• A 32-year-old Anaheim man miraculously escaped serious injury after he was struck by an Anaheim Parks and Recreation truck as he napped underneath a tree in a city park.

    According to the Los Angeles Times, the incident occurred sometime around 11:45 a.m., when a city maintenance worker drove his truck across the grassy portion of the park to get to a trash receptacle.  The injured man was taken to an area hospital, where he was found not to have suffered any serious injuries.  City investigators are trying to determine if a visual obstruction may have contributed to the accident.

    This incident highlights the dangers of any non-paved or marked area where pedestrians may be lying down or otherwise difficult to see.  The risk becomes even greater in areas with sloped surfaces or when in the presence of bright sunlight.

    This is not the first incident of its kind in California.  The state has had similar problems on its beaches, only a few have resulted in serious injury.  In 2005, a lifeguard vehicle ran over a 21-year-old student lying on a beach in Santa Monica.  He suffered serious injuries, losing his spleen in the accident.  The incident led to a ban against lifeguards driving their pickup trucks on beaches between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

    Make sure your drivers understand the proper safety precautions for the environmental conditions they experience during the workday.  Some tips about driving safely in different weather conditions can be found by clicking here.

    Photo courtesy of jondoeforty1 under the Creative Commons License.
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  • In 1983, John Schnatter sold his gold-and-black 1971 Chevrolet Camaro to keep his family’s business afloat. Now, 26 years later, the pizza mogul has been reunited with his long-lost car.

    Schnatter sold the Z28 Camaro for $2,800 to save his father’s tavern in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  He used what little was left over to start his own business, which would eventually become the internationally successful Papa John’s Pizza.  Years later, Schnatter found himself still missing his old car and began an arduous search for the missing auto.  He created a website dedicated to his search, made promotional appearances to promote the cause, and eventually offered a reward of $250,000 to whoever found the car.

    The search finally paid off.  The original buyers of the car saw Schnatter on television during a pre-game interview for the NFL talking about his determination to recover the Camaro and tracked it down through the auto blog Jalopnik, which contacted Papa John’s about the situation.  The car had ended up 165 miles from Papa John’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky in the town of Flatwooods after changing hands only twice since the original sale.

    The owner, Jeffrey Robinson, delivered the Camaro to Schnatter this week, earning the $250,000 bounty.  Schnatter is also giving $25,000 to the original buyers for their help in finding the car.

    In honor of the find, Papa John’s is offering a free pizza this Wednesday to all Camaro owners. So if your fleet is made up of Camaros, treat your employees to lunch.

    Photo courtesy of Zuiun under the Creative Commons License.
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  • Automotive Fleet’s latest report on vehicle theft sheds light on what is a common and incredibly frustrating problem for fleet managers and companies.

    On average, fleets experience a loss of two vehicles per year to theft.  Just over half of fleets (53 percent) recover all of the stolen vehicles, but many fleets never recover their vehicles.  The financial loss incurred by stolen vehicles can take a serious toll on the bottom line of a small fleet.

    Fleets are taking steps to prevent vehicle theft; many cars are equipped with alarm systems either from the manufacturer or installed after-market depending on the importance of the cargo.  Not all fleets can afford to equip their vehicles with alarm systems, which can be costly.  Some fleets even pass on installing alarms because the cost of equipping them is greater than the amount they would lose from vehicle theft.

    So what is the best way for you to prevent theft in your fleet?  Automotive Fleet offers these suggestions:
    • Do not leave vehicles and/or company equipment unsecured.
    • Install alarms on vehicles with sensitive equipment.
    • Designate specific parking areas.
    • Request drivers remove valuable items from eyesight. One option is placing these items in the vehicle trunk.
    • Instruct drivers to lock vehicles at all times and park in well-lit, safe areas.
    • Install a GPS system in vehicles to track them in the event of theft.

    Vehicle theft is on the rise over the past two years in commercial fleets, along with vandalism and practices such as fuel siphoning.  These consequences don’t just fall on fleet managers; in most fleets, drivers are responsible for their vehicles and any items left inside.  If theft is a result of negligence, drivers can quickly be terminated.  New vehicles are not the only targets for theft, and all vehicles should be carefully monitored and protected to keep your fleet safe and secure.

    Photo courtesy of kowitz under the Creative Commons License.

