• Officials for the Port of Los Angeles have announced that they are pursuing a plan to offer a discount on international tariffs for zero-emission vehicles imported into the U.S. via the port. 

    The reduced fees were proposed in April when Chinese manufacturer BYD Auto Co. Ltd. announced that it would be building its North American headquarters in Los Angeles and using the city’s port to import its vehicles.  The deal could be an important boost to California’s suffering economy, and the city is eager to please its new partner.

    “This unique tariff incentive will become an important business opportunity for port customers,” added Port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz. “The city has leveraged many of its resources to bring BYD to Los Angeles. The port is proud to play a key role in this effort and in the mayor’s overall strategy of finding new ways to advance L.A.’s position as an emerging hub for clean tech industries.” 

    The proposal is for a 15 percent reduction of wharfage rate for battery-powered electric vehicle shipments.  The port hopes to pass the measure through the appropriate channels and have the new rates in place by September of this year.

    BYD’s Los Angeles headquarters will be responsible for sales, marketing and research and development for its automobiles and energy products, which include solar panels, LED lighting systems and other renewable products.

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  • Arizona is ending its program that put speed cameras along Phoenix-area freeways and in vans deployed across the state, according to Yahoo News.

    Even Gov. Jan Brewer has said she doesn’t like the cameras, and her intention to end the program was first disclosed in her January budget proposal. That was followed by a non-renewal letter sent by the Arizona Department of Public Safety this week to the private company that runs the program.

    Scottsdale-based Redflex said May 6 that the 36 fixed cameras will be turned off and the 40 vans taken off highways on July 16, the day after its state contract expires.

    The mobile and fixed cameras snap the photos of speeders going 11 mph or over the speed limit, and violators get tickets in the mail. Supporters said the cameras slow down drivers, reduce accidents, and free up law-enforcement officers for serious criminals.

    The state’s decision is a setback for supporters of speed-enforcement cameras, said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Washington-based Governors Highway Safety Association.

    “We need to look and see what happened in Arizona why didn’t it work,” he said.

    The end of the state program does not affect local governments’ use of cameras for speed enforcement, but the proposed ballot measure would prohibit state and local governments from using cameras for both speed violations and red-light running, reported Yahoo.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • The city of Albuquerque has announced that it will no longer be using alternative-fueled vehicles in its fleet in order to cut costs, according to KOAT.com and Government Fleet

    “With the downturn in the economy, there’s an opportunity for us to reduce our operating costs, at the same time, reduce maintenance costs,” said Director Of Solid Waste John Soladay.  Maintenance costs on emergency vehicles were also cited as a major factor in the switch.

    While it is true that regular unleaded gasoline is slightly cheaper and more efficient than the alternative fuels the city had been using, this change presents an important question: are cleaner fuels worth increased costs?

    While alternative fuels may be costly in the short run, it is important to note that the price of gasoline has a tendency to steadily rise and occasionally spike.  If you find your fleet presented with this choice, ask yourself whether you want to save money in the short run or the long run.  Leave us a comment and let us know how your fleet handles this decision!

    And remember, you can always save on your fuel budget with FleetCards USA.

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  • Twenty-eight million risky driving events have been captured on video using an in-vehicle camera system.

    SmartDrive Systems announced it topped the 28-million mark in the number of risky driving events captured by itsin-vehicle SmartRecorder,used by professional fleets and corporations to improve driver performance,reduce accident claims, and save lives.

    Risky driving includes fundamental driving errors – everything from failure to yield and incomplete stop at a stop sign, to unsafe lane changing and following at an unsafe distance. It also encompasses distracted or inattentive driving such as driving while talking on a mobile phone, texting, smoking or driver fatigue.

    When triggered by speeding, erratic maneuvers, or driver activation, the SmartRecorder saves 30 seconds of video and audio, as well as GPS location, speed, and other accelerometer and vehicle computer data no other solution captures this breadth of data for each event. This multi-dimensional information allows the company to identify the root cause of incidents. Where as accelerometer data can detect hard braking or sudden swerves, it cannot pinpoint why the events happened – only a comprehensive solution which incorporates video, audio and other input can reveal the full event picture.

    Make sure your drivers know about good driving habits and are trained to avoid risky behavior.  You may want to pass this along as a reminder!

    [via AutomotiveFleet]

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  • We’ve talked a lot here about the bans on in-vehicle cell phone use that are materializing in many states.  But here’s a story about one state that has turned down such a ban based on what they say is unfair treatment:

    The Louisiana House sidetracked a bill May 6 that would have banned truck drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones while driving, according to BusinessWeek.

    The proposal failed in a 49-41 vote on the House floor. It needed 53 votes to pass. The original version of the legislation applied to only commercial drivers, but was amended in committee to apply everyone on the road. Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, proposed an amendment that made the bill again apply only to truck drivers, and that change passed.

    Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, opposed the change, favoring a ban that would not single-out truck drivers and would instead apply to everyone.

    Meanwhile, a bill with the more sweeping ban sought by Barrow that would prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones was shelved in the House May 6 after it was amended to making phone use a secondary offense, rather than a primary one. That would mean police couldn’t stop drivers just because they see them talking on the phone.

    The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, declined to take a final vote on the measure after the change was made. Badon could bring the bill back up later.

    Both Stiaes’ and Badon’s bills would allow drivers to talk using hands-free devices.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • Business Fleet and Edmunds take an informative look at the costs of owning vehicles in different states and the significant differences between them:

    A study by Edmunds.com shows that owning a vehicle in Alaska, California or Hawaii over a five-year period is about $10,000 more expensive than owning the same vehicle in New Hampshire, South Dakota or South Carolina for the same duration.

