• The Department of Energy said Tuesday that diesel fuel prices will average just under $3 a gallon this year, but will rise above that level in 2011.

    Diesel will average $2.97 this year and $3.14 next year, DOE said in its monthly short-term energy outlook. That forecast is down a cent and up a penny, respectively, from last month's outlook.

    Gasoline is expected to average $2.80 a gallon this summer, an increase of 36 cents from last summer. However, DOE forecasted gas to average $2.77 this year and $2.92 next year.

    Diesel averaged $2.46 and gas averaged $2.35 a gallon last year, DOE said.

    Crude oil prices averaged $76.32 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in July, up $1 from June and about in line with DOE's previous forecast of $77 per barrel.

    DOE said crude will average $80 a barrel in the second half of this year before rising to $85 in 2011.

    Make sure your fleet is ready for changing fuel prices with a fleet card from FleetCards USA!

    [via Business Fleet]

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  • The Highway Loss Data Institute has issued its yearly list of the most-stolen vehicles in the United States, with the stately and high-profile Cadillac Escalade topping the list for the 7th consecutive year with 10.8 out of every one 1,000 vehicles stolen, broken into, or stripped of parts.

    The study included only cars from the most recent three model years. These cars are all equipped with anti-theft technologies such as engine immobilizers that prevent hotwiring.  Many of the most stolen vehicles are trucks and SUVs, making fleets particularly vulnerable.

    "That won't stop a determined thief from loading a car on a flat-bed truck," said Russ Rader, the spokesman for the HLDI.

    1. Cadillac Escalade

    2. Chevrolet Silverado

    3. Dodge Charger

    4. Chevrolet Avalanche

    5. Infiniti G37 Coupe

    6. GMC Sierra Crew Cab

    7. Nissan Maxima

    8. Hummer H2

    9. GMC Yukon XL 4WD

    10. Chevrolet Tahoe

    Make sure your drivers are on the lookout for their vehicles and keep your fleet safe!

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  • After five months of investigating sudden-acceleration issues involving Toyota vehicles, U.S. Transportation Department officials said they have identified no safety defects other than the ones reported by Toyota: sticky gas pedals and floor mats that can entrap gas pedals, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

    Speaking to members of Congress on Tuesday, Aug. 10, federal safety officials said that in more than half of the cases of sudden acceleration studied, data collected from the vehicles' "black boxes" -- or event data recorders -- indicated the driver was not applying the brake at the time of the crash. This finding suggests driver error may be at fault. 

    The preliminary report doesn't specify driver error as a cause of unintended acceleration. But people familiar with the investigation have suggested that pedal misapplication -- drivers mistakenly applying the gas instead of the brake -- is a likely cause. 

    In five of the 58 vehicles studied, the data recorders failed to record the conditions in the vehicle at the time of the crash. The recorders from five additional vehicles indicated that the brakes were applied early in the incident or in the middle. In one case both the brake and gas pedals were applied. In another, evidence suggested that the floor mat had likely trapped the gas pedal because braking was sustained.

    Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles globally to address the sticky gas pedal and floor mat entrapment issues.

    [via Automotive Fleet)

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  • It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for another Fleet Safety Tip of the Week from Automotive Fleet!  This week is all about educating drivers on different road markings to encourage proper driving habits:

    Here is an explanation of what all those road lines mean, taken from the California Driver Handbook. You may want to pass this along to your drivers as a friendly reminder. 

    Solid yellow lines mark the center of a road used for two-way traffic. 

    Broken yellow lines mean you may pass if the broken line is next to your driving lane. 

    Two solid yellow lines mean no passing. Never drive to the left of these lines unless you are:

    -Turning left at an intersection.

    -Turning into or out of a private road or driveway.

    -In a carpool lane that has a des­ignated entrance on the left.

    -Instructed to drive on the other side of the road because your side is closed or blocked.  

    Two sets of solid double yellow lines spaced two or more feet apart are considered a barrier. Do not drive on or over this barrier or make a left turn or a U-turn across it except at designated openings. 

    Solid white lines mark traffic lanes going in the same direction, such as one-way streets. 

    Broken white lines separate traffic lanes on roads with two or more lanes in the same direction.

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  • Incentives and federal grants are expected to propel the adoption of hybrid commercial vehicles in North America and Europe, according to a study by Frost & Sullivan.

    Frost & Sullivan's study, "Strategic Analysis of North American and European Hybrid Truck, Bus and Van Market," finds that the hybrid truck, bus and van market is expected to grow from 4,100 units in 2009 to 222,000 units by 2016. The vehicles covered in this study include: light commercial vehicles, medium commercial vehicles, heavy commercial vehicles and buses.

    In the commercial vehicle industry, the return-on-investment potential is a key determinant for adoption of new technologies. Fuel price volatility, government incentives and low lifecycle costs associated with hybrid trucks are all in favor of hybrid commercial vehicles, according to Frost & Sullivan.

    However, hybrid trucks feature energy storage systems, control and power electronics and rotating machines, which are expensive technologies creating considerable cost barriers to potential adopters. Furthermore, storage systems such as batteries must be replaced every four to five years based on the vocational application.

    "Currently, the high upfront cost associated with hybrids is countered with federal grants, incentives and tax rebates," explains Frost & Sullivan Global Program Manager Sandeep Kar. "Although such incentives offer relief in the short term, for hybrids to be commercially viable in the long term, the upfront cost difference should reduce considerably."

    [via Business Fleet]

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  • Any business that operates a fleet is concerned about their drivers’ safety.  With those drivers’ routes taking them through both urban and rural areas, it is important to know the safety risks associated with each environment. USA Today reported on a survey that found drivers may not be as well educated as they should be:

    Drivers feel safer on rural highways and are more likely to drink or engage in distracted driving on these roads, even though rural roads are the most dangerous in the USA, a new survey finds.