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  • With the Cash for Clunkers program now over, car dealers are about to find themselves with a lot of extra money from the recent rush of customers.  They may do well to save that money for a rainy day.

    Now that Cash for Clunkers is over and customers have purchased a great deal of dealers’ surplus inventories, prices on auto dealers’ lots are significantly higher than they were before the program started.  The demand for new vehicles during Cash for Clunkers was so high that dealers were having trouble finding enough cars to fill orders; many customers ended up with cars in a different color or with different options than they originally wanted.

    As of Monday morning, 625,000 claims had been made by dealers for a total reimbursement sum of $2.58 billion dollars.  The Department of Transportation had to extend the deadline for filing claims to after noon on Tuesday due to the rush of last-minute submissions taking down the program’s website.

    The end of Cash for Clunkers is likely to cause a significant lull in auto sales for the next few months, but it may only be temporary.  During the program’s implementation automakers began restarting factories and adding shifts for workers to meet the demand.  This may help to kickstart a gradual increase in sales later this year, already predicted by market analysts.

    Gary Ditts, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates is confident that sales will rebound. “Improved consumer confidence and credit availability during the past six months have combined with the CARS program to lift industry sales out of their slumping year-to-date levels, which have been down approximately 35% year-over-year,” Ditts asserted in a press statement, adding that “Reduced inventories will likely hold back some of this momentum, but the automakers are moving quickly to ramp up production and rebuild stock.”

    So when will it be a good idea to buy cars again?  Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds.com, expects prices to fall sharply in the wake of the sales lull and new incentives will be presented to lure customers back to the showroom.

    “I would probably wait until November,” Anwyl stated.

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  • Enterprise Rent-a-Car saved millions of dollars by deleting side-curtain air bags from thousands of fleet vehicles, according to the Kansas City Star.

    Enterprise purchased about 66,000 2006-08 model-year Chevrolet Impalas missing side-curtain airbags.  The lack of airbags saved Enterprise about $175 per vehicle, for a total savings of $11.5 million.

    After the Impalas were removed from fleet service, the rental company and several dealers nationwide made the cars available for resale to consumers.  However, when the cars were advertised online, they were listed as having the missing safety feature.  745 buyers took the company up on their offer, unaware that the cars were missing side-curtain airbags.

    Enterprise maintains that no federal mandates prevented them from omitting side-curtain airbags from the vehicles and stand behind their decision to do so.  The St. Louis- based company did admit, however, that they made a mistake in online advertising.  Enterprise VP for Corporate Communications Christy Conrad stated that there was a “glitch” in Enterprises’s system that listed the cars (only online) of having side-curtain airbags.

    Enterprise plans to rectify the issue by sending letters to every person who bought one of the vehicles explaining the problem.  The company will also offer to buy back the cars at $750 above Kelley Blue Book

    value.

    Roughly 3,000 Impalas have been sold to consumers on Enterprise-owned lots, both properly and improperly advertised.

    GM
    says it has since discontinued the option of removing side-curtain airbags for the 2009 model year.

    Remember: always make sure you know what your fleet is getting when you buy and sell vehicles. Thorough inspections and communications with sellers are essential to ensure the health of new fleet vehicles.

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  • CNN Money has reported that Chrysler Group LLC will discontinue its lifetime powertrain warranty starting with the automaker’s 2010 models.

    Instead of the lifetime warranty, Chrysler will instead provide a 5-year or 100,000 miles warranty for all of its products, according to Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson. Tinson explained that the lifetime warranty was scrapped because consumers were confused by the terms and unhappy with the inability to transfer the warranty to the new owner if the car was sold second-hand.

    Chrysler
    has offered the lifetime powertrain warranty since 2007, which covered the costs of repairs to the engine, transmission, and drive system.  The lifetime warranty replaced Chrysler’s existing 3-year or 36,000-mile coverage.

    The new warranty covers all Chrysler models except for diesel-powered trucks, the Sprinter truck, and Sterling trucks.  The Chrysler-built Mitsubishi Raider and VW Routan are also excluded.

    Fleet vehicles, including limousines and police cruisers, which were not covered under the lifetime warranty are covered by the new 5-year deal.
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  • Penske Truck Leasing has announced the availability of used truck sales direct to consumers through eBay Motors starting this week.  A full range of used vehicles will be available to bidders, including light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks, utility trucks, buses and sedans.  Each vehicle is inspected and meets Penske’s standards for quality.  Vehicles also come with a complete history of maintenance so that prospective buyers will have the ability to make an informed decision.

