• With Hurricane Irene threatening the East Coast this weekend, it is important to make sure your vehicles are safe if you are in the path of this or any future storm. These tips, courtesy of eHow.com, will help you to minimize potential damage to your vehicles and save you money on repairs once the storm has passed.

    1. Decide whether or not you're going to evacuate.
    If you decide to stay, the best thing you can do is move your car further inland, and to higher ground. Remember that on the coast, storm surges can bring tides in a lot farther than normal. Not only that, at some times of year coastal areas also experience lunar tides, in which flood waters can move in a long way past the normal high tide mark. Find a place out of reach of floodwaters to store your car for the storm.


    2. Keep your car covered.
    Your electrical wiring can be corroded quickly by saltwater damage, and if water gets into your engine, you may find yourself with a huge mess on your hands. During a hurricane, high winds can fling all sorts of debris around--at a hundred miles an hour--so cover the car. Better yet, put it in a garage. If that's not an option, make sure the car is away from anything that might fall on it during a storm: telephone poles, tree limbs, signs, etc.

    3. Tape your car windows.
    Use masking tape and make a crisscross pattern across each window. Some people believe this can keep windows from shattering. Whether that is true or not, it does make cleaning up a lot simpler if the window does break; all the glass is held together with tape.


    4. Remove exterior items that aren't permanent.
    If you have extra antennae, magnetic signs or any other car accessory that is only mounted temporarily, remove them. Hurricane force winds can rip them from the car and turn them into deadly projectiles.


    5. Keep gas in your car.
    When the hurricane is over, if you have to leave you'll be able to do so safely. In the aftermath of a hurricane, you may have trouble buying gas due to power outages, so keeping a full tank will help to prevent you from getting stranded in a disaster zone.


    6. When the storm has passed, check the car to see if there is any damage.
    Take photos in case you have to file an insurance claim, and consider having a mechanic look over the vehicle just to make sure all the internal components still work properly.


    Keep your fleet safe this hurricane season!

    Photo courtesy of NASA and re-used under the Creative Commons license.


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  •  The economic slowdown that has gripped the United States for the past few years has been especially difficult for small businesses and their fleets. But a new report shows that small businesses are beginning to look forward to more prosperity in their future.

    A quarterly survey by Capital One Financial Corp. showed that 35 percent of small businesses polled in the second quarter plan to add employees in the next six months, up 6 percent from the first quarter and the highest percentage of small businesses planning to hire since the first quarter of 2010. 44 percent of small businesses said economic conditions for their business are improving, up 12 percent from a year ago.

    About half (48 percent) of small business owners polled said their firm's financial position is better than it was a year ago, suggesting that the recession may finally be loosening its grip on the small business world. More optimistic outlooks in the private sector mean more money and, most importantly, more jobs.

    Is your business planning to add any new employees this year? How do you feel about the future of your finances? Leave a comment and let us know.

    Photo courtesy of David Beyer and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Missing a delivery or unexpectedly running out of gas is an unfortunate occurrence that could put a damper on a driver’s day. But at least you’re not this New York City Sanitation worker, who accidentally drove his salt truck through the 3rd-story concrete wall of a repair garage this week.

    The driver, who was not intoxicated in any way, mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal of his vehicle and lost control, sending the truck plowing through the concrete and leaving it dangling 3 stories up, showering the parking lot below with debris.

    The driver, 56-year-old Robert Legall, was rescued by firefighters and treated at a nearby hospital for neck and back pain. Legall has a clean 10-year driving record, making this incident nothing more than a freak accident.

    As you can clearly see today, the simplest jobs can sometimes go wrong. That’s why it is important to keep your drivers well-trained and up to date on safety regulations and policies, and encourage concentration on the job. You wouldn’t want to end up with a hole in your building and your employees dangling 3 stories in the air!

    Picture via FDNY Twitter Account.

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  • With the volatility seen in the price of gas over the last several years, it’s nice to see that prices are starting to slowly trend downward. Although prices are not guaranteed to keep falling, this is a welcome change for drivers who have spent more than they would’ve liked to this summer.

    Prices in Georgia have gone down about 6 or 7 cents a week for the last month, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Nationwide, prices are also declining by about 2 cents a week. These decreases can be tied to a recent drop in the price of crude oil.

    Remember, even though prices are falling now, the sudden and unpredictable changes in the cost of fuel can catch your business off guard. Protect your budget by implementing a fleet fuel management system that will help you to manage costs and be prepared for any bump in the road.

    Photo courtesy of Jacob Shwirtz and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  •  

    A new study by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind research center has shown that the longer a driver spends on the road, the more likely they are to exhibit unsafe driving behavior.. With many fleets making long drives as part of their everyday work, it is important to note that these behaviors can be costly and dangerous for you and your drivers.


    On longer trips, drivers are more likely to get distracted and exceed the speed limit.  19 percent of drivers surveyed who take long commutes said they talk on the phone sometimes or very often. That’s compared to 17 percent for drivers with shorter commutes.


    The long-haul commuters also believed that their extra time behind the wheel made them better drivers; 76 percent of drivers with long commutes rated their driving skills as above average, compared to 66 percent of other drivers.


    If your business frequently makes long trips during everyday operations, your drivers may be at risk for the same overconfidence and complacency that contributes to tens of thousands of accidents every year. Make sure that your drivers know safety is a priority at all times and you’ll save money on accidents…and possibly their lives.


