• Railroad Safety Tip

    This week's Automotive Fleet Safety Tip is about the proper behavior at railway crossings. You may want to pass this advice along to your fleet drivers as a friendly reminder.
    When you see the round railway crossing sign, slow down, be ready to stop and remember:

    • Look both ways, even if there is no stop sign or signal that a train is coming.
    • If there is a stop sign at the crossing, you must stop. If a train is coming, you must stop at least 15 feet from the tracks.
    • Even if there is no stop signal and no train is coming, passenger buses and trucks carrying flammable or dangerous materials must stop.
    • Do not shift gears while crossing the tracks.
    • If you are stopped at a crossing where there is more than one set of tracks, wait until you have a clear view in both directions before you start across.
    • Trains cannot stop in time to miss cars.
    • It is difficult to accurately judge the speed of a moving train.
    • A crossbuck sign indicates the location of a train crossing and means you must yield to trains.
    • If a gate is lowered, you may not proceed around it even if no train is visible.
    • If the signal lights are flashing, you must stop. You may proceed if no train is visible or it is safe to cross.
    • If you get stuck on the tracks, leave your vehicle immediately and notify the local law enforcement or railroad authorities.
    • Never park your vehicle within 50 feet of the nearest rail of a railroad.

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

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  • Recall Roundup

    Jun 24, 2011
    Automotive Recall

    We would like to take a moment to inform you of some recent vehicle recalls.  If your fleet contains any of these vehicles, take the necessary action to have the problem corrected as soon as possible:

    1.  Mazda Motor Corp. is recalling 103,300 model-year 2008-2009 Mazda3 and Mazdaspeed3 vehicles in the U.S. because of a potential problem with the windshield wiper motor.  The ground terminal of the windshield wiper motor may have been inadvertently bent during assembly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If this condition exists, over time the electrical resistance of the motor circuit may increase up to a point that results in windshield wiper failure. This poses a safety risk.

    To resolve the problem, dealers will install an additional ground harness on the wiper motor. There will be no charge for this service.
    The recall is expected to get under way in mid-July. Vehicles covered by the recall were manufactured from Jan. 7, 2008 through Nov. 28, 2008.
    Vehicle owners can reach Mazda at (800) 222-5500.

    2. Chrysler has recalled a total of 11,351 vehicles across a number of 2011-MY models (built between April 15 and May 14), specifically the Chrysler 200, Chrysler Town and Country, Chrysler 200 Convertible, Dodge Avenger, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Journey, Dodge Nitro, Jeep Compass, Jeep Liberty, Jeep Patriot, and Jeep Wrangler.

    Some of these vehicles may have been built with a missing or incorrectly installed steering column pivot rivet, which could potentially compromise the steering column’s ability to support occupant loads in the event of a frontal crash.

    Chrysler released a statement saying that this manufacturing issue does not affect the ability of the driver to steer the vehicle under normal driving conditions. The automaker also said it’s not aware of any accidents, injuries, or property damage related to this issue.

     

     

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

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  • Fleets Increasing Personal Use Charges

    Many fleets charge employees for the personal use of company vehicles.  Now, it seems that the struggling economy is prompting some fleets to raise their price:

    Automotive Fleet recently conducted a personal use survey, which asked fleet managers a range of questions related to company personal use policies. Although the full article will be available in print and online soon, here’s a preview of some of the statistics from the survey:

    In 2011, personal use charges increased to an average monthly value of $118. According to past surveys, this amount has steadily increased from $103 in 2008 to $108 in 2009, and up to $110 in 2010.

    In addition, Automotive Fleet’s annual survey of personal use charges and policies found an increase in the percentage of fleets allowing personal use (89 percent in 2011, up from 86 percent in 2010) and as noted, an increase in charges/fees as well. This is still down from the high of 91 percent in 2009.

    Does your fleet charge a personal use fee, and if not, would you consider adopting one to ease your financial burden? Let us know in the comments.

     

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

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  • In tough economic times, many individuals and businesses are struggling with the ever-increasing cost of fuel. For many, this means cutting back on other expenses or simply using less fuel. For others, it means more drastic measures. Incidents of fuel theft have been increasing along with the price of fuel, with individuals stealing fuel right out of the tanks of unattended vehicles. The thefts have hit consumers and business fleets alike, making security yet another concern for vehicle owners.

