• A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, commissioned by Ford Motor Co., has found that drivers using voice controls for electronics took their eyes off the road far less than drivers who fiddled with music players and cell phones.

    Shane McLaughlin, a researcher with the Center for Automotive Safety Research at VTTI, says that as he picks apart accident reconstructions, he’s left with one message: “Don’t ever look down.”

    Say McLaughlin, “What we’re finding across our studies is that if we can keep the eyes on the road, that’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

    The study looked at 22 users of Ford’s Microsoft-based Sync voice-activated controls in real-world driving situations. That’s important, says McLaughlin, because many such tests done in labs fail to pick up on how drivers behave in the real world.

    The study found drivers looked away from the road 2.5 times more often when using hand- rather than voice-activated controls for a phone call. It was 10 times more often for operating a music player.

    McLaughlin says the technology is developing so fast that all carmakers should be able to get some kind of voice-control system into their vehicles soon. He says the study shows that if they’re not working on it now, “they should.”

    If distracted driving s a concern for your fleet (and it should be), consider looking into some of these new technologies.

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  • Verizon’s fleet will continue to expand this year as part of the company’s new comprehensive sustainability program, which contains several new initiatives and enhances existing efforts, according to Automotive Fleet.

    Verizon plans to add 1,600 alternative energy vehicles to the company fleet, purchasing more than 1,100 alternative energy vehicles (including hybrid and compressed natural gas-powered aerial bucket trucks and vans) and hybrid pickup trucks and sedans. Verizon will also increase its use of biodiesel and flex-fuel (E-85) to power 470 vehicles. New hybrid aerial bucket trucks replace the diesel generators used in conventional trucks of this type with batteries that can be recharged by the vehicle.

    These initiatives are in addition to a number of sustainability initiatives announced last year. In 2009, the company reduced its CO2 emissions by more than 793 million lbs., while improving its rate of emissions per million dollars in revenue to 60.2 metric tons of CO2 in 2009, from 64.4 metric tons in 2008.

    Drivers of Verizon vehicles conserved 1.7 million gallons of fuel in 2009 as part of the company’s continuing efforts to reduce engine idling, the equivalent of taking 2,800 cars off the road for a year.

    Verizon also operates a fuel cell-powered switching center in Garden City, Long Island, which saves energy and also improves network reliability in the event of a utility blackout. The facility earned the DOE Energy Star Award in 2008.

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  • The U.S. freight transportation industry as a whole – and the trucking sector in particular – is undergoing a massive “re-set” of sorts in reaction to the global economic recession, unpredictable fuel costs, and shipment volumes below what are considered nominal levels for growth.

    ‘John Conkin, senior vice president of GE Capital’s transportation finance division, told FleetOwner that the firm’s recent CFO survey of 539 mid-market companies in seven distinct industries across the U.S. found that many transportation companies are completely re-evaluating how they do business.

    “The transportation industry is much like the other industries where 48% of the CFOs surveyed saw the financial crisis as a fundamental reset in the economy. In other words, they don’t see the economy returning to pre-crisis conditions,” he said.

    “The biggest difference is that the transportation industry has been feeling this downturn for nearly three-and-a-half years,” Conkin stressed. “The net result is a move back to basics, a reliance on their core competencies where they can add the most value to their customers. Transportation executives have had to make tough choices around cost management and expense control, and they have concentrated on deleveraging, paying down debt and maintaining a more conservative balance sheet.”

    Other trends GE Capital sees include: fleets shrinking their size; overall length of hauls decreasing; and trade cycles being extended. “Regulation continues to influence change in the transportation environment and its forcing companies to reinvent the ways they serve their customers,” Conkin noted.

    You can read the rest of this story here.  It may be time to evaluate how your fleet does business and start saving on fuel costs with FleetCards USA.

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  • Summer is coming, and that means the return of the annual gas price spike.  Make sure your fleet makes plans for higher prices and spends wisely! Business Fleet has the story on what you can expect:

    The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasted higher gasoline and diesel prices in its monthly short-term energy and summer fuels outlook.

    The EIA forecasts that gas will be almost 50 cents higher during this summer’s driving season (the period between April 1 and September 30), climbing from $2.44 per gallon to $2.92 per gallon.

    Gas prices are forecasted to average $2.84 in 2010 and $2.96 in 2011, up from $2.35 per gallon in 2009, primarily because of projected rising crude oil prices. 

    Diesel fuel prices averaged $2.46 per gallon last summer, but are projected to average $2.97 per gallon this summer.  Diesel prices are forecast at $2.95 and $3.12 per gallon in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

    Diesel’s national average topped $3 for the first time since November 2008, jumping 7.6 cents to $3.015 a gallon.

    Oil averaged $81 per barrel in March, almost $5 higher than the previous month and $3 over the previous month’s short-term outlook. The Department of Energy

    said it expects crude to average above $81 per barrel this summer, slightly less than $81 for the year, and then rise to $85 per barrel by the fourth quarter 2011.

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  • Convinced that the bulk of its mostly 20-something driver recruits respond best to high-tech instruction and real-world practice, UPS has implemented videogame technology and hands-on learning as training tools, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    With its older generation of drivers retiring in the near future, UPS is looking to boost the effectiveness of its driver training methods and hire 25,000 new recruits over the next five years.

