• We spend a lot of time talking about the dangers of distracted driving, but what happens when the technology we see as distracting becomes necessary?  The New York Times offers some insight on distraction among emergency workers:

    They are the most wired vehicles on the road, with dashboard computers, sophisticated radios, navigation systems and cell phones.

    While such gadgets are widely seen as distractions to be avoided behind the wheel, there are hundreds of thousands of drivers — police officers and paramedics — who are required to use them, sometimes at high speeds, while weaving through traffic, sirens blaring.

    The drivers say the technology is a huge boon for their jobs, saving valuable seconds and providing instant access to essential information. But it also presents a clear risk — even the potential to take a life while they are trying to save one.

    Philip Macaluso, a New York paramedic, recalled a moment recently when he was rushing to the hospital while keying information into his dashboard computer. At the last second, he looked up from the control panel and slammed on his brakes to avoid a woman who stepped into the street.

    In April 2008, an emergency medical technician in West Nyack, N.Y., looked at his GPS screen, swerved and hit a parked flatbed truck. The crash sheared off the side of the ambulance and left his partner, who was in the passenger seat, paralyzed.

    The use of such technology by so-called first responders comes as regulators, legislators and safety advocates seek to limit the use of gadgets by most drivers. Police officers, medics and others who study the field say they are searching to find the right balance.

     “We’re dealing with the carnage, which ranges from the trivial to the tragic, of distracted driving,” he said. “We should know better.”

    Researchers are working to reduce the risk. At the University of New Hampshire, backed by $34 million in federal financing, they have been developing hands-free technology for police cars.

    For the full article, click here.

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  • It’s official: Ford’s replacement vehicle for the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor will be an all-new vehicle built on the bones of the automaker’s successful Taurus model. Automotive News has the story:

    Ford Motor Co. said today the Ford Police Interceptor is a purpose-built police vehicle engineered to exceed the Crown Victoria’s durability, safety and performance record. Production begins in late 2011 when Crown Victoria production ends. An all-wheel-drive model also will be offered.

    “Police nationwide asked for a new kind of weapon in the battle for public safety, and Ford is answering the call with a purpose-built vehicle — engineered and built in America — that’s as dynamic as it is durable,” Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, said in a statement.

    Ford also announced today that a second pursuit model, an unnamed utility vehicle, vehicle will be offered to police agencies. Details will be released in the third quarter.

    The Ford Police Interceptor will be available with two powertrains: the 3.5-liter V-6 with an estimated 263 hp and the EcoBoost 365-hp twin-turbocharged, direct injection 3.5-liter V-6. The 365-hp engine model is equipped with all-wheel drive.

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  • The American Trucking Association (ATA) is but the latest group to call on Congress to beef up highway funding to expand and repair existing infrastructure in order to improve the nation’s economic competitiveness in global markets.

    “An efficient highway system is the key to a fluid global supply chain, which in turn is a fundamental element of a growing and prosperous economy,” said Tim Lynch, senior VP with ATA, in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development, and related agencies.  “(But) the U.S. has been living off the transportation infrastructure built by past generations,” he said. “Our failure to keep up with the demands imposed on these systems by population and economic growth has weakened the nation’s competitive position relative to other countries.”

    Lynch added that America’s highway system connects all parts of the nation’s multimodal transportation logistics system including ocean and river ports and railroads, facilitating the movement of virtually all goods throughout the U.S. As a result, trucks to move 70% of U.S. freight tonnage today and are projected an even greater share in the future.

    “Highways will continue to play a vital role in our nation’s supply chain,” he said. “However, the highway system no longer meets our nation’s demands.”

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  • Scott Beeson, the former Ferrellgas fleet manager who pled guilty in April 2009 to embezzling $3.5 million from the company, was sentenced in federal court March 11 for wire fraud and money laundering related to his embezzlement, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Beeson, 53, of North Kansas City, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to four years and three months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Beeson to pay restitution to Ferrellgas.

    On April 22, 2009, Beeson pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Beeson admitted to engaging in a fraudulent scheme to embezzle $3.5 million from Ferrellgas between January 2002 and March 2008.

    Beeson admitted that he created invoices purportedly from a Ferrellgas vendor, Helgers Trucking and Sales, for work that was not done. Beeson, in his position as fleet manager, approved and submitted the false invoices from Helgers Trucking to the accounts payable department. When Ferrellgas issued checks to Helgers Trucking, the company returned 95 percent of the funds to Beeson. Beeson then deposited or had funds credited to his personal bank account or to the bank account of Prominent Youth, Inc., a non-profit organization founded and controlled by Beeson. The total amount that Beeson caused to be falsely billed to Ferrellgas was approximately $3.5 million. 

    Beeson also admitted that he requested or created invoices from Ferrellgas vendor Ideal Solutions for work that was not done. When Ferrellgas paid those false invoices, Ideal Solutions returned funds to Beeson for deposit into his personal bank account or to the Prominent Youth bank account.

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  • General Motors Co. said it is testing a production-intent hydrogen fuel cell system that can be packaged in the space of a traditional four-cylinder engine and be ready for commercial production in 2015. 

    The system is half the size, 220 pounds lighter and uses about a third of the platinum of the system in the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicles used in Project Driveway.

    The Project Driveway market test and demonstration fleet of fuel cell electric vehicles began in late 2007 and has amassed nearly 1.3 million miles of everyday driving in cities around the world. 

