• Satellites are responsible for lots of things in our modern times.  They allow for worldwide communication, monitor and predict weather patterns, and even let you know where your next right turn is going to be as you drive to a dinner across town. But now, satellite technology is becoming yet another tool for catching speeders on our roadways.

    The new cameras use a combination of plate-reading technology with GPS receivers to measure average speed over longer distances.  The new system is intended to cover a network of streets, rather than a straight line down a major thoroughfare.

    The system is currently being tested in the United Kingdom, with hopes to deploy elsewhere at a later date. The “SpeedSpike” system, which calculates average speed between any two points in the network, has been developed by PIPS Technology Ltd, an American-owned company with a base in Hampshire, UK.

    Officials hope for the new system to reduce speeding in residential areas and reduce avoidant behavior by speeders, such as leaving main roads to “beat the system.” 

    Concerns have been voiced that such a system would add to already-prevalent government surveillance in the UK, although plate-recognition cameras are already prevalent even in the US.

    Photo courtesy of cliff1066 under the Creative Commons License

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  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head David Strickland addressed attendees at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers’ World Congress Thursday, laying out solutions for some of the safety concerns facing the automotive industry.

    One of the most pressing issues Strickland discussed was the high incident of pedestrian collisions with hybrid vehicles. Strickland said “hybrid electric vehicles do have a significantly higher incidence rate of pedestrian crashes than internal combustion engines for certain maneuvers — like slowing or stopping, backing up, entering or leaving a parking space, and making a turn.”

    Other concerns such as back-over accidents and distracted driving were discussed at the event, but some safety experts are advising the NHTSA not to be too hasty in its fixes.

    “You have to look at the consequences of improving one aspect of a vehicle that it doesn’t harm another,” said David Champion of Consumer Reports.

    For example, wider pillars may prevent roofs from crushing in rollover accidents, but they may impede drivers’ vision.

    A global safety standard for all vehicles was cited as an important goal, as well as releasing new safety technologies as soon as they are ready. Ford’s James Vondale warned that “if you don’t roll [new technology] out when it’s ready, you risk litigation [that you didn’t release it quickly or widely enough].”

    Photo courtesy of adrian8_8 under the Creative Commons License

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  • From Business Fleet:

    Walt Disney World installed GPS-equipped computers in each of its nearly 300 buses, with a goal to reroute buses in real time to handle the heaviest crowds. But critics of the program say the initiative has been a hindrance, with drivers complaining that working with a computer while they operate their vehicles has proven to be a distraction, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

    The program, called Magic in Motion, has led to more-efficient bus scheduling and lower wait times for guests, according to Disney. Features such as prerecorded passenger announcements broadcast automatically rather than by the drivers has made it easier for drivers to concentrate on the road in front of them, Disney contends.

    Under the new program, whenever a Disney World bus completes a round trip, it is issued a new destination based on which stops currently have guests waiting. As soon as a bus finishes one route, a new one is calculated and then displayed on a small computer monitor to the driver’s right.

    But some drivers say the system can be distracting. Each time a bus is nearing the end of its route, the driver must radio to a dispatcher to get a five-digit code that the driver then enters into the computer. The computer then displays the new route, updates the bus’ marquee and even changes the music.

    Adding to the complaining drivers’ argument was the fact that Disney’s bus system recently recorded three crashes in two weeks.

    To help solve the problem of driver distraction, the resort is developing software to automate the process entirely. Disney hopes to roll that out within a year.

    Disney also puts all of its drivers through a four-week training program that ensures they are comfortable with the system and that they have driven all of Disney World’s bus routes, during the day and at night.

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  • It’s Friday, and you know what that means: another edition of Automotive Fleet’s Fleet Safety tip of the week.  This week, we take a look at how to avoid becoming distracted by the monotony of driving long distances:

    On a long and uneventful drive, it’s sometimes easy to find yourself staring down the middle of the road, as if you’re in a trance. In such times, it’s important to remind yourself to keep your eyes moving and scan the scene. You may want to pass this along to your fleet drivers as a friendly reminder. 

