• Environmental Leader has some new insight on the future of the Electric Vehicle market in the United States, and the biggest boon for the burgeoning industry seems to be corporate fleets:

    U.S. corporate fleets purchase about 300,000 vehicles a year, and they are expected to be among the steadiest customers of electric vehicles, including cargo vans, as they come to market.

    Commercial trucks account for about 12 percent of miles driven but produce about 25 percent of all emissions, Scott Harrison, CEO of Azure Dynamics told the New York Times

    Indeed, companies that make frequent deliveries are expected to be among the first customers for the Ford Transit Connect electric van:  Azure’s contracts include a contract to supply vehicles to a hybrid-only FedEx depot in the Bronx, as well as repeat orders from AT&T.

    Ford unveiled the Transit Connect EV Feb. 10 at the Chicago Auto Show. It has a top speed of 75 miles per hour and can go about 80 miles on a charge.

    Enova Systems Inc. and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. say they expect to roll out their all-electric delivery vehicles this year.

    According to hybrid truck industry estimates, U.S. production of hybrid commercial trucks is expected to reach 4,850 units in 2010.

    Photo courtesy of Adventures of Pam & Frank under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • Business Fleet brings us a story about the high accident rate of a few U.S. cities.  Do your part to keep the number of accidents down with safe driving practices.

    Phoenix city officials say the large number of accidents involving its fleet vehicles is not surprising given the city’s massive fleet of more than 7,800 vehicles. According to the Arizona Republic, City of Phoenix vehicles are involved in at least one accident per day on average.

    The newspaper’s analysis of liability claims paid by the city in the past five years found that Phoenix paid claims for 2,339 accidents involving police cars, fire trucks, buses and other city vehicles from 2005 to 2009.  That cost taxpayers about $15.7 million.

    It is less true for Dallas, which during the same five-year period paid claims for 2,414 accidents, at a total cost of about $5 million. Seattle paid claims for 1,200 accidents, costing about $3.1 million.

    Philadelphia spent about $16.6 million for 960 accidents from 2007 to 2009. Philadelphia officials said their 6,000-vehicle fleet had been involved in 6,881 crashes since 2005.

    The Public Works Department was responsible for the largest number of incidents: 639. Police were next with 582, followed by Public Transit with 573.

    Phoenix-employed drivers are required to pass a training course, and most civilian drivers must brush up on their skills every three to four years.

    • Industry News

  • Advocates for the elimination of distracted driving are now claiming that digital billboards are a major source of road distraction.

    These next-generation billboards flash images that change every 6-8 seconds, and allow advertisers to display timely messages such as restaurant specials around lunchtime or coffee ads in the morning.  They are brighter than typical billboards and are generally more attention-grabbing.

    The makers and operators of digital billboards are quick to point out (and rightfully so) that there is no research to indicate that these screens cause crashes, and that the signs do not use movies or animations that would distract drivers.

    But critics of the boards think that the bright screens and ever-changing images can be distracting. 

    “You can turn off your phone,” said Abbey Dart, executive director of Scenic Michigan, an organization attempting to block the construction of such billboard in the state. “The billboard gets your attention whether you want to give it or not.”

    The Federal Highway Administration is in the midst of a study using eye-tracking devices in cars to see if drivers are really more distracted by digital billboards.  The study should be completed this summer.

    Make sure your drivers know to keep their eyes on the road and avoid driving distractions altogether. 

    Photo courtesy of geocam20000 under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • New developments in a recent fatal crash reveal the importance of operating fleets in accordance with government regulations:

    The U.S. Government has closed down Tierra Santa Inc., a Los Angeles-area bus company involved in a crash that killed six people in Arizona on Friday, March 5, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

    Federal officials said company records revealed that Tierra Santa has averted government regulation, created a poor safety record and operated off the books. 

    The company’s agreement to halt operations doesn’t protect it from potential penalties imposed by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is conducting an investigation. 

