• We have all experienced the dreaded pothole.  Formed by the erosion of road surfaces due to stress fractures, these unsightly and undercarriage-rattling depressions have caused endless frustration for drivers since the introduction of paved roads.  The damage caused by potholes can be costly for fleets and dangerous for drivers.

    Recent icy conditions across the country will most likely make existing potholes far worse and lead to further expenses for commercial drivers and commuters alike.  In one recent month, the city of Atlanta paid out more than $6,300 in repair costs to five motorists for the potholes on one city block alone.

    To keep your vehicles safe from potholes, here are a few easy tips:

    • Keep an eye on the road and leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.  Avoiding potholes is much easier when you see them coming.
    • Pay special attention in areas with a lot of heavy truck traffic and bus stops.  Heavy vehicles produce additional road stress that can exacerbate potholes.
    • Avoid swerving to avoid the pothole- you could pose a danger to other drivers.
    • If you do end up hitting a pothole, check your tires and make sure no damage has been done to your wheels or car body.

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  • In an effort to observe the performance of its new vehicles, Ford gave commercial businesses around the country pre-production models of the all-new 2011 Ford Super Duty months before the truck goes on sale.  Initial results will be posted on http://www.fordvehicles.com/2011superduty under “Field Work.”

    To test the trucks in extreme real world conditions, select customers put the new 2011 Super Duty F-250, F-350, F-450, and F-550 to work immediately in the humid swamps of Florida, in the sub-zero wintry conditions of Wyoming and in the dusty, dry areas of Texas construction sites and ranches.

    “As soon as we got this truck, we slapped a 22,000 pound trailer on it and headed for the field,” says a Wyoming-based Well Cementing Supervisor in one of Ford’s web testimonials.  “Ford asked us to work this truck hard, and we’re working this truck hard.”

    The evaluation trucks are all equipped with the new 6.7-liter Power Stroke® V-8 turbocharged diesel engine and the 6R140 heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission.

    The 2011 Super Duty goes on sale this spring.  Meanwhile, 2010 Super Duty – the segment leader in towing with over 24,000-pound capability – continues to dominate the heavy-duty pickup market with 45 percent of the segment in 2009, up over two percentage points over the previous year.

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  • Valentine's Day is always a busy time for florists.  As thoughtful partners and, more often, forgetful spouses rush to buy flowers for their beloved, business predictably booms for bouquet barons.  But what happens when Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend, as it did this year?  Does the lack of surprise office deliveries hurt sales?

    The answer is: quite the opposite.

    With Valentine’s Day falling on a Sunday in 2010, florists had a rare opportunity to turn Valentine’s Day into a 3-day sales weekend, making deliveries starting on Friday at people’s offices and at their homes over the weekend.  The extra time means increased sales, and the duty of seeing every arrangement to its destination falls to an army of delivery drivers.

    Steve Kavanaugh, co-owner of Norfolk Florist and Gifts, said that his shop expected more than 1,000 orders on the Friday prior to Valentines day and almost as many on Saturday.  By comparison, an average day at his shop totals about 150 orders.  The small business even rented extra vans to deal with the increased load.

    Every fleet has its own busy season.  Is there a holiday that stretches your resources to the max?  Let us know in the comments section below.

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  • It’s a tough time to be a car owner.  As if the recent troubles with Toyota vehicles weren’t enough, Honda is now expanding a previous recall of certain MY 2001 and 2002 vehicles to replace the driver’s air bag inflator. This expansion adds 378,758 U.S. vehicles to the recall, including certain MY 2001 and 2002 Accord, Civic, Odyssey, CR-V, and selected 2002 Acura TL vehicles. 

    The driver’s air bag inflators in these vehicles may deploy with too much pressure, which can cause the inflator casing to rupture. This could result in injury or fatality as the casing becomes deadly shrapnel. 

    To date, Honda said it is aware of 12 incidents related to this issue. 

    Honda encourages all affected owners to take their vehicle to an authorized dealer as soon as they receive recall notification from Honda. Notification to customers will start within this month. 

    After the original recall in November 2008, two additional incidents were reported, including one fatality involving a vehicle not included in that recall. The company studied these incidents and in July 2009 expanded the recall to include approximately 440,000 MY 2001 and 2002 Accord, Civic and certain 2002 Acura TL vehicles. 

    There were two types of manufacturing machines used in pressing the inflator propellant. “One propellant manufacturing process allowed us to verify that all of the propellant was within specification, but we cannot validate the other process to our satisfaction at this time,” Honda said. “We have decided to recall all inflator assemblies that were not confirmed by 100-percent automatic inspection during production because we cannot be absolutely certain they will all perform as designed, even though recent testing of units from this production process performed correctly.”

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  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) designed to align its regulated industry drug testing with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) laboratory drug testing requirements. “(The Omnibus Transportation Employees Testing Act mandates that the DOT follow HHS requirements for the drugs it tests, and for its testing procedures and protocol.)”

    The NPRM proposes testing for MDMA (also known as Ecstasy), lowering cutoff levels for cocaine and amphetamines, conducting mandatory initial testing for heroin and authorizing employers to use HHS-certified instrumented initial test facilities to conduct initial drug testing. “The rulemaking also proposes bringing a number of DOT testing definitions in line with those of HHS.”

     What do you think about drug testing in fleet environments? Leave us a comment below and tell us how you feel.

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  • The Utah House of Representatives passed a billon Feb. 5th aimed at making it easier and cheaper to convert vehicles to run oncompressed natural gas. 

    Representatives voted 67-1for HB70, which would allow industry-certified technicians to convert cars andwould require safety and emissions checks every three years or 36,000 miles,the SaltLake Tribune reported. The bill now moves to the UtahSenate. 