    Fuel theft, crime, fleet safetyAccording to a recent ABC report, tank and line punctures are on the rise, with thieves taking any means necessary to get at their victims’ fuel. Cars, trucks, and even buses have had fuel drained by thieves breaking and drilling through gas caps and lines. Fleets are especially vulnerable when large numbers of vehicles are clustered in a single location. And the problem isn’t just with profit losses, according to Denver Police Detective John White.

    "What made this particular method so dangerous and concerning for us was the way in which they were doing it — using cordless drills to puncture holes in these tanks," he said of the rash of cases his department has investigated this spring. "The heat, friction generated could have easily sparked a fire.”

    Make sure that your fleet is protected from gas theft by taking appropriate measures. Store your vehicles in a secure location such as a locked parking lot or a parking deck with video surveillance, and make sure that your vehicles’ fuel doors are secured with a device such as an external lock or locking gas cap. And, as always, prevent fuel theft WITHIN your company with the protection of a fleet card.

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

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  • The last Mercury brand vehicle produced, a Grand Marquis, is being shipped to a fleet, according to Ford. The identity of the fleet was unavailable as of press time.

     Last Mercury Becomes a Fleet Vehicle

    Produced for 25 years at the Ford Motor Co.'s assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, the Grand Marquis rolled off the production line Jan. 4. The Grand Marquis, first introduced in 1975, has been Mercury's longest-running and best-selling nameplate, with more than 2.7 million sold as of June 2010, according to Ford.

    In June 2010, the automaker announced its plan to focus on the Ford and Lincoln brands and cease production of Mercury vehicles by the end of fourth quarter 2010. However, delayed parts shipments caused by snowstorms pushed production of the final vehicle into the start of 2011.

    Mercury, which accounted for 0.8 percentage points of Ford's overall 16-percent U.S. market share, was originally created in 1938 as a premium offering to Ford. The first model, the 1939 Mercury 8, went into production in 1938. The vehicle sold for $916 and boasted a 95 hp V-8. Sales for the first year total were 65,884 vehicles, according to Ford.

    [via Fleet Financials]

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

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  • With the U.S. economy still struggling to get back on its feet following the recent recession, consumers and businesses alike are making changes to their driving habits to get by. Business Fleet reported on a new study that shows some drivers have gotten desperate enough to cancel one of the most important automotive expenses:

     

    Insurance Being Neglected in Poor Economy

    In response to the current economy, nearly 20 percent of drivers on the road have reduced or canceled their car insurance coverage for immediate financial relief, according to a newly released survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

    The survey, conducted in April, also found that nearly 40 percent of respondents are driving less overall, opting to use public transportation more often, or both.

    The NAIC comprises the chief insurance regulatory officials of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.

     

    Cutting insurance costs may seem like a good idea for those seeking financial help, but auto insurance is essential to maintaining a safe driving environment for all drivers. And not only that, it’s the law. Make sure your drivers stay insured and keep your personal vehicles insured as well. You never know what could be around the corner.

     

    Photo courtesy of Adrian 8_8 and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Avis Budget Group, Inc. has been selected as the "Best Corporate Car Rental Company" by Corporate Traveller, Flight Centre Limited's division of travel experts serving small and mid-sized businesses. The 2011 award honors Avis Budget Group for providing great synergy between the Company's sales team and corporate travel managers, excellent customer service to small and mid-sized businesses and the industry's first smoke-free car rental fleet.

    Avis Budget Group Selected as Best Rental Company for Small Business Travelers

    "Avis and Budget are world-class brands that appeal to small and mid-sized business travelers because we understand their needs and help them maximize their travel budgets," said Stephen Wright, vice president of global travel and partnership for Avis Budget Group. "Small and mid-sized businesses are a customer segment for both Avis and Budget, so we are very proud to receive such a distinguished honor from Corporate Traveller's experienced small-business travel consultants."

    Avis Budget Group provides small and mid-sized businesses with discounted rates, opportunities to earn reward days, member-only deals and several billing options. In addition, Avis Budget Group has made significant advancements to provide a consistently outstanding rental experience to its small-business customers. The Company utilizes feedback systems such as Voice-of-the-Customer surveys that are aggregated and delivered to field location managers in real-time to enable immediate response to customer suggestions. This customer feedback led the Company to become the first in the industry to offer a 100 percent smoke-free rental fleet.

