• Recently, construction businesses in Branford, Connecticut have seen a rash of break-ins to their fleet vehicles, with valuable equipment being stolen.

    This serves as a reminder that vehicle security is an important part of fleet operations, and should not be taken lightly. Here are some tips for keeping your vehicles safe when they are unattended:

    • Always park in well-lit areas; if possible, park inside a secured garage.
    • If possible, remove any valuables or equipment from vehicles before leaving.
    • Make sure to lock all doors and roll up all windows.
    • Don’t leave keys in the vehicle, no matter how well-hidden you think they are!
    • Stow all electronic chargers, connectors and mounting brackets out of sight; they are a sure sign of valuable items inside the vehicle.
    • If you don’t have one already, have an alarm system installed in each vehicle.

    Even if you don’t lose property in a vehicle break-in, the repair costs can be a drain on your bottom line. Keep your vehicles safe!

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  • The release of the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for the US has been delayed until mid-November, as the government says additional time is needed to wrap up loose ends. The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) intended to release full details of the proposed program and analyses by the end of September.

    "We have worked closely with all key stakeholders including the car companies, the State of California, and others as we move toward releasing the proposed rule. Given the historic nature of this joint rule between EPA and DOT, as well as the necessary coordination with California, it was recently determined that additional time was needed and we expect to issue a proposal for MY-2017-2025 vehicles by mid-November," the EPA said in a recent statement.

    In late July, President Obama announced an agreement with 13 automakers to increase CAFE standards to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by MY-2025.

    Are you ready for the switch to new fuel economy standards?

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  • The latest Automotive Fleet Safety Tip comes on the heels of a fatal July 11 collision involving a commercial truck and an Amtrak passenger train in North Berwick, Maine. The crash killed the truck driver and injured several train passengers. Investigators concluded that the truck was traveling 20 mph faster than the speed limit.

    Here are some railway safety tips from rail safety awareness group Operation Lifesaver, designed to help keep your drivers safe at railway crossings.

    • Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
    • The train you see is closer and faster moving than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
    • Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That's 18 football fields.
    • Never drive around lowered gates — it's illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.
    • Do not get trapped on the tracks. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
    • If your vehicle ever stalls on a track with a train coming, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is coming. If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, when the train hits your car you could be injured by flying debris. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
    • At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction.
    • When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly, without stopping.
    • Remember it isn't safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
    • ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN at every crossing. Freight trains do not follow set schedules.

    Make sure your drivers follow these rules and stay safe.

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  • We recently looked at a new online tool to measure wasted fuel due to traffic. Now here’s some data to back it up!
    The 2011 Urban Mobility Report (UMR), published by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, studied the effects of traffic congestion on businesses and commuters in the U.S. in 2010.

    The cost of congestion was more than $100 billion in 2010, which is nearly $750 worth of wasted fuel for every commuter in the U.S. Also, traffic congestion is growing beyond rush hour, with about 40 percent of the delay occurring in the mid-day and overnight hours, where rush hour can last for up to 6 hours. The report said this is creating an increasingly serious problem for businesses that rely on efficient production and deliveries. The time delay the average commuter experienced was 34 hours, up from 14 hours in 1982.

    And sadly, things are only going to get worse as time goes on. The report says it expects the average commuter to see an estimated additional 3 hours of delay by 2015 and 7 hours by 2020. By 2015, the cost of gridlock will rise from $101 billion to $133 billion, which is more than $900 for every commuter. The amount of wasted fuel will jump from 1.9 billion gallons to 2.5 billion gallons.

    The report recommends telecommuting and more flexible work hours as ways to alleviate the sting of congestion-related expense. As for a solution to the problem itself, the Texas Transportation Institute recommended coordinating traffic management, signal coordination, and rapid crash removal, along with better land use and development patterns.

    What is traffic in your city like, and is your fleet taking steps to mitigate the delays? Let us know and leave a comment!

    [via Business Fleet]

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  • The Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report issued by the FBI shows overall motor vehicle thefts in the U.S. dropped by 7.2 percent in 2010. The report shows motor vehicle theft statistics by city population, by county type, by year, and by region.
    The largest drop was in cities with populations between 100,000 and 249,999 with 9.4%. Metropolitan areas saw a larger drop than non-metropolitan areas (11.9% to 11.4%), and the Southern US saw the largest drop of any region with a 9.5% decrease in thefts.

    Ford reported on its website in a related story that 40 to 50 percent of vehicle theft is due to driver error. This includes leaving vehicle doors unlocked and leaving keys

    Ford also provided a short list of basic theft-prevention tips that fleet managers could pass on to their drivers:

    Always take your keys; never leave them in or on your vehicle
    • Always close and lock all windows and doors when you park
    • Park in well-lit areas
    • Keep your vehicle in a garage, if possible
    • Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially where they can be seen
    • Never leave the area while your vehicle is running

    Keep your vehicles safe at all times by following these tips and keeping a close eye on your property. And of course, protect your company from fuel theft with a fleet card!

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  • As part of the marketing campaign for the new A6, Audi of America has launched a new website with its Road Frustration Index, a look at driving conditions across the US and their effects on driver satisfaction and fuel consumption.

    The web-based application takes a look at historical and current data to give a picture of traffic conditions in major US cities    and, most importantly, how much gas the current driving conditions could cause you to waste per trip.

