• We’ve talked about this program in the past, and now Automotive Fleet has some information on an important legal decision regarding the Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Trucks program:

    A U.S. district judge toured the Port of Los Angeles on Thursday, April 29, on the final day of the federal trial about the city’s controversial Clean Trucks Program, the Daily Breeze newspaper reported. 

    Judge Christina Snyder must now rule on whether the port can legally restrict the types of drivers entering port terminals as part of the Clean Trucks Program, which requires all big rigs to meet the 2007 federal clean truck emissions standards by 2012. 

    The American Trucking Association (ATA) has legally challenged the program. The group has requested that Snyder permanently block the port’s concession agreements, including a requirement that freight haulers hire employee drivers rather than independent owner-operators by 2013. 

    Port officials have argued that they are within their rights to establish their own set of rules for trucks operating on their property. They contend that the employee-only mandate for drivers helps facilitate the replacement of older trucks with lower-emission trucks. Most independent owner-operators are not in a financial position to replace their older trucks with newer, low-emission models, they say. 

    Currently, the program’s employee mandate for drivers is blocked by a preliminary injunction, sought by ATA. 

    Trial testimony, which began April 20, wrapped up on April 28. Attorneys representing the Port of Los Angeles, the American Trucking Associations and the Natural Resources Defense Council have until May 12 to submit written closing arguments. 

    Photo courtesy of kevindooley under the  Creative Commons License


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  • Tires are a major operational cost for commercial fleets.  With constant maintenance, repair and replacement necessary, any increase in cost can be a serious threat to a company’s bottom line.  Now it seems that this coming summer will see significant price hikes by several major tire makers.

    Hancook Tire America Corp. will raise the price of its passenger, light and medium truck tires by up to 6 percent starting June 1.  Specific price increases will vary according to product line and size of tire.

    Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions, a division of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, has already increased its unit prices, also by up to 6 percent.  The increase applies to Firestone brand, Dayton brand, and truck and bus radial tires.

    Kumho Tire Inc. will also be raising prices on passenger and light truck tires, though their hikes will reach up to 8 percent, with additional price adjustments across all lines to follow.

    All of these price hikes are being blamed on increases in the cost of raw materials and labor.  Troubles with Chinese rubber production have doubled the cost of natural raw rubber and exports have suffered as a result of high tariffs.  If these trends continue, more price increases could be on the horizon.

    Photo courtesy of Mykl Roventine under the Creative Commons License


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  • Perhaps a sign that the economy may suddenly be turning around for the fleet sector,

    U.S. fleet sales rallied in the first quarter of 2010, increasing by 47 percent over Q4 2009. 

    As the economy improves across the board, money is finally beginning to find its way back to large fleet purchasers such as rental car fleets, government agencies, and construction companies.  Now these businesses are getting back on their feet and purchasing new fleet vehicles.

    And the news gets even better from there; automakers are expecting sales figures to continue rising.  Ford Motor Company America President Mark Fields said that his company expects a continued increase in fleet sales, though government fleet spending will probably level off long before any other areas.

    J.D. Power analyst Jeff Schuster commented that poor sales figures last year are driving this year’s increased income. 

    More importantly, this positive change in sales numbers reveals that the fleet industry is dedicated to stimulating their own businesses as well as keeping their vehicles up-to-date and more efficient.  While the hard economic times may not fully pass for years to come, fleets can remain confident that their hard work is being rewarded.

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  • As the fight againstdistracted driving gathers steam in state legislatures across the country, moreand more states are working to ban text messaging while behind the wheel of anyvehicle:

    Wisconsinpassed a measure last week that prohibits all e-mailing and texting whileoperating a motor vehicle.  When signed into law, the ban will go intoeffect in seven months.

    Floridais working on a bill to curb distracted driving habits, but a vote will not beconducted this year.  Finance and Tax Council Chairwoman Ellyn Bogdanoffhas called the existing bill “intellectually dishonest” and will not reconsiderscheduling a hearing until a more comprehensive plan for eliminating a widerrange of distractions is introduced.

    Michiganis in the process of passing a texting ban that is held up due to disputes overthe appropriation of funds from fines to offenders.  Other fees must bemodified or eliminated before the state Senate can come to an agreement.

    Do you think that distracteddriving is becoming too much of a focus?  Or are states not doing enoughto save lives on our roads?  Leave us a comment below and tell us what youthink.

    Photo courtesy of TimWilsonunder the Creative CommonsLicense

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  • Another Friday, another Fleet Safety Tip of the Week from Automotive Fleet This week, they’re offering up some advice on sharing the road with motorcyclists.  With more of these vehicles on the road every day, it is important to pass this information along to your drivers:

     

    • When you change lanes or enter a major thoroughfare, make a visual check for motorcycles. Also use your mirrors. Motorcycles are small, and they can easily disappear into a vehicle’s blind spots.  
    • Allow a four-second following distance. You will need this space to avoid hitting the motorcyclist if he or she falls.  
    • Allow the motorcycle a full lane width. Although it is not illegal to share lanes with motorcycles, it is unsafe.  
    • Never try to pass a motorcycle in the same lane you are sharing with the motorcycle.  
    • When you make a turn, check for motorcyclists, and know their speed before turning.  
    • Motorcycles may travel faster than traffic during congested road conditions and can travel in the unused space between two lines of moving or stationary vehicles, which is commonly called “lane splitting.”  

     

    Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to you pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement can cause motorcyclists to change speed or direction sud­denly. If you are aware of the effect of these conditions and drive with care and attention, you can help reduce motorcyclist injuries and fatalities.