    - Take in the whole scene: If you only look at the middle of the road, you will miss what is happening on the side of the road and behind you. Scanning helps you to see:

            – Cars and people that may be in the road by the time you reach them.

            – Signs warning of problems ahead.

            – Signs giving you directions.  

    - Watch for hazards: Look beyond the car ahead of you. Don’t develop a “fixed stare.” Keep scanning. Check your rear-view mirrors every two to five seconds so you know the position of vehicles near you. 

    - On the freeway, be ready for changes in traffic conditions. Watch for signals from other drivers. Expect merging vehicles at on-ramps and interchanges. Be prepared for rapid changes in road conditions and traffic flow. Know which lanes are clear so you can use them if necessary.

    Photo courtesy of Cory Leopold under the Creative Commons License.

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  • We all know that seat belts are important.  About half of the people killed in motor vehicle accidents each year could be saved by wearing a seat belt.  And while most polls show that people agree seat belts are a good idea, only about 83 percent actually use them.

    In an effort to make seat belts more of a necessity than an option, one company is making them an integral part of vehicle operation.  Featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, Lifebelt is a safety belt monitoring system that disables certain features in an automobile if passengers are not buckled up.

    Once installed, the Lifebelt system will not allow the equipped vehicle to start until the driver’s seat belt is fastened.  If anyone in the car unbuckles their belt while the car is running, the radio is shut off and a loud alarm plays until the belt is refastened.

    Lifebelt can be installed in about 30 minutes and does not void any vehicle warranties if properly installed.

    Photo courtesy of L. Marie under the Creative Commons License.

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  • Both UPS and FedEx have long histories of implementing alternative fuels and sustainable business strategies.  Despite the mutual environmental benefit, both companies seem dead-set on claiming the title of “greenest” delivery business.

    The two shipping giants have traded blows over who has the most environmentally-friendly fleet for about five years now, some of them in public.  Both companies have launched marketing salvos at one another mentioning their fleet practices, one of the few topics on which they will do so.

    “What we like to talk about is technology that is forward-looking and things we actually think will be implemented,” said John Formisano, vice president of Global Vehicles for FedEx Express. “That other company talks about only making right-hand turns. Our view is to have the right vehicle on the right route.”

    UPS, on the other hand, has doubts about FedEx’s methodology.  They point out that FedEx does not use the Global Reporting Initiative’sG3” standards to calculate sustainability measures the way UPS does, and are not shy to ask why.

    According to Newsweek, UPS seems to be ahead in the race.  In its list of the top 500 Greenest Companies of 2009 list, UPS was listed at 85, with FedEx trailing at no. 93.

    While both companies have very environmentally-friendly fleets, they still operate large numbers of traditional vehicles.  Alternative-fuel vehicles make up only 4 percent of FedEx’s fleet, and 2 percent of UPS’.

    One thing is for sure about this kind of healthy competition: it can only mean less impact on the environment as a whole; a race where everybody wins!

    Photo courtesy of gwire under the Creative Commons License.

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  • Allowing an alleged five-time drunk-driving offender to drive a company vehicle, along with misuse of funding, is noted in the state-directed audit of a Wisconsin-based nonprofit agency that led to the immediate dismissal of its executive director, reported the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.

    North Central Community Action Program, a nonprofit organization that assists low-income residents in Wood, Marathon and Lincoln counties, is facing scrutiny after a state-directed audit report called for the immediate dismissal of its executive director, Ron Schnyder.

    In addition to the other problems noted in the audit, Schnyder did not take any apparent disciplinary action against an employee who was convicted of fifth-offense drunken driving for an Oct. 20 incident involving a company vehicle, according to the 21-page report. Instead, he allegedly signed a responsibility agreement for law enforcement to release both the employee — who previously had served more than five years in prison for a 1992 drunken driving crash that killed a 9-year-old girl — and the vehicle into his custody, according to the Tribune.

