• During an era in which gas prices seem to only get higher and higher, many drivers believe there’s no end in sight. Coupons and discounts are non-existent and limited transportation and fueling alternatives give consumers little choice. In a sign of global economic development, geography is playing its biggest part yet in the price of gasoline, and consumers, politicians, and even oil companies are taking notice.

    Although there isn’t one dominating factor that drives the price of gas up or down, the large discrepancies worldwide and nationwide can be attributed to supply and demand, natural disasters, taxes and geography. While the price of gasoline this year has remained below $4 per gallon for most of the country, prices vary widely from coast to coast.

    In the United States, remote locations often lead to more expensive products and services, and gasoline is no different. Most notably the West, where there is a lack of refineries, the price of gasoline is more sensitive to unplanned changes, including pipeline connections, distance to active physical trading markets and outages. Without a single oil pipeline cutting across the Rocky Mountains, the West Coast is virtually cut off from the rest of the nation’s supply of gas, making the region extremely susceptible to sudden gas shortages and steep price increases.

    Although isolated from oil reserves, the West still inhibits large populations in need of gasoline. Being the ninth largest economy in the world, California’s gas demands require its refineries to operate at near full capacity. Additionally, California also supplies fuel to other Western states such as Oregon, Arizona, Washington and Nevada, increasing the reliance beyond just California on the minimal resources.

    Although the West Coast gets the brunt of high prices, the entire country goes through price fluctuations – no matter where one resides. Annually, refineries shut down or reduce production for routine maintenance and adjust their fuel to make a cleaner, more expensive gas. During this time, which usually occurs April to September, consumers tend to travel more, only pushing demand – and prices – higher. Those living in a populated area in an oil producing state, still have a price disadvantage compared to those across town. Oil companies use zone pricing to determine the price each dealer sells by charging dealers different amounts for fuel based on traffic volume, station amenities, nearby household incomes, the strength of competitors, and other factors, all in an effort to boost profits.

    Like many industries, government regulation and taxes also contribute to pricing differences. (californiagasprices.com, 2012) Washington holds the highest tax rate for gasoline at 37.5 cents-per-gallon, followed by California at 35.3 cents-per-gallon. Oregon, a state limited by refineries and location, also has a high tax rates at 30. cents-per-gallon. Those states that have refineries on the other hand, have generous tax rates. Alaska and Wyoming, both oil supplying states, are taxed 8 and 13 cents-per-gallon, respectively.  

    The demand for gas isn’t just limited within the United States, as it also extends beyond our borders. This is a sign of the times to come, as we can anticipate gas prices to continue to increase, regardless of fueling location.

    For businesses who rely on transportation to provide services, the increasing gas prices are a cost that is closely monitored - from coast to coast or one side of town to the other. Businesses are looking for more fuel management solutions to help control and manage their business. Whether a business owner, a driver by profession, or even just a vehicle owner, knowing pricing differences can help you understand what you are paying for in this fast changing industry, what options are available, and even helping to improve your fleets efficiency. A fleet fuel card program is a solid place to start!

    References:

    californiagasprices.com. (2012, Oct 19). Total US Fuel Taxes by State. (californiagasprices.com, Producer) Retrieved Oct 19, 2012, from californiagasprices.com: http://www.californiagasprices.com/tax_info.aspx

    fuelgaugereport.aaa.com. (2012, Oct 19). National Average Prices. (fuelgaugereport.aaa.com, Producer) Retrieved Oct 19, 2012, from fuelgaugereport.aaa.com: http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com/?redirectto=http://fuelgaugereport.opisnet.com/index.asp

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  • Here’s a fact: excessive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere contributes to global warming.   Day after day highway vehicles burn fuel that leads to the creation of carbon dioxide.   Why should you as a fleet manager care about how much CO2 your fleet emits?  Because you can not only use this information to determine how much your fleet impacts the environment, but you can make better, well informed decisions about vehicle maintenance and vehicle purchases.

    How 6 Pounds of Gasoline Creates 20 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide

    So just how much CO2 are we talking about?

    A gallon of gasoline weighs roughly 6.3 pounds. It seems unlikely that a gallon of gas could create 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned. Interestingly enough, the weight of the carbon dioxide doesn’t come from the gasoline itself but from the oxygen in the air.

    When gas burns, carbon and hydrogen separate. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water (H2O) and carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.

    A carbon atom weighs 12 amu (atomic mass units), and each oxygen atom weighs 16 amu, which means each single molecule of CO2 weighs 44 amu (12 from carbon and 32 from oxygen).

    Therefore, to calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a single gallon of gasoline, multiply the weight of the carbon in the gasoline by 3.7 (44 ÷ 12).

    Since gasoline is about 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen by weight, the carbon in a gallon of gasoline weighs 5.5 pounds (6.3 pounds x 0.87).

    When we multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.7, our total is 20 pounds of CO2!

    Bottom line—fuel-efficient vehicles not only save your business money but they help protect the environment from harmful CO2.

    Sources: Physical and chemical properties of gasoline: Department of Energy (DOE), Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), http://www.afdc.energy.gov/pdfs/afv_info.pdf.

