• According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), 2009 was the sixth consecutive year in which car theft declined in the United States.

    Of the 366 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) within the US, 304 (83 percent) reported lower car theft rates than those in 2008.  Once final figures are tabulated later this year, vehicle theft may be shown to have dropped as much as 18 percent.

    While some cities remained stable or shifted slightly in the rankings (Laredo, TX went from number 2 to number 1 this year), some areas have seen drastically reduced local incidences of theft.  Yakima, WA dropped from number 3 on the 2008 list to number 6 this year, and Albuquerque, NM went from 8th to 10th.

    “This is great news on the vehicle theft front,” said Joe Wehrle, NICB president and chief executive officer. “Six straight years of vehicle theft reductions are the result of a lot of hard work on the part of law enforcement, prosecutors, legislators, NICB member companies, NICB personnel and insurance industry trade groups who have contributed expertise and energy to have an impact on this crime.”

    [via Business Fleet]

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  • Medium-Duty hybrids are most likely to gain momentum as the top selling vehicles to North American fleets in the near future, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan and Fleet Owner.

    A recent study by Frost & Sullivan said several key factors will affect fleet sales in the near future: the growth of “mega-cities,” resulting in more congested urban roadways; energy security; and the need to reduce emissions without excessive spending.  According to the firm’s global program manager Sandeep Kar, those issues should lead to more widespread use of class 4-6 hybrid vehicles.

    “The major reason for wider hybrid adoption to start with is they don’t create any ‘infrastructure’ pressure,” he told FleetOwner. “They don’t require a new refueling or re-charging infrastructure as do natural gas or all-electric vehicles will. From an environmental standpoint, with battery power already onboard, they can reduce or eliminate engine idle time as well as overall fuel consumption, leading to lower emissions.”

    Freight transportation within the boundaries of large cities will be a boon for the medium-duty hybrids, but that market share could be upset if pure electric vehicles become more viable for intra-city travel.

    But don’t rush out to restock your fleet just yet; Mr. Kar still has some concerns over the viability of hybrids as fleet vehicles.

    “Several challenges remain for hybrids, especially upfront and life-cycle cost benefits,” Kar noted. “Much of it relies on overcoming the initial price premium for hybrid trucks and payback in fuel savings, which can take 5 years or more. Price right now is the biggest challenge and it needs to be brought down.”

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  • 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.

     

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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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