    It may just be a promotional tool, but the site could prove useful if you’re looking to see what traffic is like in your area! You can check the Road Frustration Index for your city at www.roadintel.com.

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  • Fuel efficiency is still a huge concern for fleets, which is leading some to seek more efficient vehicles to offset fuel costs. A new study shows that numbers are climbing higher and higher:

    87 percent of the 1,257 nationwide respondents agree that improving energy efficiency would help increase prosperity for small businesses, according to a report from Small Business Majority, a small business advocacy group. A majority of fleet businesses said that they need more alternatively-fueled vehicles in order remain competitive and grow revenue.

    One in 10 business fleets in the survey have purchased a hybrid, electric or other alt-fuel vehicle; many of those who have not taken these steps indicate an interest to purchase one in the future.

    “The cars and trucks small business owners need simply aren’t available right now,” says John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, in the report’s accompanying press release. He added that he commends the current federal push to increase fuel-efficiency standards, in which 80 percent of survey participants say they would support legislation to push it to 60 mpg.

    About 13 percent report government regulation as the largest problem facing their small business, and almost half cite the uncertainty of the economy and the rising daily cost to operate as strong factors. Only 24 percent of businesses say they are doing “well,” with construction businesses hurting the most.

    Until fuel becomes cheaper or alternatives are easy to find, good fuel management remains the best way to save money on fuel.
    Would you buy more alternative vehicles if they were more affordable and easier to get? Let us know in the comments below.

    [via Business Fleet]

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  • Natural disasters can take a huge toll on small business fleets; In the wake of Hurricane Irene’s track across parts of the US in early September, 11,000 applications for federal disaster loans were made to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

    James Rivera, associate administrator of the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, said in a statement that he believes that number would be much smaller if those businesses had been prepared for disaster before it struck.

    Between 15 percent and 40 percent of businesses fail after a man-made or natural disaster, according to the Insurance Information Institute. But only 35 percent have a plan.

    “From the SBA’s perspective, if you have a solid business continuity plan in place, you really won’t need a disaster loan from us,” Rivera said. “That never hurts my feelings. We never get hurt at the SBA if you don’t need a disaster loan.”

    Rivera shared some tips for preparing your business for disasters:

    • Assess your risk, both internally and externally. Look at what emergencies have occurred in the past, and whether your location is at a physical risk for future damage.
    • Assess critical business functions.
    • Prepare your supply chain. Talk to vendors and find alternatives to back up primary suppliers.
    • Create an emergency management plan for your employees.
    • Back up your computer data.
    • Create a crisis communications plan with up-to-date contact information for all employees, vendors and other business partners.
    • Assemble an emergency supply kit that includes important records, contact information and cash.
    • Review your insurance coverage.
    • Plan for an alternate location if your primary location is unusable.
    • Exercise your plan. Put it on paper and test it regularly.

    “Hopefully, it’ll improve your chances of staying in business, staying in the game once disaster does strike,” Rivera said. “It doesn’t matter where you live. Being prepared just helps.”

    [via Philly Burbs]

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  • A recent class action lawsuit has the state of Florida reconsidering whether police officers can ticket drivers for flashing their headlights. Several counties have already put the practice on hold, with a statewide ban on the practice possible in the near future.

     

    The debate began when Florida motorist Erich Campbell passed two Florida Highway Patrol cruisers parked in the median in December 2009 and flashed his headlights to warn oncoming drivers of the radar patrol. Campbell was immediately pulled over and ticketed for improper flashing of high beams.

     

    "Literally within one minute, they had me stopped on the side of the road," recalled Campbell.

    In August, Campbell filed a class-action lawsuit in Tallahassee against the highway patrol and other state traffic-enforcement agencies, seeking an injunction barring law enforcement from issuing headlight-flashing tickets.

    Campbell's lawyer, J. Marc Jones, claims his client's First Amendment right to free speech was violated. "The flashing of lights to communicate with another driver is clearly speech," he said.

    The flashing of headlights to communicate is common among American drivers, and is generally considered to be harmless. Do you think that flashing your headlights at oncoming traffic is disruptive or dangerous? Leave a comment and let us know.

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  • We’ve said for a long time that telematics, including GPS tracking, are an important part of efficient fleet fuel management. Business Fleet found one small business that found great success with GPS technology. It just goes to show that any fleet can benefit from good fuel management, from large delivery businesses to… portable toilet services:

    Texas-based Mobile Thrones operates six vehicles with a seventh on the way, and began using a commercial GPS product in 2007 that the company has used to manage routes, compare fuel locations, track vehicle mileage and speed, and more.

    “We’re maximizing our time,” says Mobile Thrones CEO Gary Oliver. “We’re not just zigzagging around.”
    Mobile Thrones spends an average of $10,000 a month on diesel for its fleet.

    When Oliver instituted the GPS devices, he had only one employee. “He wasn’t too crazy about it because he thought I was going to use it as a policing device — and I certainly can do that and I do use it as that,” Oliver said.
    But the CEO added that employees are forced to be honest if they make a personal trip on the job. “It will mark their trails pretty well,” he says.

    “There’s no telling how much it’s saved me.”

    While commercial GPS systems are a big help, remember that a complete fuel management system offers telematics as well as purchasing controls and maintenance scheduling, among a variety of other services. By working with a fuel management professional like FleetCards USA, you can save even more!

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