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  • Millions of people nationwide live in monitored   areas with unhealthy air pollution levels.

    It’s no secret that highway vehicles contribute significantly to air pollution in the U.S. by producing 26-62% of key chemicals that cause smog and lead to serious health problems.

    Recent government-mandated regulations enforce federal emissions standards for all new vehicles, but pre-regulation-era vehicles continue to pollute the air, especially those with poor fuel economy.

    That said, fleet managers looking to add vehicles to their fleet have another reason, beyond cost savings, to choose options from among the most fuel-efficient on the market. Below are two helpful tips for choosing either used vehicles or new green technology.

    Choose a Green Vehicle

    The EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide provides information to help you choose the cleanest used vehicle that meets your needs, including emissions data and vehicles equipped with advanced technology or alternative fuel capabilities.

    Choose Green Technology: Stop-start

    “Stop-start” technology is a newer alternative that also helps reduce fuel costs and air pollutants. The system eliminates engine idling by shutting off the engine when the vehicle stops and immediately restarting when the brake is released or when the vehicle begins to accelerate. Stop-start vehicles improve fuel economy by 5–10% and help fleets meet strict Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which will increase to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

    Johnson Controls reports that 97% of American consumers are interested in and ready for stop-start technology. Best of all, fleet managers who take advantage of stop-start technology can save on fuel costs without sacrificing performance.

    Environmentally friendly vehicles can be found and added to today’s fleets, provided managers stay persistent with their search. The most fuel-efficient fleets will reduce their fuel costs and do their part in reducing air pollution. It’s a win-win arrangement.

    Data sources:

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/airpoll.shtml

    http://www.johnsoncontrols.com/content/us/en/about/our_company/featured_stories/start-stop_battery1.html

    Population exposed to air pollution: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air & Radiation website, accessed August 15, 2008.

    Highway vehicle emission shares based on EPA's National Emissions Inventory (NEI) Air Pollutant Emissions Trends Data. (Highway vehicle shares calculated based on 2006 total emissions, excluding "miscellaneous" sources such as fires.)

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  • Whether you’re spending time with family over the next few days, preparing for the holiday business rush or just taking a couple of well-deserved days off, we hope that your Thanksgiving is as wonderful as it can be.

    As for us, we’re thankful for all of you that have read the blog and continue to be valued friends and partners. Thank you for your support, and we will continue to bring you the latest from the fleet industry and the world of automotive events as soon as we’re done eating!

    Photo courtesy of Dinner Series and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • With the Thanksgiving travel crunch coming, take a moment to look at this week’s Automotive Fleet Safety Tip, which give you some tips for driving in the snow. Keep these in mind as you drive for business or personal reasons over the holidays and keep them in mind all winter!

     

    Streets and highways covered with snow, snowpack or ice are extremely hazardous. Overpasses, bridges, shaded areas and snow-packed portions of the road can be icy even when other pavement is not. If you begin to skid, let up on the accelerator and turn the front wheels in the direction of the skid. Here are a few simple precautions that you can follow:

    • Make sure your tires have good tread for adequate traction. In winter, chains or snow tires are certainly preferable. However, remember that even chains and snow tires will slip on slick pavement.
    • Make sure your brakes are in good condition and properly adjusted so that the braking power of each wheel is uniform.
    • Anti-Lock Brakes -- Apply the brakes with hard, firm pressure from the start of the skid and maintain this pressure until you have stopped. You may feel or hear vibrations and/or pulsations. This is normal.
    • No Anti-Lock Brakes -- Threshold breaking: Apply the brakes just hard enough to not lock the wheels, release and apply the brakes the same way again.
    • Keep the windows clear by making certain the defrosters and windshield wipers are working properly. Use a good window scraper to remove all ice, snow and frost even if you are just traveling a short distance. Fogging or condensation of moisture on the inside of the windshield can quickly be removed by opening the side vent windows.
    • Be alert for snowplows and sanding trucks. They use flashing yellow and blue lights as a warning for you to use extreme caution when approaching or passing them.
    • Maintain an extra large space between you and the car ahead.
    • Start gradually by using a low gear and accelerating gently.
    Photo courtesy of paumurp and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • We talk a lot here about the benefits of adopting efficiency-boosting technology, but here’s a little reminder that there are two sides to every coin, courtesy of The Detroit News:

    A new study has concluded that hybrid vehicle owners are 25 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than their conventional counterparts. However, this does not make these the safest vehicles on the road: hybrids are 20 percent more likely to be in a crash with a pedestrian because they can be harder to hear.

    The Virginia-based Highway Loss Data Institute said the fact that hybrids are 10 percent heavier than traditionally powered vehicles is a big factor. Other factors, such as how, when and by whom hybrids are driven, also may contribute to the findings. Hybrid injury odds were 25-27 percent lower for collision claims.

    But the study found that hybrids may be as much as 20 percent more likely to be in a crash with a pedestrian.

    "When hybrids operate in electric-only mode, pedestrians can't hear them approaching," said Matt Moore, HLDI vice president and an author of the report, "so they might step out into the roadway without checking first to see what's coming."