    The average cost of a vehicle over 5 years in New Hampshire was $39,136 while the same vehicle cost $47,990 to own in Connecticut for the same period.

    This study employs data from Edmunds.com’s True Cost to Own tool that projects model-specific, regional average vehicle five-year ownership costs, consisting of depreciation, financing, taxes, fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance and repairs for new and used vehicles. The tool is available at no charge to Website visitors, and provides ownership cost information for both new and used vehicles.

    Keep this in mind the next time you look at new fleet vehicles and budget accordingly!

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  • Chrysler is currently offering zero-percent financing on most 2010 Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram truck vehicles financed through GMAC Financial Services.  The incentive program will run through June 1st, giving buyers a few weeks to take advantage.  If you’re looking for new fleet vehicles, you may want to consider some of the following offers (more offers are detailed at Business Fleet):

    Chrysler Brand

    Consumers purchasing 2010 model year Chrysler brand vehicles can choose zero-percent financing for up to 60 months, 1.9 percent financing for 72 months through GMAC Financial Services, or Consumer Cash of up to $3,000.

    Jeep Brand

    Consumers who purchase Jeep brand 2010 model year vehicles can choose zero-percent financing for 36 months or attractive financing rates for longer terms or up to $4,000 Consumer Cash.

    Dodge Brand

    Consumers purchasing most 2010 model year Dodge brand vehicles can choose from zero-percent financing for 36 months or Consumer Cash of up to $3,000.

    Ram Truck Brand

    Consumers who purchase most 2010 Ram truck vehicles can choose from zero-percent financing for up to 60 months, or Consumer Cash of up to $3,000.

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  • Friday Recall Roundup

    May 07, 2010

    Here’s a rundown of some of the vehicle recalls from the last week.  If your fleet uses any of these vehicles, make sure that you contact the manufacturer for further information to keep your drivers safe:

    Honda Motor Co. is recalling about 167,000 MY 2004-2008 Acura TSX cars because of the risk of a fire occurring under the hood. In certain vehicles, high temperatures under the hood could eventually cause the power steering hose to crack and leak power steering oil which could pose a fire risk or cause burning.  The recall begins this month. Vehicle owners can reach Acura at (800) 382-2238.

    General Motors Corp. is recalling more than 162,000 MY 2006-2010 Hummer H3 vehicles because of a problem with the hood louver. Over time, fractures in attachment hardware could the hood louver could detach from the vehicle. If the vehicle is being driven at the time, this poses a major safety risk. To remedy the problem, dealers will apply an adhesive to the hood louver to secure it to the hood. This service will be performed without charge. Vehicles owners can contact Hummer at (800) 732-5493 or http://www.gmownercenter.com.

    Nissan North America is recalling more than 134,000 MY 2005-2007 Infiniti G35 coupes and MY 2005-2006 G35 sedans because of an airbag issue. The wire harness connecting the belt tension sensor and the occupant detection sensor control unit under the front passenger seat can experience movement, oxidizing the terminals and impeding deployment of the airbag.  Nissan said no injuries have been reported because of this condition. The automaker will develop a plan to remedy the problem.

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  • 40 percent of consumers still feel they don’t know enough about electric vehicles to consider one for their next purchase and have high standards to adopt the technology, according to a new poll from Cars.com

    While the majority of consumers are still unsure of the technology, 36 percent of respondents said they would consider an electric vehicle for their next purchase while 24 percent said they would not.

    “Electric cars still face many hurdles in the minds of consumers who have range anxiety,” said Cars.com Editor and Chief Patrick Olsen. “When asked for reasons they would not purchase an electric car, 54 percent said they feared they would run out of electricity while out on the road, while 43 percent said they drive distances greater than electric technology will currently allow.”   About a quarter of respondents expected at least 400 miles per charge.

    In addition to driving concerns, the implications of charging their vehicles becomes a problem for many potential customers. A total of 36 percent said they don’t have or don’t want to pay for an electrical outlet in their garage for charging an electric vehicle. They also demand relatively short charging cycles, with 41 percent indicating it should take less than two hours.

    This survey was conducted online by Impulse Research, on behalf of Cars.com, with a random sample of 1,030 men and women, 18 and older. Cars.com said the sample was carefully selected to closely match U.S. population demographics and the respondents are representative of American men and women 18 and older. The overall sampling error rate for this survey is +/-3 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence, Cars.com said. 

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  • Last week’s record flooding rains left most of the streets of Nashville, TN underwater. Now, a week later, conditions are beginning to improve; however, many roads are still closed, causing ongoing trouble for residential and commercial traffic in the area.

    Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has declared 52 of the state’s 95 counties to be disaster areas, making the affected area eligible for federal emergency assistance, a move backed by President Obama.  Davidson County, in which the city of Nashville is located, is finally beginning to reopen some streets and highways thanks to this aid.

    The flooded streets of Nashville have been a major headache for drivers in the area since last week’s storms, although no long-term damage to the city’s traffic infrastructure are likely.  As more streets become passable, fleet operations and other commercial traffic within Nashville should return to normal fairly smoothly.  For now, some major roads such as portions of Interstate 24 and Vietnam Veterans Boulevard remain closed.

    The Cumberland River, the main source of the flooding, is expected to fall below its 40-foot flood state today, allowing real cleanup and repairs to begin in a wider area. 

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