• The Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report issued by the FBI shows overall motor vehicle thefts in the U.S. dropped by 7.2 percent in 2010. The report shows motor vehicle theft statistics by city population, by county type, by year, and by region.
    The largest drop was in cities with populations between 100,000 and 249,999 with 9.4%. Metropolitan areas saw a larger drop than non-metropolitan areas (11.9% to 11.4%), and the Southern US saw the largest drop of any region with a 9.5% decrease in thefts.

    Ford reported on its website in a related story that 40 to 50 percent of vehicle theft is due to driver error. This includes leaving vehicle doors unlocked and leaving keys

    Ford also provided a short list of basic theft-prevention tips that fleet managers could pass on to their drivers:

    Always take your keys; never leave them in or on your vehicle
    • Always close and lock all windows and doors when you park
    • Park in well-lit areas
    • Keep your vehicle in a garage, if possible
    • Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially where they can be seen
    • Never leave the area while your vehicle is running

    Keep your vehicles safe at all times by following these tips and keeping a close eye on your property. And of course, protect your company from fuel theft with a fleet card!

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  • As part of the marketing campaign for the new A6, Audi of America has launched a new website with its Road Frustration Index, a look at driving conditions across the US and their effects on driver satisfaction and fuel consumption.

    The web-based application takes a look at historical and current data to give a picture of traffic conditions in major US cities    and, most importantly, how much gas the current driving conditions could cause you to waste per trip.

    It may just be a promotional tool, but the site could prove useful if you’re looking to see what traffic is like in your area! You can check the Road Frustration Index for your city at www.roadintel.com.

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  • Fuel efficiency is still a huge concern for fleets, which is leading some to seek more efficient vehicles to offset fuel costs. A new study shows that numbers are climbing higher and higher:

    87 percent of the 1,257 nationwide respondents agree that improving energy efficiency would help increase prosperity for small businesses, according to a report from Small Business Majority, a small business advocacy group. A majority of fleet businesses said that they need more alternatively-fueled vehicles in order remain competitive and grow revenue.

    One in 10 business fleets in the survey have purchased a hybrid, electric or other alt-fuel vehicle; many of those who have not taken these steps indicate an interest to purchase one in the future.

    “The cars and trucks small business owners need simply aren’t available right now,” says John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, in the report’s accompanying press release. He added that he commends the current federal push to increase fuel-efficiency standards, in which 80 percent of survey participants say they would support legislation to push it to 60 mpg.

    About 13 percent report government regulation as the largest problem facing their small business, and almost half cite the uncertainty of the economy and the rising daily cost to operate as strong factors. Only 24 percent of businesses say they are doing “well,” with construction businesses hurting the most.

    Until fuel becomes cheaper or alternatives are easy to find, good fuel management remains the best way to save money on fuel.
    Would you buy more alternative vehicles if they were more affordable and easier to get? Let us know in the comments below.

    [via Business Fleet]

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  • Natural disasters can take a huge toll on small business fleets; In the wake of Hurricane Irene’s track across parts of the US in early September, 11,000 applications for federal disaster loans were made to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

    James Rivera, associate administrator of the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, said in a statement that he believes that number would be much smaller if those businesses had been prepared for disaster before it struck.

    Between 15 percent and 40 percent of businesses fail after a man-made or natural disaster, according to the Insurance Information Institute. But only 35 percent have a plan.

    “From the SBA’s perspective, if you have a solid business continuity plan in place, you really won’t need a disaster loan from us,” Rivera said. “That never hurts my feelings. We never get hurt at the SBA if you don’t need a disaster loan.”

    Rivera shared some tips for preparing your business for disasters:

    • Assess your risk, both internally and externally. Look at what emergencies have occurred in the past, and whether your location is at a physical risk for future damage.
    • Assess critical business functions.
    • Prepare your supply chain. Talk to vendors and find alternatives to back up primary suppliers.
    • Create an emergency management plan for your employees.
    • Back up your computer data.
    • Create a crisis communications plan with up-to-date contact information for all employees, vendors and other business partners.
    • Assemble an emergency supply kit that includes important records, contact information and cash.
    • Review your insurance coverage.
    • Plan for an alternate location if your primary location is unusable.
    • Exercise your plan. Put it on paper and test it regularly.

    “Hopefully, it’ll improve your chances of staying in business, staying in the game once disaster does strike,” Rivera said. “It doesn’t matter where you live. Being prepared just helps.”

    [via Philly Burbs]

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  • A recent class action lawsuit has the state of Florida reconsidering whether police officers can ticket drivers for flashing their headlights. Several counties have already put the practice on hold, with a statewide ban on the practice possible in the near future.

     

    The debate began when Florida motorist Erich Campbell passed two Florida Highway Patrol cruisers parked in the median in December 2009 and flashed his headlights to warn oncoming drivers of the radar patrol. Campbell was immediately pulled over and ticketed for improper flashing of high beams.

     

    "Literally within one minute, they had me stopped on the side of the road," recalled Campbell.

    In August, Campbell filed a class-action lawsuit in Tallahassee against the highway patrol and other state traffic-enforcement agencies, seeking an injunction barring law enforcement from issuing headlight-flashing tickets.

    Campbell's lawyer, J. Marc Jones, claims his client's First Amendment right to free speech was violated. "The flashing of lights to communicate with another driver is clearly speech," he said.

    The flashing of headlights to communicate is common among American drivers, and is generally considered to be harmless. Do you think that flashing your headlights at oncoming traffic is disruptive or dangerous? Leave a comment and let us know.

