• We’ve talked about the dangers of driver distraction before, but here’s a little reminder to be extra careful on the road.

    Tow truck driver Nicholas Sparks found himself in trouble last week when he crashed into a car, careened out of control through a fence and the house behind it before finally ending up with his truck in a swimming pool.  The cause of the accident?  Sparks was not only text messaging on a cell phone, but was talking on a second phone.

    According to The Buffalo News, Sparks failed to notice a car that had stopped to make a turn and ran into it with his truck, which was towing two vehicles with motorcycles on the bed.  The occupants of the car, 68-year-old Lily White and her 8-year old great-niece Kiara McDowell both sustained injuries in the crash: White hit her head, while the young girl suffered wrist injuries.  Sparks admitted to being distracted by his two phones when he hit the car.

    After colliding with the car, Sparks’ truck flew through a nearby yard and grazed a house, with one of the vehicles in tow colliding with the house.  The truck then broke through a privacy fence and came to rest in the home’s backyard swimming pool.

    An investigation is currently underway to confirm the charges of reckless driving, talking on a cellular phone, and following too closely.  Investigators will examine Sparks’ phone records to make sure he was indeed talking on the phone at the time of the incident.

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  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued strict new regulations on large truck braking standards.  These new regulations aim to save lives on America’s roadways by improving the stopping distance of large trucks by 30 percent.  The program will be implemented gradually over 4 years, beginning with 2012 models.

    The new rules require that tractor-trailers traveling at 60 miles per hour must now be able to come to a complete stop in 250 feet instead of the previous requirement of 355 feet.  This set of regulations only applies to truck tractors and does not affect single-unit trucks or buses.

    The new braking regulations are forecast to save 227 lives annually, prevent 300 serious injuries, and reduce annual property value damage costs by more that $169 million.  The NHTSA hopes that this move will introduce America’s freight-hauling fleets to new brake technologies and accelerate the already steady decline in large commercial vehicles’ involvement in fatal traffic accidents. In 2008, 4,229 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks, down 12 percent from the 4,822 deaths recorded in 2007.

    “Safety is our highest priority,” said US transportation secretary Ray LaHood. “Motorists deserve to know they are sharing the road with large trucks that are up to the safest possible standards, so they can get home alive to their families.”

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  • A heavy-duty diesel fleet in Fontana, California has been fined $22,875 by the California Air Resources Board this week for failing to inspect its vehicles to ensure compliance with state emissions standards.  The ARB confirmed that Dispatch Transportation, Inc. had failed to conduct smoke tests on their vehicles in both 2007 and 2008.

    ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols commented: “To be competitive in today’s economy, being a green business is essential. Proprietors who think business-as-usual means bypassing California clean air laws are making a reputation as dirty dealers.”

    In addition to the fine levied against the company, Dispatch Transportation Inc. must complete several other requirements:

    Staff members responsible for compliance with the diesel truck emission inspection program must attend diesel education courses and provide certificates of completion this year.

    Instruct vehicle operators to comply with the state’s idling regulations.

    Complete heavy-duty diesel engine technology upgrades in compliance with regulations.

    Supply all smoke inspection records to ARB for the next four years.

    Properly label engines to ensure compliance with the engine emissions certification program regulations.

    Most of the money from the fine will benefit the California Air Pollution Control Fund, with the rest allocated to other air pollution resource centers and diesel education class funds.  For some tips on reducing your fleet’s emissions, click here.

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  • This week, Bloomberg has reported that General Motors is planning to begin leasing vehicles again sometime in the month of August. GM suspended their leasing program after slumping resale values drove the auto giant away from the practice.

    GM has yet to reveal which vehicles will be available for leasing but confirms that they are hoping to bring back leasing options “in the critical segments such as luxury,” according to Vice President of U.S. Sales Mark LaNeve.

    LaNeve says that GM’s sales suffered after the termination of the leasing program, especially in luxury vehicles and among potential customers in the Northeastern states.  However, GM spokesmen are skeptical that the success of the leasing program will ever reach the level it previously occupied.

    The automaker has yet to make any decisions on which models will be covered or what the final structure of the leasing program may be. Whether this program will affect GM’s fleet operations has yet to be determined.

    GM’s leasing structure is beneficial to sales of their luxury models, making it easier for customers to eventually purchase the vehicle and supply GM with a final sale.
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  • Last month, Congress approved “Cash for Clunkers,” a program designed to take gas-guzzling older cars off of America¹s roadways by exchanging old vehicles for cash toward the purchase of a new vehicle.  Overwhelming response to the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS, has already stripped the program of its entire $1 billion dollar budget.