    Aside from that, the audit found organization money was used for the purchase of cell-phone ring tones, the payment of fines to halt arrest warrants, drunken driving assessments, and the payment of an employee’s mortgage.

    Allowing repeat-offending drunk drivers to operate fleet vehicles is not only irresponsible, but incredibly dangerous.  Make sure your drivers understand that their jobs can be on the line for any legal problems and keep your community safe.

    Photo courtesy of stevendamron under the Creative Commons License

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  • Many fleets allow for some personal use of their vehicles by employees.  But how does your fleet’s policy stack up against the standards of other companies?  That’s what Automotive Fleet intends to find out with its 2010 Personal Use Survey.

    The results of the survey will be published in an upcoming issue of Automotive Fleet magazine.

    Take the survey here and contribute some information about your company’s personal use policy.

    The survey ends Friday, May 14.

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  • Flights resume Tuesday after 95,000+ canceled flights

    Even as many flights resume today, international shipping companies still face global disruptions from air traffic closures caused by Iceland’s volcano last Wednesday that spewed ash over Europe, according to a story in Daily Finance  by Bruce Kennedy.

    The article highlights worldwide shipping disruptions rivaling those of the three days the U.S. closed air space in the 9/11 aftermath.

    • FedEx halted thousands of freight shipments from the U.S. bound for Europe to control system backlogs and suspended any promise of overnight or even three-day deliveries to Europe. “We have had to suspend the money-back guarantee,” says Fedex’s Davenport, “because acts of nature beyond our control are not covered.”
    • Last week, UPS’s Norman Black said, “if someone is sending something time-sensitive and it’s international…it’s coming from the U.S. or Latin America or Asia or the Middle East — the short answer is, it’s not moving.”
    • DHL cargo planes were rerouted to alternative hubs such as Bergamo, Italy and, like other carriers, defaulted to ground transportation wherever and however possible.

    After six days and more than 95,000 canceled flights, the Eurocontrol air traffic agency in Brussels cleared just under half of Europe’s 27,500 flights Tuesday, the AP reports.

    Has your fleet been affected by the disruption? Is your business prepared for the unpredictable? Much less than a volcano can negatively blow up your bottom line.

    Photo courtesy of Hello, I am Bruce under the Creative Commons License

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  • Here’s a little feel-good story from the fleet world!

    When Werner Enterprises truck driver Dave Nelson decided to help a stranded motorist on Feb. 10, he saved the life of a seven-year-old girl. 

    Vicki Carter and her mother, Pam, were traveling along I-20 near Birmingham, Ala., on the way to pick up father and husband Air Force Capt. Ryan Carter in Texas when their car ran off the road and hit a sign. Pam jumped out of the car and tried to flag down help for her daughter. Only Nelson stopped. 

    “She was literally out in the road,” Nelson recalled. He moved Pam Carter to safety as she explained that her daughter was still in the car and needed help. 

    Vicki was not breathing and had no pulse. Nelson asked permission from her mother to begin CPR, then swiftly pulled Vicki from the car and laid her on the ground on top of his coat. While performing the lifesaving steps, Nelson conversed with Pam Carter to keep her calm. He learned that Vicki had a heart murmur, just like his own daughter.  Nelson performed CPR until paramedics arrived. 

    “It was so amazing to see this big trucker hold my little girl and do CPR. He kept me calm the whole time and the kindness he showed me really kept me together,” Pam recalled. 

    “It seemed like forever,” Nelson said, “but they told me it was only about five minutes.” Once Vicki was safe with the rescue squad, he continued on his route toward Dallas. 

    “Werner Enterprises is proud of Dave Nelson’s willingness to help others,” said Greg Werner, Werner Enterprises’ president and CEO. “His quick action and determination are very admirable and we couldn’t be more proud to have him on our team.”   

    “Dave Nelson is the reason my baby is alive,” said Pam Carter. “He is a hero and a wonderful man whom we love and admire.” 

    Photo courtesy of altheengineer under the Creative Commons License

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