• Saves fuel, reduces emissions, recharges truckers

    Truck stops have long been places of comfort and routine: get a hot meal, shave and shower and maybe browse the 80’s Greatest collection of discount cassette tapes before retiring to the rig’s sleeper.

    Historically, the engines idle away into the night, powering heaters/air conditioners, radios, mini-fridges, cable TV, internet, and cabin lights surrounded by acres of others parked nearby doing the same thing — dreamily counting sooty grey sheep leaping through clouds of exhaust.

    So when we came across CR England Girl,
    her latest blog topic “Electrified Truck Stops” caught our attention. (It should be noted her blog tagline, “The World of Trucking Through a Female Perspective” is equally as interesting and possibly a future blog subject.)

    Instead of idling,
    Truck Electrified Parking (TEP) allows truckers to run a cable through their cab window, powering their various devices at a significantly cheaper than the cost of diesel fuel required to idle an engine all night. The cost is around a $1.00 per hour, compared to more than $2.22 for a gallon of diesel.

    These savings are also passed along to the environment.
    Washington state’s Department of Ecology (DOE) re-released a report called “Focus on Engine Idling at Truck Stops” last September, stating that “more than 500,000 heavy duty long-haul diesel trucks with sleeper cabs travel the United States. Over a period of one year, a single long-haul truck emits 20 tons of air pollution from idling alone.”

    According to
    http://www.climatetrust.org, 275 electrified parking spaces at 7 truck stops would offset 90,000 metric tons carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking 17,928 cars off the road for a year.The DOE says that over a five-year period, using these TEP parking spaces just 50 percent of the time will result in:

    • Engine idling reduced by more than five million hours.
    • Diesel fuel consumption reduced by more than five million gallons.
    • Savings to truck or fleet owners of more than 15 million dollars in fuel costs.
    • Greater comfort and safety for truck drivers (less engine noise means more well-rested drivers)

    If you want to “plug-in,” The U.S. Department of Energy and the Federal Highway Administration created the Truck Stop Electrification Site Locator, as we learned from CR England Girl. Just enter an address and it will list electrified truck stops near you.

    Photo copyright of
    respres under the Creative Common license

    Categories
    • Industry News


  • Small businesses and the value of social networking

    LinkedIn, Facebook and now Twitter…It might seem like once you get one figured out, the rest of the internet society has moved on to a newer, more trendy site for social networking. These days, that site is Twitter. Twitter is a free micro-blogging service that allows you to post texts and follow the messages of others who use the service.

    You might have heard about the controversy around NBA star Shaquile O’Neal “tweeting” during half-time of a game he was playing in, or how a congressman compromised his own safety by announcing he had landed in Iraq.

    In addition to athletes and congressman, businesses are also using Twitter.

    How can Twitter help your business?

    Many companies are using the service as a platform for making timely announcements, whether it’s the soup of the day at a restaurant, a real estate firm announcing a new hot property on the market or a baseball team giving away tickets.

    More than it’s topical applications, many smaller businesses are looking at Twitter and other social networking sites as a means to build relationships, get referrals and in the new tech-savvy world we live in, build up credibility.

    Some actually see the platform as replacing the more traditional means of marketing because of how impersonal it can be, while critics think that the endless flow of meaningless information is going to reach a saturation point that consumers will begin to block out. While it might be nice to know what your favorite restaurant is serving for lunch, do you really need to know what your mechanic is eating for lunch?

    While that is a fair question, small businesses can not only use social networks as a way to disseminate information, but as a means to collect information and study the habits of their consumers and the trends they are following. A daily focus group if you will.


    It’s recommended that smaller businesses begin tracking the people you feel are the right target for you business, use your own photo rather than a company logo so that people can see who they’re connecting with and take the time to introduce yourself to people who are following you. In short, treat followers how you would treat them in person. They are essentially customers in the door already.

    The lesson learned should be that if you are going to use Twitter or Facebook to build your business, take the time to do it right. Stay consistent. And realize that it’s just as easy to hurt a relationship with your customers as it is to build one.

    Follow FleetCards USA on Twitter!

    Categories
    • TrendWatch


  • With 86,099 total vehicles, AT&T is now the nation’s biggest fleet, as reported Automotive Fleet. AT&T beat out UPS, last year’s largest fleet, by more then 13,000 vehicles. Verizon Wireless is now the third-largest fleet with 64,688 vehicles.