    One of Tierra Santa’s buses was carrying 22 passengers from central Mexico to Los Angeles early Friday, March 5, when it rear-ended a pickup truck in Arizona and rolled down an embankment. The crash occurred on Interstate 10 about 30 miles south of Phoenix. Two men and four women were killed. Sixteen people suffered injuries. 

    Federal authorities said that documents indicate that Tierra Santa officials knew they were conducting business without federal operating authority.  

    Photo courtesy of Abeeeer under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • Toyota is rejecting a university professor’s test that claims to show that electronic throttle systems on Toyota cars could cause unintended acceleration saying the test was simply not realistic.

    Dr. David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University performed a demonstration of how the problem could occur in an ABC News broadcast in late February. Later, Gilbert testified before a Congressional hearing looking into unintended acceleration in Toyota cars.

    “Dr. Gilbert’s demonstration, as shown on the ABC News web site, amounts to little more than connecting three of the six pedal sensor wires to an engineered circuit to achieve engine revving,” said Exponent, a research firm hired by Toyota.

    Gilbert said that he overrode a built-in safety feature, allowing faulty pedal signals to go to the engine with no problem being detected by the car’s on-board computer.  Exponent, the research firm hired by Toyota, was able to replicate Gilbert’s results but says that the test presents an unrealistic situation that has virtually no chance of happening in the real world.

    “For such an event to happen in the real world requires a sequence of faults that is extraordinarily unlikely,” the report continues.

    Exponent was also able to replicate the same sequence of short circuits, with the same result, in other automakers’ cars, which would undercut the allegation that the problem would be somehow unique to Toyotas.

    A representative for Southern Illinois University said that Dr. Gilbert has already met with Toyota representatives and that more meetings are planned. 

    Photo courtesy of .LarryPage under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • Azure Dynamics Corporation has announced that AT&T has agreed to purchase two of the first Ford Transit Connect Electric vans, the latest addition to AT&T’s growing fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles.

    The Ford Transit Connect Electric, which goes on sale later this year, has a range of up to 80 miles on a single charge and will be rechargeable using either 240-volt or standard 120-volt outlets. It has a top speed of 75 miles per hour.

    “Cleaner, alternative-fuel vehicles are the future of our corporate fleet, and the Transit Connect Electric represents a real breakthrough and will be a strong addition to our range of alternative-fuel vehicles,” said Jerome Webber, vice president of fleet operations at AT&T. AT&T currently operates more than 77,000 vehicles in its corporate fleet, including 15 gasoline-powered Ford Transit Connect vehicles AT&T began piloting in 2009.

    By combining car-like driving dynamics with truck-like cargo capacity, Ford Transit Connect Electric is well suited to the demands placed on urban delivery vehicles for small businesses and larger, corporate fleets.

    AT&T plans to take delivery of the Transit Connect Electric in late 2010.

    Photo courtesy of JLaw45 under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • Fleets across the country can now consider propane as a viable alternative fuel option:

    The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has granted certification approval for the ROUSH propane-powered Ford F-250 and F-350 pickups, meaning these alternative fuel vehicles meet the strict emission standards of that state and can now be sold and operated in all 50 states.

    With CARB-approval in hand, ROUSH is now allowed to sell ROUSH-built propane-powered Ford F-250 and F-350 trucks in all 50 states. This is valid for the 2010 Ford F-250 and F-350 models with the 5.4L V8 engine. ROUSH is currently working towards receiving this same CARB certification for the upcoming 2011 propane-powered Ford E-150, E-250 and E-350 passenger and cargo vans launching in the second quarter of 2010.

    “We have made a significant investment in our liquid-propane injection technology, and we look forward to helping fleet operators across the country reduce their carbon footprint and operating costs with our propane-powered vehicles. We have more than two hundred 2010 Ford F-250s and F-350s in our inventory, so we have plenty of trucks available to meet customer demand,” said Todd Mouw, director of sales & marketing for ROUSH Propane Vehicles.

