• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released its final rule that establishes test procedures for consumer tire rolling resistance, safety, and durability, reported Modern Tire Dealer

    “When this program is fully established, this information will be provided to consumers at the point of sale and online,” say agency officials.

    The rule, as well as its associated tire consumer education program, will require tire makers to rank their products for fuel efficiency, safety and durability “based on test procedures specified,” say NHTSA officials.

    “The agency is specifying a test procedure by which NHTSA will evaluate the accuracy of the rolling resistance rating assigned by the tire manufacturer. For the safety and durability ratings, this final rule specifies that the agency will use previously established test procedures for wet traction and treadwear to evaluate the accuracy of the safety and durability ratings assigned by the tire manufacturer.”

    NHTSA says it is not specifying the content or requirements of the consumer education portion of the program at this time.

    “We are continuing to work to improve the content and format of the consumer information so that consumers will, in fact, be adequately informed. NHTSA will be conducting additional consumer testing to explore how consumers will best comprehend information in each of the three categories discussed above.”

    After additional testing, NHTSA plans to publish a new proposal for the consumer education element of the program.

    We hope that your fleet can meet any new standards that may arise from these rulings.  And remember, you can always save more money on fuel by using FleetCardsUSA.

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  • Environmental Leader has the scoop on some new hybrid vehicle choices that will soon be available for the most consistent buyer of hybrids: the fleet industry.

    Corporate fleet managers one day may have three more auto badges to consider after BMW, Mazda and Hyundai report making headway toward bringing hybrid models to market.

    The three automakers have had little foothold in the hybrid car market until now.

    Hyundai will unveil a Sonata hybrid at the New York Auto Show in April, according to auto industry site PaulTan.

    BMW is working on a hybrid fuel cell concept that is a departure from its research on hydrogen internal combustion engines, according to AutoblogGreen.

    Now the company is working on a fuel cell electric vehicle that uses a small gasoline engine and a five-kilowatt fuel cell. In a prototype, energy from regenerative braking is stored in “supercaps” that then drive an 82-kilowatt electric motor mounted in the rear.

    In February, BMW announced plans for a conventional hybrid sports car.

    Mazda plans to introduce a midsize hybrid car using core parts from Toyota, reports Bloomberg.

    The car may reach market by 2013.

    Corporate fleets purchase about 300,000 vehicles a year, and they are expected to be among the steadiest customers of electric vehicles and hybrids as they come to market.

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  • UPS has come up with a new cost-effective and “green” service strategy expected to eliminate 8 million miles from the total driven by UPS drivers each year in the U.S., save an estimated 793,000 gallons of fuel, and reduce CO2 emissions by 7,800 metric tons.

    UPS Smart Pickup uses new UPS technology to ensure that a UPS driver stops at a customer location to pick up a package only when a package is, in fact, being shipped.

    “Before UPS Smart Pickup, UPS would often arrive at a customer’s location only to discover that the customer had no packages for pickup that day,” said Chief Information Officer David Barnes. “For the first time, a UPS service integrates the company’s operational and customer-facing technology to eliminate unnecessary stops.” 

    Customers use a UPS shipping system to process a package prior to a predetermined cutoff time. That shipping system then communicates with internal operations systems at UPS to notify drivers via their wireless, handheld computers that a pickup is required. A pickup is only scheduled when a customer processes a package in a UPS shipping system.

    What measures is your fleet taking to cut down on waste and environmental impact?

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  • Chrysler is set to introduce a new vehicle that could pave the way for a whole new class of hybrid vehicles: Plug-in trucks.

    The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Chrysler Group a grant that the automaker will use to build 140 plug-in hybrid Ram trucks for a demonstration project. 

    The Ram PHEVs will be part of a three-year demonstration project. The grant funding of up to $48 million will come from a $2.4 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act DOE Vehicle Electrification program. 

    The Ram PHEV features Chrysler Group’s 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with a two-mode hybrid transmission and a 12KwHr lithium-ion battery. The vehicle is capable of up to 20 miles of zero-emission, pure-electric range without the need for gasoline. An overall fuel economy improvement of more than 65 percent is expected for average drive cycles.

    In 2008, Chrysler announced the company’s intention to bring a Ram Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) to market. But after evaluating the response to hybrid pickups in the marketplace, the company said it could not formulate an appropriate business case and has decided to cancel development work on the 2011 Ram HEV. 

    Chrysler said its alliance with Fiat Group brings new platforms and technologies that allow the company to create an improved long-term product strategy with greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. 

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  • The Wall Street Journal takes a look a quirky new technology: self-parking vehicles.  Would you want to use this technology in your fleet operations?

    WALL STREET JOURNAL- When the Lexus LS 460 was unveiled at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in 2006, the vehicle and its ability to parallel park itself was a novel concept that became the buzz of the show. It was the first time consumers and media had seen a self-parking car offered in North America.

    Now, a handful of other manufacturers have rolled out their own self-parking systems, which guide cars into parking spaces with little help from the driver. Five manufacturers—Ford, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercury and Toyota—are currently offering self parking on nine different 2010 models, according to Edmunds.com.

    From a market standpoint, the self-parking systems are poised to become more popular, said Karl Brauer of Edmunds.com. “Car companies are looking for ways to distinguish themselves from competitors and it’s getting harder and harder to do that on traditional points like safety and reliability,” he said.