    Top Fleets Nationwide:

    AT&T: 86,099 vehicles

    UPS: 72,633

    Verizon Wireless: 64,688

    Food/Beverage:

    Coca-Cola Enterprises – 28,038 vehicles

    Pharmaceutical:

    Johnson & Johnson – 9,850 vehicles

    Tobacco:

    R.J. Reynolds Tobacco – 2,199 vehicles

    Each year, Automotive Fleet conducts a survey to rank the nation’s largest fleets across different industries. Results are published in the May issue of the magazine.

    Categories
    • Industry News


  • Identity theft has been a hot topic for some time, but as news about the economy continues to make people anxious, corporate fraud has also become a real issue.+

    The Federal Trade Commission’s website has an extensive list of tips and tricks to protect yourself from identity theft. However, the same tips that you use to keep your personal finances protected should also apply to your company’s finances.

    Below is a list of some of the most helpful tips from the FTC site:

    DO:

    • Sign your credit cards as soon as they arrive
    • Keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates, and the phone number and address of each company in a secure, preferrably locked, place
    • Keep an eye on your card during the transaction, and get it back as quickly as possible
    • Void incorrect receipts
    • Destroy carbons
    • Save receipts to compare with billing statements
    • Open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly, just as you would your checking account
    • Report any questionable charges promptly and in writing to the card issuer
    • Notify card companies in advance of a change in address

    DO NOT:

    • Leave cards or receipts lying around
    • Sign a blank receipt. When you sign a receipt, draw a line through any blank spaces above the total
    • Write your account number on a postcard or the outside of an envelope
    • Give out your account number over the phone unless you’re making the call to a company you know is reputable. If you have questions about a company, check it out with your local consumer protection office or Better Business Bureau

    These are just a few — but important — tips on fraud prevention from the FTC web site.

    What would you add to the list?

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • 50 years ago, a Volvo engineer invented what we now know as the three-point seatbelt. The seat belt has undoubtedly saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but some experts counter that it may also be the cause of many accidents.

    Sound strange? William Exkenberger of Smithsonian magazine theorizes that due to “risk compensation,” people who wear their seatbelts feel more prone to dangerous activity since they feel more secure. When a driver feels safer because they are wearing their seatbelt, they tend to make choices that they wouldn’t if they were not wearing their seatbelt.

    We always encourage our drivers to buckle their seatbelts, and hope you do the same. Consider the following statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
    • Seatbelt usage nationwide was 83% in 2008
    • The NHTSA estimates that 15,147 lives were saved in 2007 by the use of seat belts.
    • If all passenger vehicle occupants over age 4 wore seat belts, 20,171 lives (that is, an additional 5,024) could have been saved in 2007
    • In 2007, 33 percent of passenger car occupants and 37 percent of light-truck occupants involved in fatal crashes were unrestrained

    Photo copyright of Rebecca Herbster and used under the Creative Commons license

    Categories
    • Industry News


  • A recent story that should be of interest to fleet managers and small business owners in general showed up in the news earlier last week, where a former employee was arrested for accumulating thousands of dollars in personal charges on a company card.

    Tami Nation Trull, who used to work at the Sunshine House school in Greenwood, South Carolina, was brought into custody by authorities after running up personal charges on an American Express Business Card and a Wright Express fleet fuel card.

    Trull had worked for the company for 10 years and had access to the company card as a part of her job where she made travel arrangements for other employees, but over time had used these cards to pay for items for herself and family members that included airfare, hotel rooms, rental cards, tickets to a variety of events, meals and much more. Trull’s charges quickly added up to more then $20,000 in unauthorized expenses.

    Unfortunately for you and your business, hearing stories like these are not that uncommon.  The challenge is being able to trust employees–especially if they’ve worked with you for as many years as Trull had for her company–but also creating a system of accountability so that there is more than one person looking at what is being spent on your cards.

    For fleet managers in particular, entrusting a number of drivers with gas cards can prove to be a challenge. However, many fleet fuel cards allow you to monitor spending and put controls on what can and cannot be purchased on your company’s card. If you’re not already set up and working with these controls, be sure to contact your fleet card provider as soon as possible to ask about how to set them up.

    The Sunshine House would also have benfitted from a corporate lodging card. Similar to a fleet card, a corporate lodging card will set restrictions on the types of hotels your employees can stay at (since they may want to stay at the W, but the travel budget is more Best Western) as well as electronically audit your hotel bill before your card is charged.

    You’ll sleep better at night knowing there’s one more layer of protection over your company’s expenses.

    Categories
    • Small Business Help Tips


  • It’s Friday, which means it’s time for our next Friday contest.