    Photo courtesy of mikebaird under the Creative Commons License


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  • From Automotive Fleet, here’s another reminder to encourage safe driving and discourage alcohol use by fleet drivers:

    Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has filed drunk driving charges against L.A. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

    Santana, the top budget advisor at City Hall, was arrested March 29 in Covina as he was driving a city-owned car home from a charity event. The event, ironically, was a roast honoring District Attorney Cooley. 

    According to Cooley’s office, the 40-year-old Santana had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent. Santana faces one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol and one misdemeanor count of driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. 

    In the days following his arrest, Santana turned in his city car and took a leave of absence to enter an alcohol treatment center. He returned to work at City Hall on April 15.

    Photo courtesy of kla4067 under the Creative Commons License


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  • Fuel prices may have experienced some drops lately (diesel is down to a national average of $3.28, down from $4.76 last July), but fuel costs are still a major strain on most fleet budgets. 

    Kevin Knight, chairman and CEO of Knight Transportation in Phoenix, Arizona, addressed the issue of fleet fuel costs in his company’s third quarter statement.

    “…Despite the decline in fuel prices, the U.S. Department of Energy national average diesel fuel price for the [third] quarter of $4.34 increased $1.44 above the third quarter of 2007 average of $2.90,” he said. “We continue to focus on improving the fuel efficiency of our fleet through reduced empty miles, decreased idle time, improved fuel purchasing, and controlling out-of-route miles.”

    The issue with rising fuel costs is a general lag between any price increase and the necessary increase in a carrier’s earnings.  Regardless of compensatory measures like fuel surcharges, there is an operational cost that cannot be made up by anything other than a lowering of prices.  The recent drop in overall fuel prices is a good sign, but industry players warn not to get too comfortable; carrier Werner Enterprises issued a recent statement that said “If fuel prices remain stable going forward, the company does not expect the temporary favorable trend to continue.”

    It’s important to do everything you can to save money on your fleet fuel costs.  Learn better driving habits, adopt the most efficient technologies… and don’t forget that you can cut up to 15% out of your whole fuel budget with a fleet fuel solution from FleetcardsUSA.

    Photo courtesy of respres under the Creative Commons License


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  • A leading transportation safety economist has called for major changes to U.S. highway infrastructure, citing a detailed report that claims more than half of roadway fatalities in the country are related to poor roadway conditions.

    “The cost of crashes involving deficient roadway conditions dwarf the costs of crashes involving alcohol, speeding, or failure to wear a safety belt,” said Ted Miller, Ph.D., with the Beltsville, MD-based Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation (PIRE), in testimony before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week.

    “Focusing as much on improving road safety conditions as on reducing impaired driving would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year,” Miller added.

    According to Miller’s report, crashes related to poor conditions cost American businesses $22 billion annually, as well as $12 billion in government costs and $12 billion in medical spending.

    “Immediate solutions for problem spots include: using brighter and more durable pavement markings, adding rumble strips to shoulders, mounting more guardrails or safety barriers, and installing traffic signals and better signs with easier-to-read legends,” said Miller.

    “More significant road improvements include replacing non-forgiving poles with breakaway poles, adding or widening shoulders, improving roadway alignment, replacing or widening narrow bridges, reducing pavement edges and abrupt drop-offs, and clearing more space on the roadside,” he added.

    Photo courtesy of MSVG under the Creative Commons License


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  • From Business Fleet, here’s some good news for GM.

    General Motors Company Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre announced Wednesday that the company fully paid off over $8 billion in loans to the United States and Canadian governments ahead of schedule.

    The loans were paid in full with interest five years ahead of schedule and two months ahead of the timeline Whitacre announced in January. In exchange for the federal loans, the U.S. and Canadian governments took equity stakes in the new GM.

    “GM’s ability to pay back the loans ahead of schedule is a sign that our plan is working, and that we are on the right track. It is also an important first step toward allowing our stockholders to reduce their equity investments in GM,” said Whitacre. “We still have much hard work ahead of us, but we are making progress toward our vision of designing, building, and selling the world’s best vehicles.”

    Whitacre made the announcement at GM’s Fairfax, Kansas assembly plant where the company will invest $257 million to build the next generation Chevy Malibu.

    In addition, Whitacre announced that the Chevy Volt will go on sale in October, nearly two months earlier than originally scheduled and ahead of its competition, the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

    Photo courtesy of mrkumm under the Creative Commons License


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  • Last week’s SAE World Congress concluded with a speech by Bill Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman.  His focus: the future of electric vehicles.

    “All the early cars were electric,” said Ford. “They’ve been around for the past century or so, but they haven’t really had mass-market appeal.”

    But Ford, a dedicated environmentalist, hopes to change that.  He claimed that the automotive industry is on the verge of a major shift, and wants his company to be ready.

    “It appears that the biggest game-changer will be electric vehicles,” said Ford during his speech.  “Our new plan includes the introduction of five new high-mileage vehicles.”

    Citing diminishing oil reserves, climate change and consumers’ desire to save money on fuel, Ford said that the industry has no option but to embrace more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    Ford plans to introduce its five new vehicles (the Transit Connect Electric commercial van, electric Ford Focus, two new gas-electric hybrids and a plug-in hybrid) over the next three years.  Ford will also improve the fuel economy of its established vehicles in new model years.

    “Nobody is getting cocky, or overconfident,” Ford said. “Because, frankly, we’ve only taken baby steps on the long journey to where we really need to go.”

    Photo courtesy of exfordy under the Creative Commons License


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