    Though 23% of Americans live in rural areas, 57% of highway deaths occur on roads considered rural, according to the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety at the University of Minnesota. The center found that 84% of respondents feel "safe" on rural interstates and 79% on rural two-lane highways, compared with 69% on multilane freeways in urban areas.

    "People seem to feel more comfortable on those roads, even though the facts show that it's more dangerous," says Lee Munnich, director of the center. "They feel more relaxed and, as a result, they are engaging in behavior that is riskier," such as eating or using phones while driving.

    Traffic deaths on rural roads frequently involve single-vehicle wrecks in which drivers crash into trees, utility poles or other stationary objects. The survey appears to reflect drivers' overconfidence in their ability to avoid problems and a fallacy in the way people perceive risk, says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "The more people perceive they have control, the less they perceive a situation as being risky."

    You can read the full results of the study here.

    (Tags: Rural, Urban, Driving, Fleet Safety, Drivers)

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  • Now is a good time to make sure that your fleet is in compliance with upcoming regulations, as one study has found that many are not:

    If the new federal safety-scoring rule CSA 2010 were in effect today, 20% of carriers would be at risk of some sort of “intervention” on the part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), according to a recent analysis done by auditing service RAIR. The company did an in-depth analysis of more than 60,000 fleets to better understand the issues posed by CSA 2010.

    The CSA Basics that are particular problems for carriers vary by fleet size, according to Singh. The smallest carriers are most likely to be deficient in Fatigued Driving. Carriers with 5-15 vehicles are most likely to be deficient in Maintenance, while fleets with 16-20 vehicles are most likely to be deficient in the Unsafe Driving Basic.  Fatigued Driving is the biggest problem area overall for fleets, regardless of size.

    RAIR CEO JJ Singh noted that it stands to reason that larger carriers are more at risk of interventions because they have many more trucks on the highway and are much more likely to be inspected often.

    “An intervention does not necessarily mean that a fleet would be instantly shut down and put out of business,” he added. “It might just be a warning letter first, but fleets had better start looking at their data now instead of waiting until December.”

    RAIR’s analysis was done using the current government methodology, which will be revised somewhat in mid-August according to FMCSA, before the new procedures actually take effect.

    [via FleetOwner]

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  • General Motors and Ford have seen increased sales in the fleet sector compared with July 2009, according to new earnings reports from the American automakers.

    General Motors reported fleet sales for its four brands (Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC) at 50,048 last month. In July 2009, fleet sales totaled 30,423 vehicles, an increase of 64.5 percent in the past year.

    Ford's total July sales (which include fleet) were up 2 percent, reflecting higher sales of Ford's trucks to commercial customers, according to the automaker. The Transit Connect experienced a 531.4-percent sales increase with 2,633 units sold versus 417 in July 2009.

    For both automakers, trucks made up the majority of sales in July. Ford trucks dominated the automaker's sales at 67,147, compared with cars (58,675), and utilities (40,270). In July 2009, cars made up the majority of total sales at 62,176 units for Ford. Similarly, GM truck sales far surpassed the automaker's car sales for the month of July, reporting more than three times the amount of trucks sold (71,584) versus 21,729 cars.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

    (Tags: Fleet sales, Automakers, American, July)

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  • San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom hopes to reduce the number of cars and trucks used by city workers by at least 20 percent within years under a new plan aimed at cutting costs and improving the environmental impact of the city’s fleet.

    The car fleet in San Francisco has long been criticized for being plagued by inefficiencies, abuse, and waste, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Newsom's latest effort would require departments to reduce the number of passenger cars and trucks used by their employees by 20 percent by 2014, according to legislation introduced this week.

    "The more we can reduce our city fleet, the more we'll save money, reduce congestion, and cut local greenhouse gas emissions," Newsom said. "This legislation will expand our efforts to further reduce our city fleet, reduce its size, and encourage greater use of Muni and City CarShare whenever possible."

    The fleet reduction effort will also come with strict reporting and oversight. Each year, department heads would have to submit to the Board of Supervisors budget analyst a report detailing how they are complying with the mandate. If a department head wishes to buy a new passenger car or truck, the purchase request will have to be accompanied by "a written explanation of how the requested purchase complies with The City's Transit-First Policy."

    Have you made cutbacks to your fleet to help the environment or save money?  Let us know what you’ve done by leaving a comment!

    [via Government Fleet]

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  • Federal regulators have announced plans to step up scrutiny of sleep apnea and other health issues affecting truckers, a move that they hope will spur truck drivers to improve their health.

    Truckers are more likely than average Americans to be overweight, which can lead to health problems including sleep apnea. Sleep apnea- the temporary cessation of breathing during sleep- disrupts sleep and causes fatigue, contributing to thousands of crashes a year.

    Doctors involved in authoring federal transportation policy believe that up to 40 percent of professional drivers are significantly overweight.

    Truck driver Marty Ellis blames the job. "Since I went to work here, I've gained 100 pounds — because you're sedentary," Ellis says. "This is your job — to sit behind this wheel."

    "Most of us don't go to the doctor. We just, stay clear of 'em, and we just keep going," Ellis says. "A lot of owner operators out here don't have insurance."

    The American Trucking Associations says nearly a third of drivers are likely suffer from sleep apnea, but the government has never required truckers to be tested for it. Ellis says they've always dealt with it on their own.

    Drivers are encouraged to get exercise any way they can on the road- even walking around one’s truck a few times at each stop can be a significant help.  Drivers could also store a small folding bicycle to get some exercise at rest stops or simply take time to do some basic calisthenics before leaving on a job.  Regardless of the method, remember that your drivers’ health comes first!

    [via Work Truck]

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