• Chrysler Group LLC revealed its latest 5-year business plan last week, citing continued efforts to introduce a test fleet of plug-in hybrid minivans and trucks in 2011 as well as a possible all-electric vehicle in 2012.


    Until the release of the new electric vehicles, Chrysler will focus on fuel efficiency in its internal combustion engines using start-stop systems andFiat engine technology.  All of Chrysler’s vehicle brands- ChryslerDodgeJeep, and the Ram truck brand- are expected to share components, platforms, or engines and technology with Fiat vehicles.

    In 2012 and 2013, the Chrysler brand will get four all-new vehicles based on Fiat architecture, while Dodge will get three Fiat-based passenger cars.

    Robert Kidder, chairman of the board, said the leadership team’s “top priority is to invest to create a compelling brand and product offering.” Unlike in the past, “Chrysler will manage the supply chain to match customer demand and production,” he said.


    Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of the Dodge Car Brand, reported a “complete repackaging” of Dodge Car Brand models with a “new options mix” will be fully implemented by the end of Q4 2009, and a “complete overhaul of branding, marketing, positioning and point of sale, completed by Q2 2010.”

    Dodge Ram Brand President and CEO Fred Diaz’s vision is to make the Dodge Ram Brand a “unique Ram brand identity, separating Ram from Dodge,” and focused on its truck portfolio and customers.


    You can view the Chrysler 5-year business plan at the Chrysler Group LLC website.


    Photo courtesy of stevendepolo under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • Many managers have trouble fully understanding the true costs of accidents within their fleet.  It is difficult not only to quantify how much money can be saved by accident prevention, but also to disseminate that information in a meaningful way to an entire organization.  In an article for Automotive FleetThe CEI Group Inc.’s Vincent Brigidi offers some ideas on demonstrating the costs involved in fleet collisions.


    Accidents incur both direct and indirect costs to companies.  The surface damage to vehicles is only a small part of the real costs behind an accident.  After repairs to the vehicles themselves, other hidden costs such as worker’s compensation, third-party liability costs, legal expenses, lost revenue, and decreased productivity can increase the overall bill in a very significant way.


    If the idea of a few extra charges doesn’t seem like much, consider this: after dealing with all of these extra expenses, the real costs of an accident can cost your fleet two to ten times the direct cost of the collision.  That means an accident requiring $2,500 in repairs and replacement rentals could really cost $5,000 to $25,000.


    After you have determined what accidents really cost, the next thing to do is to make sure your company understands how that cost affects business and why it is important to prevent it.  Upper management will be making most of the decisions when it comes to new safety programs, so it is important to make sure they understand the real financial burden placed on the company by accident costs.


    For example, if you were to take the expenses incurred by accidents and divide by your company’s operating profit margin, you would have the additional sales revenue necessary to make up for the cost of those accidents.  $500,000 in accident costs requires $5 million in revenue at a 10 percent profit margin.


    A new safety program for a fleet that reduces accidents by 20 percent can save up to $1 million in additional sales necessary.  Money like that is a powerful incentive for fleet operators to make sure their investment is protected while making sure their drivers stay safe on the job.


    For the full article, visit Automotive Fleet.


    Photo courtesy of mrbill under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • Ford Motor Co. announced this week that it will soon begin equipping some of its vehicles with inflatable seat belts that the company says will help to reduce the number of injuries from auto accidents.


    The inflatable rear seat belts will first become available next year on the next-generation Explorer SUVs and will become more widespread over time, Ford said in its press release.


    The increased diameter of the inflatable belts helps to secure rear seat passengers in the appropriate seating position, which will help to reduce injuries to the head, chest and neck.


    “Ford is pioneering inflatable seat belt technology to help enhance crash safety protection, while encouraging more people to buckle up with a more comfortable belt,” Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s vice president engineering and global product development, said in a statement.


    According to the company’s research, Ford says that 90 percent of drivers indicated that the new inflatable belts are similar to or more comfortable than traditional seat belts.


    A video of the new belts in action is available via YouTube.


    Photo courtesy of bennylin0724 under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • With the end of Daylight Savings Time in recent memory, Automotive Fleet is providing some tips for improving visibility in the dark courtesy of the Kentucky Driver Manual. Pass these tips along to your fleet drivers and keep them safe all year long!