    The proposed rules seek totransfer natural-gas conversion regulation away from the federal EPA and into Utah state control. Thebill’s sponsor is Rep. Jack Draxler (R-North Logan), who has argued thatcurrent federal regulations are too burdensome. EPA officials do not oppose thestate legislation, Draxler said. 

    State control of regulatingnatural-gas conversions will mean cheaper options for Utah residents and a cleaner environment,Draxler told the Salt Lake Tribune.“Every tool available to us needs to be used when it comes to our air qualityand when it comes to less reliance on foreign oil,” he said. 

    This bill marks the latestmove in government policies to lower the American consumer’s environmentalimpact and lower the country’s dependency on foreign oil and unsustainableenergy.  The fleet world is a major player in the American automotiveindustry, so make sure your fleet does what it can to help the environment.

    Photo courtesy of sidewalk flying underthe Creative Commons License.

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  • With the extreme winter conditions occurring in many parts of the country, Automotive Fleet is offering advice for what to do if your vehicle is stranded in cold weather:

    If you become stranded while traveling in cold weather, stay with your vehicle. Most deaths under these circumstances occur when people get out of their vehicles, become lost, and suffer prolonged exposure to the cold. 

    Stay calm, wait for help to arrive, and take as many of the following steps as possible: 

    • Turn on your hazard warning lights.
    • Attach a red flag to your radio antenna.
    • Set out flags and flares, if possible.
    • If clothing, blankets and other survival supplies are stored in the trunk, bring them inside the vehicle.
    • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and debris.
    • Run the engine and heater until the vehicle is reasonably warm, and then turn it off. Repeat this process as long as fuel is available, or until you are rescued. Running the engine for approximately 10 minutes each hour, in order to charge the battery and warm the interior, is recommended.
    • Even in extremely cold, leave at least one window partially open to let in fresh air. Occupants of an idling vehicle can suffer carbon monoxide poisoning if ventilation is not adequate.
    • At least one person in the vehicle should remain awake at all times. 

    Make sure your fleet is equipped for all possible extreme weather conditions in your area, and keep your drivers safe!

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  • A Santa Rosa, Calif., exterminator who went missing with his employer’s truck last month was arrested Feb. 3 in Reno, according to The Press Democrat.

    Bryan William Scobey, 35, was arrested after being accused of allegedly stealing a Hitmen Termite and Pest Control truck and tools and trying to sell them. Scobey was being held at Washoe County jail in lieu of $25,000 bail.

    Scobey’s employer contacted the sheriff’s department Jan. 13 after he failed to make several work appointments and did not return with his company truck at the end of the work day, sheriff’s officials said. Scobey’s wife, Trina Scobey, 41, filed a missing person’s report after he failed to return home, she said.

    What had begun as a missing person’s case turned into a manhunt about a week later after deputies spoke with a man in Yreka who said Scobey allegedly offered to give him the company truck if the man drove with him to Reno.

    Detectives then began their successful search for Scobey on suspicion of embezzling a company vehicle and company tools, reported the Democrat.

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  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its final rule on setting a new U.S. renewable fuel standard.  The announcement came on Feb. 3, just as President Barack Obama announced his plans for accelerating the development of biofuels.

    The EPA said that ethanol and other renewable fuels must represent 8.25 percent of total gasoline and diesel sales in 2010 to meet Congress’ mandate that nearly 13 billion gallons of renewable fuels be produced this year. These rules are separate from those regulating the amount of ethanol blended into each gallon of gasoline, which is in most cases 10 percent. 

    The EPA projected that by 2022, the new fuel standard will increase farmers’ incomes by $13 billion annually, help stabilize prices at the pump, and increase U.S. energy independence. 

    Unlike a previously proposed version of the rule, the final rule confirms that high-efficiency corn ethanol plants will meet the fuel standard. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said during the press conference that changes to the greenhouse gas modeling found that all biofuel classes meet the renewable fuel standard’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. New calculations found that ethanol can have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline. 

    “On crop productivity, the data we used [previously] was not right,” Jackson explained. In addition, the EPA’s new methodology took a different approach in factoring in coproducts, and indirect land-use modeling took into account 120 nations — well beyond the initial 40 nations included earlier. As a result, the numbers changed dramatically. Corn ethanol, based on the updated modeling, meets the 20-percent greenhouse gas reduction requirement for it to be considered a conventional biofuel.

    Is your fleet using renewable fuels?  Leave a comment and tell us what you are doing to help the environment.

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  • Yesterday we posted an entry relating to software issues with Toyota Prius brake systems, with no word on how consumers would be affected.  Now Toyota has issued a massive recall to correct the problem:

    TOKYO, Japan (CNN) — Toyota’s president apologized profusely Tuesday as he announced the global recall of more than 400,000 of the automaker’s 2010 hybrid models, including the popular Prius, for problems in their anti-lock braking systems.

    “We do apologize for the inconvenience and concerns we’ve given to the customers,” President Akio Toyoda said in making the recall announcement from the automaker’s headquarters in Tokyo. “Quality is our lifeline for Toyota.”

    The company will work to recover its customers’ trust, Toyoda said.

    The automaker filed recall papers early Tuesday afternoon with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Recall papers will be filed in the United States sometime Tuesday.

    The worldwide recall involves 437,000 vehicles, including the Toyota Prius and Sai, along with the Lexus HS250h. The Sai is sold primarily in Japan.

    Last week, the company acknowledged a problem with the software that controls the anti-lock braking system of the 2010 Prius and said it had already corrected the problem in cars that started to roll off the assembly line in Japan last month.

    As recently as Friday, Toyota said a solution was near for the 200,000 of the 2010 model year Prius vehicles that have been sold in Japan and the 103,000 sold in the United States.

    The Prius is the automaker’s best-selling vehicle in Japan and its No. 4 seller in the United States.

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