• Via Automotive Fleet:

    New research is raising concerns about the safety of some aftermarket crash parts requested by some insurance companies to settle claims, according to the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS). 

    The study compared randomly selected OEM parts with aftermarket structural replacement parts, including front and rear bumper reinforcement beams, radiator core supports, bumper brackets, safety restraint systems, and bumper energy absorbers.  

    According to SCRS, tests revealed “significant differences” in the aftermarket parts’ construction and materials used, compared to the OEM parts. These differences were reflected in the parts’ effectiveness in the transfer of energy resulting from a collision, SCRS said. However, the research also found that when manufacturers pay particular attention to using the same materials as the OEM and employ credible third-party testing, the parts perform much better in crash tests. 

    “This is a serious issue that has not received enough attention from the industry in the past,” said SCRS National Director Toby Chess. “These parts are critically affecting the structural design of a vehicle in its post-repair state.” 

    A presentation summarizing the research is available at http://www.scrs.com. Chess has made a number of presentations about the research at recent industry conferences. 

    Industry concerns about the problem are already making a difference.  Insurance company GEICO last week implemented a policy shift, announcing it would no longer specify aftermarket replacement parts for bumper reinforcements, energy absorbers and brackets in the repair of customers’ vehicles. 

    The company said it planned to gather additional information about aftermarket bumper reinforcements, absorbers and brackets; GEICO didn’t rule out eventually returning to its previous policy if its own research supported that decision.

    Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • We talk a lot about how you can reduce your fleet’s impact on the environment.  Now there’s a new product that can help you remind drivers of their efficiency:

    Auto Meter Products Inc.’s OBD-II fuel efficiency gauge, Ecometer, has been tested, validated and launched as a Mopar Accessory at all Chrysler dealerships nationwide.  

    Ecometer is a fuel-consumption gauge that lets vehicle operators visually monitor how their driving style impacts their vehicle’s fuel economy performance. Ecometer can assist motorists in changing driving habits to reduce fuel consumption, minimize fuel expenditures and reduce CO emissions. 

    Ecometer displays real-time fuel consumption (in mpg) on both an easy-to-read digital display and an always-on fuel efficiency eco-graph that’s color coded in green (efficient), yellow and red (inefficient). The instrument offers multiple monitoring modes, including instantaneous mpg, average mpg, engine RPM, and both real-time and peak vehicle speed monitoring functions. 

    The unit takes less than one minute to install, with no tools or drilling required. Optional permanent mounting hardware is included with each unit. 

    Photo courtesy of chego101 under the Creative Commons License.

    • TrendWatch

  • In the wake of a recall affecting vehicles with faulty accelerators, Toyota now has another problem with faulty brake systems on the 2010 Prius.

    Toyota issued a statement claiming that brake problems affecting the company’s flagship hybrid were due to a software issue with onboard computers.  The vehicle’s braking software was updated to fix problems in January, but no steps have been taken yet to address the issue in vehicles manufactured before then.

    “We would want to be given a little time,” said Hiro Yuki Yokoyama, Toyota’s managing officer, when reporters asked whether a recall was in the works.

    Toyota says that the issue is due to a “disconnect” in the complex electronic anti-lock braking system that causes a delay of less than one second.  However, this causes problems at high speeds, as a vehicle traveling at 60 mph would take 90 feet to begin braking.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is preparing to launch a full investigation of the issue.

    “Toyota will cooperate fully with NHTSA’s investigation,” the company said in a statement.

    Photo courtesy of joelCgarcia under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • General Motors will soon become the first major

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  • It is a fact that cell phones are a major contributor to distracted driving, a major cause of traffic accidents.  But now a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute has found no reductions in crashes after the enactment of statewide bans on hand-held phones behind the wheel.

    Comparing insurance claims for crash damage in four U.S. jurisdictions before and after such bans, the researchers found steady claim rates compared with nearby jurisdictions without such bans. The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) is an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

    Month-to-month fluctuations in rates of collision claims in jurisdictions with bans didn’t change from before to after the laws were enacted. Nor did the patterns change in comparison with trends in jurisdictions that didn’t have such laws.

    “The laws aren’t reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk,” said Adrian Lund, president of both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and HLDI. 

    Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia prohibit beginning drivers from using any type of phone, including hands-free, but such laws are difficult to enforce. This was the finding in North Carolina, where teenage drivers didn’t curtail phone use in response to a ban, in part because they didn’t think the law was being enforced.

    “Whatever the reason, the key finding is that crashes aren’t going down where hand-held phone use has been banned,” Lund said. “This finding doesn’t auger well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving.” 

    For more information on this study, read the full article over at Automotive Fleet.

    Photo courtesy of AngelaShupe.com under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • For the month of January, Ford sales to fleet customers were up 154 percent, more than doubling last January’s depressed levels, when most fleet owners deferred vehicle purchases due to the credit crunch and uncertain business and economic conditions, according to the automaker.

    Ford posted gains in every fleet market – commercial, government, and rental. On an annual basis, a majority of Ford’s fleet sales are to commercial and government customers where the Ford F-Series truck and Econoline van have long been top sellers.  In addition, the Fusion, Taurus, and Escape are also among the commonly selected vehicles for fleet customers.      

    Overall, Ford experienced higher sales for every brand and in every product category, with a 24 percent sales increase in January versus a year ago. 