    But market research shows that it may take a while for self-parking systems to penetrate the mainstream consumer market. When consumers were surveyed about self-parking systems as part J.D. Power’s June 2009 emerging technology report, which tracks the newest technologies in vehicles, self-parking garnered the lowest interest. “People felt they didn’t need this feature, and many said they infrequently drove in areas where they would have to parallel park,” said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power. The feature with the highest interest? Blind-spot detection.

    For the full article, click here.

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  • American Honda Motor Co. has issued a position statement expressing the automaker’s lack of support for the use of non-OEM equipment parts for the collision repair of any Honda or Acura vehicle. 

    “Further, American Honda does not support the use or re-use of structural components that have been removed and salvaged or recycled from an existing vehicle that has been previously damaged,” the company said in the statement. Such salvaged parts may not be OEM parts or may have received collateral damage in a previous collision. Moreover, they may have been “subjected to severe weathering, rust, or other detrimental environmental exposure,” Honda said. 

    In making its case, Honda stressed that its vehicles are engineered and manufactured to exacting standards to best protect occupants during a crash. 

    “Compromising any element of a collision energy absorption system or an occupant supplemental restraint system in the repair of a collision-damaged vehicle may have an adverse effect on occupant safety in any subsequent collision,” Honda said. “Therefore, Honda does not support the use of aftermarket, alternative, reverse-engineered, or anything other than original equipment Honda or Acura parts for the collision repair of any Honda or Acura vehicle.”

    Make sure your fleet vehicles are in perfect working order and have the correct parts necessary to keep your drivers safe.

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  • The topic of AutomotiveFleet’s Fleet Safety Tips this week is safely parking on ahill. This information is especially useful for delivery drivers, so take alook:

    Here’s some advice, takenfrom the California Driver Handbook,on how to properly park on a hill. You may want to pass this along to yourdrivers as a friendly reminder. 

    When you park:

     

    • On a sloping driveway, turn the wheels so the car will not roll into the street if the brakes fail.
    • Headed downhill, turn your front wheels into the curb or toward the side of the road. Set the parking brake.
    • Headed uphill, turn your front wheels away from the curb and let your vehicle roll back a few inches. The back of the front wheel should gently touch the curb. Set the parking brake.
    • Headed either uphill or downhill and there is no curb, turn the wheels so the car will roll away from the center of the road if the brakes fail.
    • Always set your parking brake and leave the vehicle in gear or the “park” position.

     

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  • Aimed at reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the Port Authority and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have launched a financial incentive program to replace up to 636 of the oldest, most polluting trucks serving the marine terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey with newer, cleaner models.

    The Port of New York and New Jersey joins the ranks of several other U.S. ports including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Tacoma that have banned older, polluting trucks from servicing their terminals.

    The $28-million Clean Truck Program is aimed at getting owners of pre-1994 drayage trucks that regularly serve the port’s marine terminals to purchase newer vehicles. The program is partly funded by a $7 million EPA grant, with the remainder coming from Port Authority funds. Pre-applications can be filled out online at http://www.replacemytruck.org.

    The agency also announced a truck phase-out plan. All pre-1994 model trucks would be banned from the Port Authority marine terminals beginning January 1, 2011, and trucks not equipped with engines that meet or exceed 2007 federal emissions standards will no longer be able to serve the marine terminals starting on January 1, 2017.

    In addition to reducing emissions, truck operators can also benefit from the more energy-efficient engines, cutting fuel costs by up to 20 percent, according to the Port Authority.

    The Truck Replacement Program is part of the Clean Air Strategy for the Port of New York and New Jersey targeted at reducing emissions from all port-related sources and improving air quality in the region.

    What is your fleet doing to help improve our air quality?

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  • Safety belt usage among commercial truck and bus drivers spiked significantly between 2007 and 2009, according to new figures released by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – with seat belt usage rates over 10% higher in states with strict safety belt laws.

    “This is a very big deal,” Steve Keppler, interim executive director for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), told FleetOwner. “Think about it; safety groups get ecstatic when car driver seat belt usage numbers jump 1% to 2% over a year or two – and the focus on car driver usage rates has been going on a lot longer compared to commercial vehicle operators.”

    FMCSA reported that overall safety belt use by commercial drivers climbed to 74% in 2009 from 65% in 2007, with seat belt use at 78% in states with primary safety belt laws – allowing law enforcement to stop drivers for not using a safety belt – versus 67% in states with weaker laws.

    CVSA’s Keppler also stressed that the rapid increase in seat belt use among commercial drivers wouldn’t have been possible without widespread industry support. “Fleets of all stripes are doing a tremendous amount to spread the word about seat belt use and establish policies to promote it,” he said.

    Make sure your drivers wear seatbelts and keep them safe!


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  • Buick ranked third in vehicle dependability for 3-year old models in J.D. Power and Associates’ annual Vehicle Dependability Study.

    Buick has ranked in the top 10 brands in the dependability study for the past nine years. The study tracks vehicle issues over a three-year ownership period and this year evaluates 198 problem areas, which provides insight into the reliability and dependability of a brand and specific model as they approach the end of a typical warranty period.

    The previous generation Buick LaCrosse, a 2010 North American Car of the Year finalist, received top honors in the midsize car segment for the second year in a row. The Buick Lucerne is among the top three models in the large car segment and the Buick Terraza came in third in the midsize van segment.

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