    The US Transportation Department, has already called for a suspension of the program to quell demand, but the White House has yet to comply.  Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said regarding the issue, “We are working tonight to assess the situation facing what is obviously an incredibly popular program, auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that all valid CARS transactions that have taken place to date will be honored.”

    Lawmakers are doing everything they can to pump more money into the CARS program.  23,000 auto dealers are currently participating in the program, and the sales-stimulating effects of CARS are already surpassing the program¹s limitations. “There’s a significant backlog of “cash for clunkers” deals that make us question how much funding is still available in the program,” said Bailey Wood, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association.

    CARS serves not only to raise the number of more efficient cars on the road, but has also been vital in stimulating the auto industry. Sales are the lowest they have been in over 25 years, down over 35 percent from this time in 2008.

    “This is simply the most stimulative $1 billion the federal government has spent during the entire economic downturn,” said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich. “The federal government must come up with more money, immediately, to keep this program going.”

    For fleet owners, now may be the last chance to take advantage of the benefits offered by the CARS program. Automakers are hopeful that the program will find new funding, but it is not yet guaranteed. General Motors Co. spokesman Greg Martin said his company hopes “there’s a will and way to keep the CARS program going a little bit longer.”
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  • In 1973, the United States government passed a law restricting the speed limit on all American roads to a maximum of 55 miles per hour.  As soon as the law was enacted, road fatalities began a steady decline that continued until 1987, when the law was changed to raise the speed limit to 65 in select states.  In 1995, the law was repealed completely and states were allowed to set the speed limit on their highways as they saw fit.  Currently, speed limits in the United States climb as high as 80 miles per hour.

    According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, traffic accidents and their impact on human life have increased dramatically since the repeal of the 55 miles per hour maximum speed limit.  Their study found that between 1995 and 2005, about 12,500 more fatalities occurred in traffic accidents than would have been expected with the old speed limit.  Car volume density, population density, variations in fleet sizes, the types of vehicles on the road, vehicle age, and driver habits were all considered when preparing the final data for this study.

    While it may come as no great surprise that driving faster leads to more accidents, the most astonishing thing about higher speed limits is that drivers continue to exceed them every day.  In order to keep your fleet and the drivers with whom they share the road safe, it is essential to inform your drivers about good speed practices.  Vehicle monitoring systems are available to keep track of the speed of every vehicle in your fleet.  Talking to your drivers about safe speed practices will not only keep your fleet running smoothly, but will save lives in the process.  Not to mention that lower speed saves a lot of money on fuel.  For more information on driving safety, click here.

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  • When deciding which vehicles your business will use, the possibilities are endless.  In the auto market, there is truly something for everyone, and that kind of selection can be a bit intimidating for business owners who want to get the most out of their fleet.  That’s why we have taken this time to highlight the most important things to consider when choosing your fleet vehicles.

    -The Right Car For The Job


    Choose a vehicle size that suits your business’ needs.  If you are a remodeling company constantly hauling lumber from one side of town to the other, you will definitely need a larger truck or van to get the job done. The same large vehicle may be a waste of space and gas money for a consulting firm, so don’t go too big if you don’t have to.


    -Count on It


    Find a car that you can rely on. Check the vehicle history report for any previous accidents, and keep an eye on the mileage of older vehicles.  Stick to models well-known for their reliability that are affordable to repair if should they ever need it.  And if you’re sill not sure, have the vehicle inspected before you buy it.  Finding a reliable vehicle means you will never have to worry about losing precious time to repairs.

    -Safety First


    The safety of drivers is the highest priority in commercial driving.  Make sure your drivers are protected by seeking out models with excellent safety ratings.  Make sure the car has all of its airbags in working order and that no previous body work has lessened the vehicle’s structural integrity.  Your drivers will thank you.

    -The Right Look


    Think about the way you want people to perceive your business when they look at your vehicles.  Larger vehicles allow for signage to be incorporated into them, while a smaller, sportier car will showcase a more laid-back business attitude.  Remember that your vehicles say a lot about the way you see your business and will leave a lasting impression on your customers. And finally…

    -Go With the Flow


    Choose the vehicle that feels right for you.  If you have had great experiences in the past with a particular vehicle and want another one of the same, go for it.  If you prefer a little power over fuel efficiency, feel free.  After all, it’s your business and your choice.  Explore. Research. Sign up.  Take your time to find what you want.  You’ll be glad you did.