    Ford cars were up 43 percent, crossovers were up 20 percent, sport utilities were up 8 percent, and trucks and vans were up 14 percent.  Among brands, Ford sales were up 26 percent, Lincoln sales were up 16 percent and Mercury sales were up 6 percent.

    “Resale value is a key indicator of brand health and an important contributor to the total value equation,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing Sales and Service. “Fleet managers monitor vehicle operating costs very carefully.  They are giving Ford more consideration because of our improving resale values.”

    Is your fleet ready to buy new vehicles again?  Let us know how you’re doing by leaving a comment.

    Photo courtesy of chrisdlugosz under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • California officials have threatened to pull out of a historic compromise with U.S. automakers and the Obama administration for a 35.5 MPG fuel economy standard by 2016 unless federal regulators side with the state on two key disputes.

    The warning from California has triggered concern among Detroit automakers that the state could decide to enforce its own rules for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, setting off a wave of state-by-state laws rather than the national standards set by the Obama administration.

    In a recent federal filing, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) said the Obama administration needs to address two concerns in the final version “to ensure California’s continued support.”

    “What we wanted to do is convey the level of importance for these two issues,” said CARB spokesman Stanley Young.

    The Obama administration is considering CARB’s comments.

    “We’d be very disappointed if California or any other stakeholder were looking to back out or change the terms,” said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokesman Charles Territo.

    CARB wants federal regulators to lower proposed credits for zero-emissions vehicles, which include hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

    Environmental groups and CARB contend the credits are too generous and could allow automakers to shirk improvements in non-electric models. CARB also argues that electric vehicles contribute some greenhouse gases because they draw electricity from carbon-generating power plants.

    California regulators also want the administration to reject a proposal from the alliance to ease the phase-in of the standards between 2012 and 2015, with a larger increase for the 2016 model year to reach the 35.5 MPG target.

    Automakers said the change would ease the phase-in of new technology needed to meet the goals.

    Photo courtesy of cliff1066TM under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has released a new video to help companies with vehicle fleets learn more on how to cut costs and carbon pollution by following a few simple steps. The video, titled The Power of Scale, visually depicts how small actions done by many can result in big changes for the corporate bottom line and the health of the planet.

    “Companies need clear and compelling tools to help ‘green’ their operations,” said Jason Mathers, project manager at EDF. “With this new video, we’re able to communicate a complex message in a creative way and bring the notion of ‘green fleets’ to life.”

    Fleet efficiency has become an increasingly important issue for corporations as they look for opportunities to reduce their environmental impact. Currently, there are more 3 million corporate fleet vehicles in the United States emitting 45 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to EDF. The Power of Scale demonstrates that companies can reduce their corporate fleet emissions by 6 million metric tons per year and collectively save over 2 billion dollars, according to EDF.

    “Our goal was to present the core message around fleet efficiency in a meaningful, impactful way,” says Justin Evans, founder at stresslimitdesign, the agency that produced the video. “We want people to watch this video and have a better sense of the steps they can take – as professionals or consumers – to incorporate sustainability into their everyday lives.”

    Click here to watch the video.

    Photo courtesy me ram under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Jan. 25 announced a new national air-quality standard for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant that can be generated from vehicle emissions.

    The EPA said the new standard will “protect millions of Americans from peak short-term exposures, which primarily occur near major roads.”

    Short-term exposure to NO2 has been linked to impaired lung function and increased respiratory infections, especially in people with asthma. This is the first new NO2 standard in 35 years. The agency set the new one-hour standard for NO2 at a level of 100 parts per billion (ppb). EPA also is retaining the existing annual average standard of 53 ppb. NO2 is formed from vehicle, power plant and other industrial emissions.

    “This new one-hour standard is designed to protect the air we breathe and reduce health threats for millions of Americans. For the first time ever, we are working to prevent short-term exposures in high-risk NO2 zones like urban communities and areas near roadways,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

    EPA is establishing new monitoring requirements in urban areas that will measure NO2 levels around major roads and across the community. Monitors must be located near roadways in cities with at least 500,000 residents. Larger cities and areas with major roadways will have additional monitors. Community-wide monitoring will continue in cities with at least 1 million residents.

    It is not yet clear what impact the new standards will have on vehicle manufacturers or operators, but we will keep an eye out to make sure your fleet is informed!

    Photo courtesy of Rishabh Mishra (possible248) under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  •  Just days before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was sworn into office, acting Gov. Stephen Sweeney signed into law a bill that requires drivers convicted of certain drunken driving offenses to outfit their vehicles with a breathalyzer device.

    The device locks the vehicle’s ignition if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration reaches a specified level.R

    Under the new law, the ignition interlock device is mandatory for first-time DUI offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of at least .15. The device then remains in place for six months to a year. Repeat offenders are required to outfit their vehicles for one to three years.

    The legislation was named “Ricci’s Law” to honor Ricci Branca, a 17-year-old killed by a drunk driver while riding a bike. The driver, who fled the scene, was later apprehended and had a blood alcohol concentration of .339 — more than four times the legal limit of .08, the Star-Ledger newspaper reported.

    The law also makes it an offense for someone to start a vehicle for an offender, either by blowing into the device or tampering with it.

    Photo courtesy of rick under the Creative Commons License.

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