    The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure that electric and hybrid car manufacturers add noises that alert the blind and other pedestrians to the presence of these vehicles.

    "For years customers wanted quieter cars, but now we face the challenge of keeping visually impaired pedestrians safe among quieter cars… now DOT is working to establish a sound standard to provide audible cues for pedestrians," said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

    So if you’re adopting hybrid vehicles as a part of your fleet strategy, make sure you’re extra careful wherever people are around. Keeping your drivers and the people around them safe should be your top priority.

    Photo courtesy of PEDS and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • A proposal currently underway to raise freeway speed limits in Great Britain has generated a lot of argument over whether raising the maximum allowed speed would be more dangerous for motorists than it is worth. US speed limits have remained fairly stable recently but in some cases have begun to inch their way up; some businesses see this as a good thing, but the risks just may outweigh the rewards.

    Increased speed limits are supported by freight companies because of the overall reduction in trip times they generate. While it is true that the time of the trip may be faster, there are some problems that make the change in schedule far less beneficial.

    First, vehicles begin to lose fuel efficiency as they cross a certain speed threshold (about 60 miles per hour). After that, more energy is required to overcome wind resistance and the vehicle’s fuel efficiency dips exponentially. In addition, higher speed limits are the number one contributor to the increased fatality rate of freeway accidents. While it is true that a lower percentage of accidents happen on highways than on other roads, the higher speeds involved make them far more dangerous.

    These factors combined make raising speed limits a pretty low-benefit scenario for everyone, but being safe on the roads doesn’t have to be made into law. Make sure your drivers know the appropriate speed along their routes and encourage safe driving behavior instead of shorter deadlines!

    (Tags: Speed Limit, Safety, Statistics, News)

    Photo courtesy of S.A. Hooper and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • With distracted driving such a focus in legislation and more and more cell phone bans taking effect, it is important to know what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

    Many drivers find it acceptable to make a call or view a text message when their vehicle is not in motion, such as at a stop light. However, a California court recently ruled to uphold a fine against a Richmond driver who was caught using his phone at a traffic light.

    Current cell bans generally ban the use of devices while the vehicle is in motion, which the defendant claims does not apply to a stopped vehicle. But Justice James Lambden feels that momentary stops to not apply.

    The law was intended to cover "persons driving on our public roadways, who, like (Nelson), may pause momentarily while doing so in order to comply with the rules of the road," said Justice Lambden, noting that allowing drivers to use their phones in stop-and-go traffic could still pose a threat to pedestrians and other motorists.

    Until the laws are made clearer, incidents like these will be left up to offenders vs. the courts. Do you think cell phone use while stopped is an acceptable policy? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

    Photo courtesy of Mike Fisher and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • As the economy continues to be a pressing issue for many commercial fleets, businesses are doing everything they can to save money on their operating expenses. Since the price of new tires began steadily rising, more and more customers are looking to retreaded tires as a cheaper alternative:

    “I can tell you that retreaders are just booming,” Marvin Bozarth, president of Bozarth Tire Industry Consultants, Shelbyville, Ky., and senior technical consultant to the Tire Industry Association told Light & Medium Truck.

    “A truck tire that may have cost $275 a few years ago may now sell up to $400 a piece,” Bozarth said. “That is a big, difficult hike for smaller operations.” About half of all commercial tires currently in use are retreaded.

    Despite the demand for these refurbished tires, it is important to remember that they are not always the right choice, as wear and tear still makes tires unrecoverable later on.

     “If it’s a light-duty commercial vehicle tire, our position is that if it’s been used on a dual rear wheel drive, we will retread it once,” said Scott Perry, group director of vehicle supply management for Ryder System, Miami. “If the tire has been on a vehicle with a single axle on either side, we’ll stay with buying original tires,” he added.

    If your fleet is looking to cut costs, retreaded tires can be part of the solution. Just make sure you’re not sacrificing quality or safety.

    Photo courtesy of The Tire Zoo and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • A poll conducted by Consumer Reports in late October showed that an overwhelming majority of American consumers would support higher fuel-economy standards and would be willing to pay a premium for high-efficiency vehicles. Take a look at some of the figures from the study and see if you feel the same way about your fleet vehicles:

    -93 percent of respondents supported an overall increase in fuel efficiency.

    -77 percent agreed that automakers should produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and that the government should increase and enforce efficiency standards.

    -81 percent of respondents said they were willing to pay more for a fuel-efficient vehicle if it would lower their operating costs.

    -79 percent said the price of gasoline was their biggest concern moving forward.

    -56 percent said they would consider alternative-power vehicles like hybrids or electric cars as their next vehicle.

    -89 percent said new lower costs were their primary motivation for considering these vehicles.

    -80 percent agreed that consumers should receive incentives in the form of rebates or tax credits to buy fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles.

    -80 percent agreed that fuel-economy standards should require automakers to increase the overall fleet average to the White House’s proposed 55 miles per gallon by 2025.

    Remember, better fuel efficiency is just one way to save on fuel. Managing your purchasing and avoiding unnecessary expense should be a large part of your fueling strategy.

    (Tags: Fuel Efficiency, Study, Statistics)
    Photo courtesy of Justin Taylor and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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