    About Avis Budget Group, Inc

     

    Avis Budget Group is a leading vehicle rental operator in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and certain other regions through its Avis and Budget brands. The Company also licenses its vehicle rental brands in more than 100 countries, enabling Avis and Budget to serve commercial and leisure travelers throughout the world.  Avis Budget Group is headquartered in Parsippany, N.J. and has more than 21,000 employees.  For more information about Avis Budget Group, visit www.avisbudgetgroup.com.

     

    [via GLOBE Newswire]

     

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

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  • In testimony before the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations, James Burg, President of James Burg Trucking Co., said proposed changes to the federal hours-of-service, which regulate the length of driving shifts for commercial drivers, were unwarranted and would harm small businesses nationwide.

    ATA Member to Congress: Trucking Policy Changes Will Hurt Small Businesses

    "These changes, if finalized, would have a profoundly negative impact on small businesses, would restrict productivity and would result in greater congestion and increased emissions," Burg, a member of American Trucking Associations' Board of Directors, said during a June 14 hearing.

    Burg said that if the changes proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration following a court settlement with advocacy and labor groups were to take effect his 75-truck fleet based in Warren, Mich., would need to "add additional trucks and drivers – and their corresponding expenses – simply to counter the loss in productivity."

    "By estimates, we would need to increase our retained earnings by between 20% and 25% just to maintain our current level of financial stability," said Burg, who added that productivity losses would also "likely be felt by small business shippers, manufacturers and retailers in the form of increased costs."

    ATA has repeatedly said that the current rules are working and should be retained rather than changed based on political pressure.

    "FMCSA's proposed changes to the hours-of-service rules are unnecessary and unjustified," Burg said. "Both safety and compliance have improved under the current regulations which have been time-tested since 2003. In contrast, FMCSA's proposal to replace these rules with an untested set of regulations leaves safety to chance."

    [via PR Newswire]

    Photo courtesy of Cupcakes2 and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Via Business Fleet:

    New Study Shows Consequences of On-The-Job Cell Use

    A study by ZoomSafer shows that 32 percent of companies have knowledge or evidence of on-the-job crashes that occurred as a result of distractions stemming from employee use of cell phones while driving.

    The first annual survey polled 500 business managers in North America and was designed to gauge corporate attitudes and best-practices pertaining to distracted driving, according to the company. Industries surveyed include sales and Service (sedan), trucking (local and long haul), construction, public sector, utilities (telecommunications, cable, etc.), home and business services, and chauffeured transportation (taxi, limousine, and bus).

    Results show that 62 percent of companies have adopted written policies prohibiting employees from using a mobile phone while driving for company business. The survey also reveals that although many companies have adopted written cell phone driving policies, only half (53 percent) make any attempt to enforce compliance.

    Among companies that do enforce compliance, the survey found that 61 percent rely on post-incident disciplinary measures, and only 2 percent currently utilize technology to proactively measure and manage employee compliance.

    Other findings include:

    ·         32 percent of companies have knowledge or evidence of vehicle crashes that occurred as a result of distractions stemming from employee use of cell phones while driving. 50 percent of companies with more than 500 drivers have knowledge or evidence of such crashes.

    ·         7.6 percent of companies have faced plaintiff’s litigation resulting from damages alleged to have occurred as a result of employee use of cell phones while driving. For companies with more than 5,000 drivers the same statistic is 37 percent.

    ·         62 percent of companies have implemented a written cell phone use policy. Long Haul Trucking and Local Trucking were the most likely to have a written cell phone policy (71 percent and 83 percent respectively) while Home and Business Services were least likely  (less than 50 percent).

    ·         53 percent of companies with a defined cell phone policy claim to enforce the policy in some manner. Interestingly, 25 percent of respondents who claimed to have a policy declined to answer how such policies were enforced. For companies that did answer the policy enforcement question, 61 percent said they utilized “post incident” employee discipline to enforce compliance.