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  • We’ve said for a long time that telematics, including GPS tracking, are an important part of efficient fleet fuel management. Business Fleet found one small business that found great success with GPS technology. It just goes to show that any fleet can benefit from good fuel management, from large delivery businesses to… portable toilet services:

    Texas-based Mobile Thrones operates six vehicles with a seventh on the way, and began using a commercial GPS product in 2007 that the company has used to manage routes, compare fuel locations, track vehicle mileage and speed, and more.

    “We’re maximizing our time,” says Mobile Thrones CEO Gary Oliver. “We’re not just zigzagging around.”
    Mobile Thrones spends an average of $10,000 a month on diesel for its fleet.

    When Oliver instituted the GPS devices, he had only one employee. “He wasn’t too crazy about it because he thought I was going to use it as a policing device — and I certainly can do that and I do use it as that,” Oliver said.
    But the CEO added that employees are forced to be honest if they make a personal trip on the job. “It will mark their trails pretty well,” he says.

    “There’s no telling how much it’s saved me.”

    While commercial GPS systems are a big help, remember that a complete fuel management system offers telematics as well as purchasing controls and maintenance scheduling, among a variety of other services. By working with a fuel management professional like FleetCards USA, you can save even more!

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  • We all know that increasing fuel efficiency is one of the most important parts of good fuel management. Now a new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study has determined the most effective ways to reduce fuel consumption in light-duty vehicles:

    "Driving a light-duty vehicle in the United States is currently more energy-intensive than using a bus or a train and even flying," said Michael Sivak, research professor at UMTRI. "How can we improve on this performance? Vehicle selection has by far the most dominant effect — the best vehicle currently available for sale in the United States is nine times more fuel-efficient than the worst vehicle."

    Vehicles with tuned engines, properly inflated tires, and the recommended grade of engine oil were found to have up to a 40 percent boost in fuel economy.

    Routing was another important factor found by the researchers. Choosing routes that include highways, flat terrain, and less congestion can yield a fairly dramatic reduction in fuel use: a flat route can yield 15-20 percent better fuel economy than a hilly route, and taking a highway route as opposed to a highly congested route can improve fuel economy for that trip by 20-40 percent.

    Driver behavior also made a mark on fuel efficiency. Driving slower and less aggressively was found to reduce gas usage by 30 percent, while turning off the air conditioner can save up to 25 percent and using cruise control can save 7 percent at highway speeds.

    Remember, using a fleet fuel management solution from FleetCards USA allows you to manage your maintenance and routing automatically, increasing your efficiency immediately. As for driver behavior…that’s up to you!

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  • This week’s Automotive Fleet safety tip is about about pedestrian safety at crosswalks. With more and more people walking and biking in urban areas, it is important to make sure your drivers know how to deal with pedestrians.

    – Most intersections have a pedestrian crosswalk whether or not lines are painted on the street. Most crosswalks are located at corners, but they can also be located in the middle of the block. Before turning a corner, watch for people about to cross the street. Pedestrians have the right-of-way in crosswalks.

    – Crosswalks are often marked with white lines. Yellow crosswalk lines may be painted at school crossings. Most often, crosswalks in residential areas are not marked.

    – Some crosswalks have flashing lights to warn you that pedestrians may be crossing. Look for pedestrians and be prepared to stop, whether or not the lights are flashing.

    Keep your drivers and the people around them safe! Follow these safety tips and continue to encourage good driving habits.

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  • Despite recent reports showing that some businesses plan new hires over the next year, the overall confidence of small businesses has continued to decline, according to a monthly survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

    The survey showed that the organization’s metric for measuring small business optimism as a whole dropped to the lowest level since March of 2010, with one of the largest monthly declines of the last six months. One analyst thinks that recent political troubles could have a lot to do with the drop:

    “The tumultuous debate over the nation’s debt ceiling and a dramatic 11th hour ‘rescue’ by lawmakers did nothing to improve the outlook of job-makers,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg in a statement.

    “Private sector decision makers think longer term and they don’t like what they see. There is little clarity or certainty. When people are uncertain about the future or fear it, they don’t spend or invest, and they chase after protection—and protection is unlikely to come from the government.”

    While this paints a grim picture of the future of small business, remember that managing your money well can help to offset this dip in overall sales revenue. Cutting losses with good fuel management can help to keep your fleet flourishing even in tough times!

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  • With all of the concern over vehicle emissions and environmental issues these days, it seems surprising that any state would be lowering emissions testing. But that’s exactly what is set to happen in the Pacific Northwest, according to Automotive Fleet:
    The State of Washington plans to exempt light-duty vehicles 2009-MY and newer in Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties from emissions testing as of July 1, 2012, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

    For those counties, the changes also allow additional types of businesses to receive authorization to conduct emissions testing on vehicles that still require it (i.e. those older than 2009-MY and those mentioned below).

     

    The new policy makes some major changes to emissions requirements:

     


    • Eliminates gas cap test and dynamometer testing
    • Uses the same test standards for all 1995 model year and older gasoline vehicles
    • Exempts light-duty diesel vehicles from testing
    • Tightens the test standards for heavy-duty diesel vehicles
    • Exempts heavy-duty diesel vehicles if their engines meet 2007 emission standards or they are equipped with an exhaust particle filter

    Anchorage, Alaska is also looking to eliminate some emissions requirements, bolstered by the mayor’s claim that the city hasn’t violated federal air-quality standards for carbon monoxide since 1996.

    Since the tests are only changed for newer-model vehicles, the real environmental results seem to be fairly negligible. But what do you think? Should emissions standards change or stay the same to promote better maintenance?

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