    Future ROUSH plans include converting the Ford E-Series vans to run on propane, as well as the Ford E-450 cutaway with the 6.8L V10 engine. For more information about ROUSH propane offerings, visit http://www.ROUSHperformance.com/propane or call (800) 59-ROUSH.

    Photo courtesy of deansonglass under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • The economy may be on its way back from the recent recession, but its effects are still being felt in fleets around the country, according to a recent announcement by eTrucker:

    The for-hire trucking industry lost 4,300 jobs in February, and the industry lost jobs in January rather than gained them, according to revised seasonally adjusted figures from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Preliminary data released a month ago indicated the industry had added 2,500 jobs in January. Instead, the latest figures show that jobs were almost flat from December at a 200-job decline. Payroll employment had dropped by 12,000 jobs in December.

    Trucking employment in February was down nearly 81,000, or 6.2 percent, from February 2009. Preliminary data show payroll employment of almost 1.23 million jobs – down 226,400, or 15.6 percent, from the trucking employment peak in January 2007.

    The BLS numbers reflect all payroll employment in for-hire trucking, but they don’t include trucking-related jobs in other industries, such as a truck driver for a private fleet.

    Photo courtesy of static bob under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • While the weak economy is making life difficult for many fleets, one company says the worst may be over, and they’re backing up their claim with traffic data.

    Navigation service provider INRIX has released its 3rd annual INRIX National Traffic Scorecard, revealing that traffic congestion and commute times across the U.S. rose again in 2009, which may be another signal of economic recovery following the recent recession.

    In fact, the number of cars on the road increased so much in 2009 due to lower fuel prices (down almost $1 from 2008) and a recovering economy that it actually outpaced the drop in commuters due to the loss of over 5 million jobs nationwide.

    “So goes traffic, so goes the economy. The results suggest the holiday from increasing gridlock we’ve experienced the past few years is over,” said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and CEO. “An excellent indicator of economic trends, traffic congestion can tell us whether businesses are shipping products, whether people are going to work, and whether shoppers are going to the mall. That said, our analysis indicates that what happens going forward in terms of increasing gridlock, much like the economy, can be summed up in one word: Jobs.”

    The full report can be found here.

    Photo courtesy of Burning Image under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • Business Fleet has compiled an article detailing the plentiful praise that GM has been getting for its fleet vehicles this year.  Take a look and see if any of these vehicles may suit your needs:

    Recently, notable publications and organizations have recognized General Motors’ vehicles for overall quality, safety and engine performance. Among those named are cars and trucks important in meeting GM Fleet and Commercial Operations customers’ broad range of needs.

    Consumers Digest, IntelliChoice and U.S. News & World Report selected many of the GM Fleet and Commercial vehicles for overall quality awards and recognition. GM vehicles were also highlighted for their safety standards and engine performance.

    The Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, swept the full-size truck segment in IntelliChoice’s Best Overall Value of the Year awards. The Chevy Silverado 2500 HD and the GMC Sierra 2500 HD were also awarded Best Truck Value Over $28,000 in one of IntelliChoice’s nine overall categories. The Chevrolet Express 1500 LS and the LT Passenger Wagon (AWD and RWD) won in the Full-Size Van category.

    The Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Malibu and GMC Sierra 1500 were included in Consumers Digest annual 2010 Best Buy rankings. Other popular fleet and commercial vehicles named include Chevrolet Tahoe and Traverse, GMC Acadia and Yukon, and Buick Enclave. Also recognized were traditionally executive fleet vehicles the Cadillac SRX and CTS, and the Buick LaCrosse. Two performance fleet vehicles, the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette, rounded out the list.

    U.S. News and World Report selected the GMC Terrain as one of its Best Cars to Buy for 2010, specifically noting its excellent fuel economy and impressive 32 mpg highway rating.

    GM Fleet and Commercial vehicles were also recognized for their safety measures. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick in 2010 award went to both the Chevrolet Malibu in the Midsize Car category and the Buick LaCrosse in the Large Car category. This award recognized vehicles that perform the best in the Institute’s tests of protecting people in front, side, rear and rollover crashes.

    • Industry News