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  • As fleet vehicles become older and need to be replaced, business owners must decide what to do with the older vehicles.  Generally, the vehicles in question are simply sold at auction or relinquished to a leasing company.  But recently, fleet owners have ramped up programs that offer the out-of service vehicles to be sold to drivers at low cost, which saves companies money in selling costs and offers a valuable benefit to employees.

    For many employees, the prospect of owning a familiar vehicle for a low price is very enticing.  Employee vehicle sales have been met with great success at companies such as Mission Foodservice, where fleet facilities manager Chris Syed confirmed that at least 45 percent of the company’s out-of-service vehicles are resold to its employees.  The program has been consistently successful; Syed reported that “The percentage has remained steady over the past several years.” Mission Foodservice operates a 300-vehicle fleet, leased from LeasePlan USA. With fleet vehicles being replaced every four years or so at Mission Foodservice, there is a steady flow of vehicles in need of new owners.  The vehicle’s regular driver is given the first rights to purchase the vehicle, and the sale is opened to the rest of the company if the driver declines.  The vehicles undergo safety inspections on-site and will not be sold to employees if they have any safety issues.  The best part of the deal for employees is the selling price; drivers pay wholesale price for the vehicle while other employees pay, according to Syed, “somewhere between wholesale and the Kelley Blue Book private party price.”

    The program became so popular that Syed could no longer handle all of the work on her own.  In October of 2006, five years after the program was introduced, Mission Foodservice hired Flexco Fleet Services to handle the overwhelming demand for the program.  Since the move to Flexco, the employee resale program has been just as popular as ever.  Syed remains confident in the need for employee resale.  “Employees love this program. They view it as a bonus.”

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  • In recent years, the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has become common in many consumer and business applications.  For those who may be unfamiliar with RFID, the system consists of a small tag that either transmits or receives radio waves for the purpose of relaying information and the reader that receives that information.  If you have ever driven through the automatic pay lane on a toll road or heard the anti-theft door alarm go off in a retail store, you’ve seen RFID in action.

    RFID easily adapts to fit the desired application.  The tags can be set to send a simple on/off signal (such as the anti-theft application mentioned above) or something more complex like the location of the tagged object in relation to known receiver locations.  The tags can be read by receivers up to several yards away and are cheap to manufacture and utilize, costing between 5 and 20 cents per tag.

    What does this mean for the commercial fleet?  RFID technology is already used extensively by delivery services to provide consumers with the ability to track their package as it is in transit.  By extrapolating this model, commercial fleet owners can easily monitor key areas of their fleet’s effectiveness.  An RFID chip on a vehicle’s cargo doors keeps track of how many times they are opened along a route, and tags on each individual piece of cargo can confirm that the correct cargo was delivered to the correct location at the correct time.  This creates a real-time inventory of the vehicle, erasing any uncertainty that may lead to later problems.  Information about special conditions affecting freight, such as temperature, can be quickly relayed to the driver of the vehicle through an on-board computer.  With the ability to track your fleet’s status in real time, delivery efficiency is increased and the savings in time and money can be passed along to your customers.

    RFID is an affordable solution to many problems of the modern day fleet.  With the help of RFID, your drivers and customers can always be aware of the status of their inventory and delivery. Nothing bolsters consumer confidence more than knowing that their orders are being handled in a safe, efficient, and speedy manner.  With RFID, delivering this kind of security to the customer is not only possible, but easy.

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  • A new study conducted by Better Place shows that almost 30 percent of prospective car buyers in the United States are considering buying an electric vehicle as their next car.  The study, which surveyed several nations, also showed a response of 57 percent in Israel, 40 percent in Denmark and 39 percent in Australia.  On average, the data shows that almost half of the world’s population (a significant 48 percent) are considering the switch to electric transportation.

    Domestically, most of the respondents’ reasons for switching to an electric vehicle hinged heavily on social concerns, including dependence on foreign oil and environmentalism.  Also mentioned by many respondents was a desire to stimulate the US into becoming a leader in renewable energy.  Younger people tended to be more likely to consider electric vehicles.

    With electric vehicles becoming more and more mainstream
    , the choice to switch some of your fleet vehicles to electrics depends on your business model. Do you want your fleet to reflect your commitment to environmental issues?  Are you looking to expand with more fuel-efficient vehicles to cut long-term fuel costs?  If so, electric vehicles may be a good option (and the next best thing to a Fleet card!).

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