    Photo courtesy of Elvert Barnes and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • We talked a while ago about automakers dropping spare tires from new vehicles to save on weight (and money). Now tire makers are beginning to catch up with the demand for tires that don’t need replacement in the event of a puncture or other accident.

    Goodyear has spent some time working on a new concept that could change the way you change your tires– they are calling it Air Maintenance Technology.

    The new technology uses a miniature pump contained within the tire to maintain pressure under most conditions.  The system would be able to overcome all but a major leak or blow-out.

    “This will become the kind of technological breakthrough that people will wonder how they ever lived without,” said Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear’s Chief Technology Officer.  “A tire that can maintain its own inflation is something drivers have wanted for many years. Goodyear has taken on this challenge and the progress we have made is very encouraging.”

    While this progress is encouraging, you’ll notice that it does not guard against some extreme situations that are experienced on a regular basis by commercial

    Photo courtesy of Alisha Vargas and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  •  

    This week's Automotive Fleet safety tip concerns driving conditions that make it dangerous to pass a vehicle on a two-lane road. Make sure your drivers know this valuable information to keep themselves and others safe when working.

    Do not pass when:

    • Your vehicle is coming to the top of a hill

    • Your vehicle is going around a curve and your view along the highway is obstructed

    • Your vehicle is within 100 feet of a narrow bridge, viaduct or tunnel that has a sign posted to let you know it is there

    • Your vehicle is within 100 feet of an intersection or railroad crossing

    • Your vehicle must go off the pavement or onto the shoulder of the road in order to pass

    • There is a stopped school bus in your lane or the oncoming lane, or there is a school bus with its red or amber warning signal lights flashing or its stop arm out

    • Oncoming traffic is so close it would be dangerous to try to make it around the vehicle you are passing.

    Fleet safety is important, so keep your drivers and budget safe with good fleet and fuel management!


    Photo courtesy of Sheila Scarborough and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • TechnologyMore and more advanced technologies are making their way into new vehicles these days. We have GPS systems that tell us where to go, rear-view cameras to give us a better view, automatic locks and ignitions to save time and fumbling with our keys, and even sensors that detect an imminent collision and correct our driving automatically. With all of these technologies being integrated into our vehicles, it was only a matter of time before people started learning to exploit them.

    At the Black Hat Conference, an annual Vegas-based gathering of hackers and security experts, two researchers revealed that they had been able to take over the systems in a Subaru outback and not only unlock the doors, but start the engine. Their tools? Only an Android smartphone and a custom program.

    Vulnerabilities like this are a natural, if alarming, extension of the proliferation of technology in the automotive industry. And the auto industry isn’t the only group at the mercy of these hackers; government institutions and many corporations have suffered recent attacks from organized hacking groups. In automobiles, many systems operate on the same basic platform, allowing one-stop access to functions that allow thieves to make easy targets of high-tech cars.

     As you integrate technology into your fleet’s everyday operations, make sure you also look into ways of securing that technology. There will always be people looking to exploit new features, but careful operation and safety management will keep your fleet safe for years to come.
     

    Photo courtesy of Riley Porter and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Oil prices fallingOil prices have been falling in recent weeks, but the price of gasoline is decreasing at a much slower pace. This is a time-honored tradition in the fuel market, but why is it that fuel prices spike so quickly and take months to come down? US News has some ideas.
    First, there is the profit margin for gas stations. The higher the price is above the actual cost of oil, the higher the profit being made. Stations will continue buying fuel at the market price while keeping prices at a higher level in order to recoup any earlier losses or shore up for the next price spike. This reduced speed of price dropping also allows them to minimize their losses from buying their tanks at a higher price.

    Competition also fuels gas price decreases, as stations tend to wait for someone else to drop their prices before dropping their own.  If a station buys a new tank just after a dramatic drop in oil prices, they have an excuse not to drop prices until they absolutely must. On the other hand, they can also use the advantage to drop their prices first and pull business from stations still using the old price, ultimately driving prices down, albeit slowly.

     The relationship between gas companies and oil refineries also has a large role in gas prices. It’s a complicated system, but the basic idea is that current inventories of fuel are lower than they have been for the past year, which makes gasoline more expensive even though the price of oil is the same per barrel as the same time last year.

    The volatility of gas prices is not likely to go away anytime soon. Good fuel management is the best way to keep your business’ fuel budget stable. To start managing your fuel with the help of our team of professionals, try our FleetMatch™ system at www.FleetCardsUSA.com to find the card that’s right for your fleet.

    Photo courtesy of Bill Lapp and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Fleet Jobs ReportThe continued economic uncertainty in the United States is still having an impact on businesses large and small. Job creation has slowed to a crawl, and even those companies that are hiring are taking steps hiring only part-time employees to avoid paying for employee benefits.

    And new jobs aren’t the only problem. Last week we talked about the U.S. Postal Service preparing for massive layoffs, but small businesses are having trouble too. Modesto, California’s family-owned American Lumber Co. recently cut staff in half and sold fleet vehicles– including the fleet’s newest truck– in an effort to cut costs.

    With so many businesses feeling the crunch of an unsteady economy, we’d like to hear from you about what your fleet is doing to combat rising costs and fewer jobs. Are you hiring at all, or just in part-time positions? Do you have plans to expand, or just to wait out the next year? Leave us a comment below and let us know how your business plans to get through this rough patch.

    And remember, you can always cut costs even more with a good fuel management solution!


    Photo courtesy of Clyde Robinson and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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