    “Innovation and entrepreneurship are part of our DNA at Penske Truck Leasing,” said Jack Mitchell, vice president – Remarketing, Penske Truck Leasing. “Leveraging this new sales channel and being among the first major truck leasing companies in our industry to bring used truck sales direct to the retail market via eBay Motors exemplifies this.”

    Penske will also offer financing options through a partnership with netLoan as well as available extended warranties from National Truck Protection, the largest independent used truck warranty company in North America.

    You can visit Penske’s eBay Motors site or for a complete listing of vehicles for purchase, check here.

    Photo courtesy of Scott.Markwell under the Creative Commons License.
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  • When we recently reported on the status of the Cash for Clunkers program, it seemed like the program was on its way to greater success and more funding.  But now it looks like new problems may mean Cash for Clunkers is broken for good.

    Auto dealers are pulling out of the program in large numbers due to concerns that they will not receive reimbursement for the money they have advanced to their customers in exchange for their old vehicles.  Each customer has been eligible for up to $4,500 dollars, resulting in advances of over $1 billion so far.  Slow processing of the paperwork involved in each transaction has left dealers with serious cash flow issues, as well as creating concerns that more deals have been made already than the program can support.  The most recent Department of Transportation figures put the number of deals made at over 457,000.

    General Motors
    is planning to keep the program alive with its dealers by providing cash advances to them in the amount of the federal reimbursement they are currently owed. US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is also doing what he can to reassure dealers, asserting that the government has “put an enormous number of people on the task of processing the paperwork” and that “there will be no car dealer that won’t be reimbursed.”

    The National Automobile Dealers Association released a statement this week saying that it would be best to suspend the Cash for Clunkers program now rather than wait for funds to be depleted: “Given the popularity of the program and the rapid pace at which ‘clunker’ deals are being done, it is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately project the ‘burn rate’ of available funds.”

    Customers are also beginning to lose interest in Cash for Clunkers, making about 40 percent fewer claims than earlier this month.  This is partially due to depletion of eligible customers and customers who are interested in new cars postponing their purchases until prices get back to normal.

    If you have been thinking about utilizing the benefits of Cash for Clunkers, now may be your last chance!  Secretary LaHood has just announced that Cash for Clunkers will end on Monday, August 24 at 8pm ET.  Turn in those clunkers this weekend!
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  • New app proves useful for fleet drivers

    TomTom has announced that its portable navigation application for the iPhone will be available for purchase in the iTunes App Store as of this week.

    “With TomTom for iPhone, millions of iPhone users can now benefit from the same easy-to-use and intuitive interface, turn-by-turn spoken navigation and unique routing technology that our 30 million portable navigation device users rely on every day,” said Corinne Vigreux, managing director of TomTom.  The routing technology mentioned actually uses the driving experiences of other TomTom users to determine the fastest route from one place to another, rather than making assumptions about travel times based on distance and speed limits.

    The TomTom application provides a portable solution to drivers who are already equipped with an iPhone without having to purchase additional GPS equipment.  Combined with the phone’s other business functions, it makes the iPhone an extremely useful device for fleet drivers and managers.

    Other features of the TomTom app include:

    • Navigation software including fast route planning and clear voice instructions
    • Automatic re-routing if a turn is missed
    • Route demo or map of route when trip planning
    • Latest Tele Atlas maps of the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
    Photo courtesy of Flyinace2000 under the Creative Commons License.
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  • The US Department of Energy has released their latest forecast for diesel prices over the next year.  The average price this year is expected to level off at $2.46 per gallon, as was included in last month’s forecast.  The prediction of prices in 2010, however, has risen 5 cents to an average of $2.84 per gallon.

    Diesel prices should remain relatively low in the United States for the next few months before seeing a rise toward the end of the year.  Prices are not expected to rise to the point of 2008’s average of $3.80 per gallon.  Last year saw the highest diesel price in history, with one gallon of fuel costing $4.76.


    The current average price of diesel stands at $2.62, slightly higher than gasoline which is expected to average at $2.34.

    With fuel costs a constant cause of concern for the small business fleet, utilizing efficient fuel practices is important regardless of the price of fuel.  For information on how to maximize your fleet’s fuel efficiency, click here.

    Photo courtesy of futureatlas.com under the Creative Commons License.

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