    “The fact that so many companies are telling employees to put the phone down while driving is encouraging from a policy perspective – however, from a practical perspective, it’s simply not enough to change behavior,” said Matt Howard, CEO of ZoomSafer. “To truly change behavior and fully protect themselves from liability, companies must actively measure and enforce employee compliance.”

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

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  • 5 Common Trailer Use Mistakes

    5 Common Trailer Use Mistakes

     

    Many fleets use trailers to move heavy equipment and supplies from place to place. Here are some common mistakes concerning use of trailers from Business Fleet and lead trailering engineer for General Motors Co., Robert Krouse.

    1. Failure to calculate the actual weight of the trailer

    Krouse points to landscaping trailers as a good example of how operators can misjudge the weight they’re asking their trucks to pull. The weight of the equipment inside may seem insignificant compared to the trailer itself, but it’s a principal factor in determining whether your equipment is pushing the load past your tow vehicle’s capacity.

    “Retail or commercial, the same principles apply,” Krouse says. “The ratings are based on weight, and that’s what we go by.”

    It’s crucial to weigh your loaded trailer at the nearest available scale before towing it. Also check to be sure the trailer’s tongue weight — the downward force exerted by the trailer’s “tongue” — is within your hitch’s rating.

    2. Failure to account for the actual capacity of the tow vehicle

    Now that you know how much weight you’re pulling, you just have to check that against your vehicle’s trailer weight rating (TWR), right? Not so fast, Krouse says. Pulling your truck’s rating from the Web might not provide the right number. Many manufacturers only provide each vehicle’s maximum TWR, which may depend on a particular engine or nonstandard equipment.

    Your dealer or factory rep should be able to provide your vehicle’s TWR and information on how to upgrade it. Once you have the right number, be sure to add the weight of your truck — including people in the cabin and equipment in the bed — to the weight of the loaded trailer. If that figure surpasses the vehicle’s gross combination weight rating (GCWR), you’re past the point of a safe tow.

    3. Overloading the trailer or tow vehicle

    Failing to determine TWR and GCWR are the most common weight-rating pitfalls, but there are several other factors to consider. Krouse says that tow vehicle and trailer gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs), individual tow vehicle and trailer gross axle weight ratings (GAWRs) and individual tire ratings are just as important.

    There’s also the trailer tongue weight, which can differ from your hitch’s rating. Failing to note any of the factors listed earlier can result in damage to the tow vehicle or trailer, not to mention excessive wear on your brakes or tires.

    4. Improper setup

    Now that your tow vehicle, trailer and combination weights and ratings are within range, the next objective is a proper coupling. If your hitch ball sits too high or low or your sway controls and weight-distributing spring bars are improperly adjusted, you still run the risk of damage somewhere along the setup.

    To be sure the trailer load is properly balanced, for a weight-distributing hitch setup, Krouse suggests measuring the space between the top of the tow vehicle’s front tire and the bottom of the fender. That space will increase once the trailer is coupled; adjust the spring bars to get back to the initial measurement without decreasing it.

    Each state sets its own standards for trailer brakes, but Krouse recommends adding a brake controller whenever you’re pulling 2,000 lbs. or more. In an electric system, a signal is sent to the trailer brakes when the tow vehicle’s brakes are applied, engaging them in unison. Several manufacturers, GM included, now offer a factory-equipped brake controller on most models.

    Another option is a hydraulic brake controller, also known as a surge brake. Surge brakes employ a self-contained apparatus in the hitch that engages the trailer brakes when the tow vehicle slows down.

    5. Improper road protocol

    Krouse sums up his advice for driving while trailering in one word: practice.

    “The operator always has to realize, it’s not like driving the tow vehicle by itself,” he says. “Don’t ever let that become back-of-mind.”

    Turning, stopping, backing up, merging and changing lanes all require more time and space. There’s no substitute for practicing those maneuvers in an open area before hitting the road, and remember to adjust your mirrors to the length of the trailer. GM and other manufacturers offer extendable side mirrors as a factory option.

    Finally, special attention must be paid to maintenance when your pickup is pulling heavy loads. Krouse lists fluids, tires and brakes as particular areas of concern. The trailer’s own brakes and tires also should be checked frequently, and trailers that sit idle for long periods should be inspected before they go back on the road.

     

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

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