    Last week, we wanted to know what the best excuse you’ve heard for a missing receipt, and we want to extend our congratulations to Twitter commenter, MissT09, who had a driver tell her their receipt got wet and was unreadable. Guess it’s better then the dog eating it….

    Now we want to know: what’s the craziest thing someone ever tried to claim as a business expense?

    Post your answer below or on Twitter, and we’ll award the best answer another $50 MasterCard© giftcard.

    Categories
    • Friday Contest


  • We were going to try to take the weekend off, but the demand for more CB lingo was too much. The requests coming were so fast and furious we had to tell everybody to keep their flaps down and give us a little time to pull together our favorite lingo from starting with the letters E-F. So, grab a forty weight and enjoy.

    Starting with E-F, here are some of our favorites:

    E

    Ears- Receiver / Radio

    Eastbound -Vehicle moving in the eastern direction

    Eighty-eight’s around the house – Good luck and best wishes to you and yours

    Eyeball’s -Headlights

    Everybody must be walking the dog- All channels are busy.

    Evil Knievel -Motorcycle cop

    F

    Fake brake- Driver with his foot on the brake

    Fat load- Overweight truck load

    Feed The Bears -Paying a speeding fine or ticket

    Flaps down -Slow down

    Flop box -Motel, or room in truck stop

    Forty weight -Coffee (sometimes Beer)

    Forty fours – Childern; kisses

    Full of vitamins – Running full bore

    Check back with us next week as we keep rolling down the alphabet highway, or you can get a dictionary full of terms from the book, Woody’s World of CB.

    10-4 Rubber Duckie. Hope you don’t have to feed the bears anytime soon.

    Categories
    • Fleet Resources


  • Last summer’s high gas prices resulted in a significant drop in the number of drivers on the road, but even though it’s not so painful at the pump these days, a recent study shows that there is still a decline in that amount of miles we’re traveling across the nation’s highways.

    According to recent estimates, compared with numbers from January 2008, there were 7 billion fewer vehicles miles traveled, or 3.1 percent less during the same month this year.

    According to an article posted on Automotive Fleet, that decline continues a trend in which the steepest drop was in rural driving, specifically across middle America, where 12 states from Ohio to the Dakotas saw 6 percent fewer miles traveled compared to a year earlier.  Ohio claimed the largest decline of any state, seeing a drop of 10.2 percent.

    The only states to see an increase in travel were out West, where 13 states including Hawaii and Alaska rose a modest .2 percent.

    So, why the decline and how does it impact you?

    New numbers come out everyday indicating that the current economic situation is causing businesses, the workforce and families to look at ways to be more efficient and are spending less in general.

    Trucking companies are also becoming much more cost and time effective with smarter travel routes.  Also, the use of hybrid vehicles may be impacting fuel sales in ways that are finally starting to register on a national scale.  Similarly,
    the American Public Transportation Association recently reported that 10.7 billion trips were made on public transit in 2008, which represents a four percent increase over 2007, a trend that seems to have continued into the current year.

    For you this means traffic conditions for your fleet should be a little lighter…and maybe cut down on the number of people out there who think they own the road, when everybody knows that you do.

    For more information on these findings check out the full article here.

    Categories
    • Industry News


  • Cell phones nation’s leading driver distraction

    Deborah Matis-Engle was speeding and text messaging when she slammed into a line of vehicles stopped at a construction zone in August 2007, killing 46-year-old Petra Winn, a passenger in one of the vehicles, according to the New York Times.

    The report says the 49-year-old woman was in the middle of paying several bills when she struck a vehicle that burst into flames.

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Motorists reports that 6 states, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah, and Washington, all have implemented a state-wide ban on driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone. 10 states have also banned driving while texting (DWT).

    What does this mean for businesses whose drivers depend on cell phones to get the job done? Business practices may need to change if some states get their way.

    Businesses are increasingly prohibiting workers from using cell phones while driving to conduct business. Exxon Mobil and Shell are examples of large companies that ban employees’ use of any type of cell phone while driving during work hours.

    The IIHSM also found that motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

    Maybe it’s time for a little common sense. For the same reasons that portable electric razors can be used for a clean close shave while driving, cell phones can send emails, text messages and pay bills from the road, and yes it’s possible to do a crossword puzzle at a stop light, but it doesn’t mean you should.

    Sure, business runs on productivity. But it goes nowhere when your drivers get locked up for doing too much behind the wheel.

    For a complete list of cell phone laws across the United States, click here.

    Photo copyright of
    Benimoto and used under the Creative Commons license

    Categories
    • Industry News