benz including features such as ATTENTION ASSIST, PRE-SAFE Brake with automatic emergency braking, and Night View Assist PLUS with Pedestrian Detection. The 2011MY CL-Class will make its U.S. debut in Fall 2010.

    Active Lane Keeping Assist-Using a multi-purpose camera mounted in the windshield and a computer that analyzes the images, Active Lane Keeping Assist recognizes lane markings and alerts the driver by simulating rumble strip vibrations in the steering wheel (via an electric motor) if the car drifts from its lane unintentionally. Should the driver fail to react to this warning, the car intervenes by gently braking the wheels on the opposite side of the car. The unequal distribution of braking forces causes a yaw movement which helps the driver to stay in their lane. Active Lane Keeping Assist makes use of the existing ESP (Electronic Stability Program) system to apply the brakes and maintain vehicle control.

    Active Blind Spot Assist- The second innovation on the 2011 CL-Class, Active Blind Spot Assist, monitors both blind spots alongside the vehicle using close-range radar sensors. When a vehicle is detected, a yellow warning triangle is illuminated in the corresponding side-view mirror. Should the driver disregard this warning and activate the turn indicator, the warning triangle changes to red and an audible warning also sounds. If the driver continues to ignore these warnings and moves dangerously close to a neighboring vehicle, the system activates corrective braking intervention to the wheels of the opposite side of the vehicle. Like Active Lane Keeping Assist, the yaw movement helps correct the car's path or minimize the consequences of a collision.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • A recent study has shown that older drivers can benefit from mental exercise.  You may want to pass along this information to your drivers:

    A brain fitness training tool has been clinically proven to help older adults reduce their likelihood of being in a car accident, according to a survey from The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.

    Using DriveSharp, a computer-based program, for 20 minutes a day, three times a week helps older drivers cut their crash risk up to 50 percent, stop 22 feet sooner when driving 55 mph, and increase confidence while driving at night and in stressful conditions, according to The Hartford survey. However, the survey found 74 percent of drivers are unaware of those benefits.

    "It is important for drivers to understand that they can take an active role in staying safe on the road as they age," said Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist and assistant vice president of The Hartford. "We all have a responsibility to maintain our driving skills throughout our lifetime."

    About half of all adults surveyed believe older drivers can improve their skills to allow them to safely drive for more years, but drivers under 40 are least likely to believe there is anything an older driver can do to improve their skills to allow them to drive safely longer.

    The brain fitness survey also found that while more than 60 percent of adults participate in an activity with the specific purpose of improving their brain, adults age 60 or older are the most likely age group to say they often participate in activities with the specific purpose of improving their brain.

     [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • The 2011 Ford Mustang has set a new record by running 1,457 laps on a single tank of gas at Bristol Motor Speedway, all while averaging 48.5 mpg.  

    The Mustang 1,000 Lap Challenge was designed to demonstrate that a stock production Mustang V-6 could run 1,000 laps and 533 miles on a single of tank of fuel. With the aid of fuel efficient driving techniques by Ford engineers, the Mustang far surpassed its goal of 1,000 laps.  

    "To see a Mustang post average fuel economy of 48.5 mpg while running at Bristol is impressive," said Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. "The new V-6 engine along with the advanced six-speed transmission in the car is a key element in delivering both fuel economy and performance for Mustang."  

    "When we hit 1,000 laps we still had a quarter of a tank of gas left," said David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing, and the man who drove the 2011 V-6 Mustang past the 1,000 lap mark. "The last driving stint before I passed 1,000 laps I was averaging 43.7 miles a gallon and that is unbelievable. These guys have run the distance of more than two Sprint Cup races at Bristol and they still have fuel left. Congratulations to everyone behind the Mustang and to everyone at Ford, because this 2011 Mustang V-6 is really something special."

    A team of Ford engineers prepared for the challenge by implementing fuel efficient driving tips like minimizing the use of air conditioning, steady and consistent driving, avoiding sudden stops/starts and by keeping the RPMs low.

    "This is beyond our wildest dreams," said Tom Barnes, the lead engineer for the Ford Mustang 1,000 Lap Challenge. "There have been a lot of people who have done a lot of things in preparing this 2011 Mustang V-6 to run the Mustang 1,000 Lap Challenge and have the success we have had today. It was great when we went past the 1,000 lap mark with David, but nobody could ever imagine that we still had five hours ahead of us. This is a fantastic feeling and it shows again what a great car the 2011 Mustang V-6 is."

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  • Here is another helpful safety tip from Automotive Fleet that addresses the proper way of safely merging with traffic. You may want to pass this along to your drivers as a reminder of good driving behavior. 

    • When you merge with traffic, try to enter at the same speed that traffic is moving. High-speed roadways generally have ramps to give you time to build up speed. Use the ramp to reach the speed of the other vehicles before you pull onto the road.
    • Do not drive to the end of the ramp and stop. This will not leave you enough room to get up to the speed of traffic. Also, drivers behind you will not expect you to stop. If they are watching traffic on the main road, you may be hit from the rear. If you have to wait for space to enter the roadway, slow down on the ramp so you have some room to speed up before you have to merge.

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  • Mazda North America is offering national fleet incentives on eight 2011 models, ranging from $200 to $2,000.

    • CX-7: $1,000
    • CX-9: $1,500
    • MAZDA2: $200
    • MAZDA3: $500
    • MAZDA6: $750
    • MX-5 MIATA: $1,000
    • RX-8: $2,000
    • TRIBUTE: $1,500

    All Mazda vehicles come standard with:

    • Free service loaner vehicles
    • Free roadside assistance (also available as an iPhone app).
    • "Courtesy delivery" through Mazda's nationwide network of fleet-minded dealers.
    • 3-year/36,000-mile "bumper-to-bumper" limited, comprehensive warranty.
    • 5-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.

    For full program details, visit http://www.MazdaUSA.com/fleet or call (949) 727-6723.

    [via Fleet Financials]

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