    Driver candidates now spend one week at Integrad, a UPS training center near Washington, D.C. They are trained in the company’s “340 Methods,” prescribed by UPS industrial engineers to save time and improve safety in every task from lifting and loading boxes to selecting a package from a shelf in the truck.

    The new methods include a videogame that places them in the driver’s seat and has them identify obstacles, “kinetic learning” modules where candidates practice loading and unloading packages from a UPS truck, and computer simulations where they drive a real truck and must successfully execute five deliveries in 19 minutes.

    Of the 1,629 trainees who have completed Integrad since it began as an experiment in 2007, only 10 percent have failed the training program, which takes a total of six weeks overall and includes 30 days driving a truck in the real world.

    A second Integrad will open in the Chicago area in the summer, and the training methods will eventually go company-wide, he said.

    What is your fleet doing to train new drivers?  Think about these new methods as you move your company forward.

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  • Via Automotive Fleet:

    “Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other,” is the latest campaign against distracted driving being implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., this month. The pilot programs are designed to test whether increased law enforcement efforts can get distracted drivers to put down their cell phones and focus on the road.

    Drivers caught texting or talking on a hand-held cell phone will be pulled over and ticketed. “It’s time for drivers to act responsibly, put their hands on the wheel, and focus on the road,” said USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

    High visibility enforcement was scheduled to begin in the Syracuse metropolitan area April 8-17, while the crackdown in the Hartford metropolitan area will take place April 10-16. Subsequent enforcement waves in both states will take place throughout the course of the year-long program.

    In 2008 alone, nearly 6,000 people were killed and more than a half million people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver nationwide, according to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Almost 20 percent of all crashes that same year involved some type of distraction.

    “There is no question that high-visibility enforcement combined with effective public advertising works. We’ve seen the results first-hand with national campaigns like Click It or Ticket and Drunk Driving. Over The Limit. Under Arrest,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Distracted driving is a growing problem-the numbers tell the story of these preventable tragedies.”

    Nationwide, six states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving and twenty-one states have enacted texting bans.

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  • General Motors Co. is recalling about 5,000 heavy-duty vans and stopping production and sales because of alternators that could cause engine fires.

    The recall, announced just before midnight Friday, affects some 2010 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana 2500, 3500 and 4500 Series built in February or March. Light-duty versions use a different alternator.

    GM says that until it has a fix for the alternators, customers should stop driving the vans; park them outside, away from buildings or other vehicles; and disconnect both battery cables if possible.

    Few of the vans are owned by retail customers.

    “It’s in the teens,” GM spokesman Alan Adler said. “We’re calling the customers we know who have them.”

    About 1,300 of the vans are in fleets, and GM’s stop-sale order prevents people from renting them. Many vans are still on dealer lots or are awaiting export.

    GM builds the vans in Wentzville, Mo., where 60 percent of the production is typically devoted to heavy-duty models.

    If your fleet operates any of these vehicles, contact GM for further instructions.

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  • Automotive Fleet is back with another Fleet Safety Tip of the week, this time about proper use of high beams.  Listen up and keep your drivers safe:

    This week’s tip, culled from the California Driver’s Handbook, pertains to the use of high-beam headlights during night driving. You may want to pass this along to your fleet drivers as a friendly reminder.

    Use your high beams whenever possible in open country or on dark city streets, as long as it is not illegal. But do not blind other drivers with your high-beam headlights. Dim your lights when necessary. If another driver does not dim his or her lights: 

    • Don’t look directly into oncoming headlights. If you do, both of you may be blinded.

    • Look toward the right edge of your lane.

    • Watch the oncoming car out of the corner of your eye.

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    • Fleet Resources

  • New Fuel-Efficiency Standards approved by the Obama administration on April 1st are expected to reduce carbon emissions and save billions of dollars through greater fuel efficiency, according to the Detroit News.

    Car and truck fuel efficiency will increase to 34.1 miles per gallon for a 40-percent boost in fuel economy, while greenhouse gases will be reduced by more than 30 percent by 2016.

    NHTSA predicts that passenger cars will have to average 33.3 mpg in 2012, and 37.8 mpg in 2016. Light trucks, including SUVs, pickups and vans, will be required to average 25.4 mpg in 2012 and 28.8 mpg by 2016.

    The government says the total value to society in reduced gasoline use and lower emissions will be about $240 billion.

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  • Iowa has become the 21st state to ban text messaging by all drivers and the 23rd state to ban novice drivers from using any wireless communications device behind the wheel. 

    Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed the bill on April 1, with the new law going into effect July 1.

    “This is all about keeping our roads safe, and it will benefit everyone,” Culver said.

    For adult drivers, a violation is considered a secondary offense; police cannot pull someone over for texting, but can issue a citation as a part of a non-related vehicle stop.

    Drivers with intermediate licenses are also prohibited from talking on any hand-held device, especially those under 17 years of age. Officers can enforce the ban against these drivers as a primary offense.

    Do you support the texting bans?  Is your fleet doing its part to stop texting and driving? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

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