    “We will continue to use the Project Driveway fleet strategically to advance fuel cell technology, hydrogen infrastructure, and GM’s vehicle electrification goals,” Freese added. 

    The first long-term loan of the new-look Chevy fuel cell vehicle will be to Stephanie White, a fuel cell advocate who was among the first Project Driveway participants and regularly blogs about zero-pollution fuel cells. Freese presented White with the keys to the car on Tuesday. 

    “Driving the Chevy fuel cell around L.A. has been an amazing experience,” White said. “People are always stopping me to ask questions about the vehicle and I tell them how powerful and eco-friendly it is.”

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  • Here’s a new idea for fleet sustainability… recycled motor oil.

    City of Spokane officials recently announced that the city’s 1,400 vehicles will now be running on re-refined motor oil, a product made from waste oil, according to The Spokesman-Review.

    The change is part of Mayor Mary Verner’s focus on environmental awareness.

    Gene Jakubczak, Spokane’s fleet services director, said re-refined oil performs as well or better than motor oil made from virgin crude, and using it reduces U.S. reliance on foreign imports while conserving fossil fuels.

    The city is paying 25 cents a gallon more for re-refined oil than for oil from virgin crude, “an extremely minimal hit in the scheme of things,” Jakubczak said.

    The oil is being purchased from a local supplier through a contract negotiated by the state, the Spokesman-Review reported.

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  • United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) plans to adopt hydrogen fuel cell technology to power the lift truck fleet at its Sarasota, Fla. distribution center. Intended to improve efficiency, productivity and reliability, a total of 65 GenDrive fuel cell-powered lift trucks will be mobilized at the Sarasota distribution facility, with a targeted completion date in June 2010.

    The company will add 29 new hydrogen fuel cell-powered lift trucks to its fleet, and 36 existing lift trucks will be retrofitted to hydrogen fuel cell technology.  

    By converting UNFI’s Sarasota lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cells, the company expects carbon emissions will be reduced by approximately 132 metric tons annually, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 automobiles.  

    “Once implemented, this fuel cell project is expected to create annual energy savings of approximately 640,000 kilowatt hours,” said Tom Dziki, senior vice president of Sustainable Development.

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  • The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday that the number of overall traffic fatalities reported at the end of 2009 reached the lowest level since 1954, declining for the 15th consecutive quarter. According to early projections, the fatality rate, which takes into account the number of miles traveled, reached the lowest level ever recorded.

    “This is exciting news, but there are still far too many people dying in traffic accidents,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Drivers need to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their focus on the road in order to stay safe.”

    The fatality rate for 2009 declined to the lowest on record, to 1.16 fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), down from 1.25 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2008.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) attributes the decline in 2009 to a combination of factors including, and high visibility campaigns like Click It or Ticket to increase seat belt use. In addition, the decline is also the result of safer roads, safer vehicles and motorists driving less.

    NHTSA annually collects crash statistics from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to produce annual reports on traffic fatality trends. The agency intends to update 2009 estimates regularly as more data becomes available. The final counts for 2009 will be made available in the summer of 2010. To view the preliminary fatality statistics visit: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811291.PDF

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  • U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recognized Wyoming last week for becoming the 20th state to enact a statewide ban prohibiting drivers from texting while driving, according to the Department of Transportation. The new ban will allow law enforcement officials to ticket anyone caught texting while driving in Wyoming.

    “Wyoming has taken an important step to eliminate distracted driving,” said Secretary LaHood. “Texting while driving, like talking on cell phones while driving, is dangerous to the driver doing it and all of those around them.”

    According to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured.

    In addition, on January 26, Secretary LaHood announced federal guidance to prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles such as large trucks and buses. Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

    Secretary LaHood announced the department’s plan to pursue that regulatory action at the Distracted Driving Summit he convened in September 2009. The department recently launched a federal website, distraction.gov, as a forum and information clearinghouse.

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  • Nissan North America Inc. (NNA) unveiled the all-new Nissan NV, the first entry in the company’s new Nissan Commercial Vehicle lineup in North America, at the National Truck Equipment Association’s (NTEA) annual Work Truck Show on Wednesday. 

    “Today, we’re introducing a tool to help entrepreneurs and owner-operators work smart and more productively.  Created and built in America with Nissan’s quality and reliability, the NV is a breakthrough in commercial van design,” said Nissan Americas chairman Carlos Tavares. “And the new NV is only the beginning.  Nissan will bring a convincing lineup of commercial vehicles to North America, along with a high quality network of dealers across the U.S.”

    The 2011 Nissan NV (Nissan Van) is scheduled to launch in late 2010.  It will be available in three models, NV1500, NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD, and in two roof configurations – Standard Roof and High Roof. The NV is the first High Roof commercial van to offer rugged body-on-frame construction. High Roof models allow most users to walk and stand in the cargo area.

    Powering the rear-wheel drive Nissan NV is a choice of two powerful yet fuel-efficient engines – a 4.0-liter V6 and 5.6-liter V8. Both are mated to a standard 5-speed automatic transmission.

    “The Nissan NV means business,” said Castelli.  “We’ve got a rugged chassis, ample power and fuel economy, a comfortable cabin and a huge cargo capacity.  We’re meeting the needs of commercial van owners and operators with innovation and a shared vision.”

    For a complete list of the NV’s features, check out the full announcement at Business Fleet.

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