    • Use your high beams whenever there are no oncoming vehicles, except when fog or other inclement weather would make low beams more appropriate.
    • Properly adjusted high beams let you see twice as far as low beams. It is very important to use them on unfamiliar roads, in construction areas, or where there may be people along the side of the road.
    • Dim your lights whenever you come within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and when you are following another vehicle within 200 feet.
    • Slow down and use low beams in fog, snow or heavy rain. The light from high beams will reflect back and cause glare during these conditions.
    • If the lights of an oncoming vehicle remain on high beam, dim your lights and look toward the right side of the road. This will keep you from being blinded by the oncoming vehicle’s headlights. Do not try to “get back” at the other driver by keeping your bright lights on. If you do, both of you may be blinded.

    For drivers who wear corrective lenses, there are some additional tips:

    • Always wear your corrective lenses when you drive. If you are not wearing them and you happen to be stopped by a police officer, you may be issued a citation.
    • Avoid using dark glasses or tinted contact lenses at night. They cut down the light and make it more difficult to see.

    • Fleet Resources

  • According to a statement issued by thePepsiCo-owned company, Frito-Lay North America has seen a 70% reduction in vehicular collisions since 1999, due to both its extensive safety efforts and the company’s Million Milers program.


    Frito-Lay awards the designation of “Million Miler” to any driver that has driven an increment of 1 million miles without an accident.  This year, 95 of the company’s over-the-road drivers passed the milestones of 1, 2, or 3 million accident-free miles.  The company now has over 500 “Million Milers” active on the roads each day, almost a full 40 percent of its U.S. drivers.  7 drivers have driven over 3 million miles without an accident during their careers at Frito-Lay.


    This year’s class of “Million Milers” was recognized by Frito-Lay’s top executives at an annual event at the company’s national headquarters in Plano, Texas.


    The company states that Frito-Lay drivers uses driving simulators, skill-honing training courses, and team collaborations on best practices to create a positive culture of safety in its workforce and help its drivers maintain the skills they need to stay safe on the road.


    Photo courtesy of austinboardman under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • An ongoing study of trends in cargo theft is finding that commercial cargo thieves are becoming bolder and more sophisticated with their crimes, and even striking more often than before.  There has also been an increase in the number of violent incidents during cargo thefts in the third quarter of this year.


    The Supply Chain ISAC Report of Cargo Theft Activity for the third quarter of 2009 was compiled and issued by LoJack Supply Chain Integrity

    According to the report, carrier terminals and yards are still the locations in which the majority of thefts take place.  This trend reveals the brazen nature of modern cargo thieves- finding vehicles to rob from even when they are protected by surveillance and other security systems and targeting specific loads of cargo.


    “That thieves targeted carrier facilities this quarter more so than in the past indicates they are getting more sophisticated and more organized,” Robert Furtado, president & CEO of LoJack SCI, told FleetOwner Magazine. “It takes more planning and more people to steal cargo from a carrier’s terminal. It also means they are targeting specific goods, rather than taking a ‘shotgun’ approach by stealing a load at random from a truck stop.”

    As for violent incidents related to cargo theft, the survey found that seven violent cargo robberies were reported in the third quarter, with one happening at a truck stop and six occurring on streets and highways.  LoJack warned that commercial fleets and cargo carriers should re-examine their protocols for the safety and security of their vehicles, cargo, and drivers based on this trend.


    The most-stolen commodity in the report was food, rising to the number one spot after slipping to number three in the second quarter report.  Second place on the list went to consumer electronics.


    Photo courtesy of richardsinyem under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • According to a recent poll by the New York Times and CBS News, nearly all Americans now say that sending text messages while driving should be illegal, and around half say the crime should be punished at least as harshly as drunk driving.


    Ninety-seven percent of respondents supported a ban on texting while driving, an unusual rate of agreement on any public safety topic.  Eighty percent also agreed with a ban on speaking on hand-held cellular phones while driving.


    “Someone who is texting creates just as much of a danger as someone behind the wheel who is inebriated,” said Michael Brooks, 38, from Limerick, Pa.

    An additional two percent of those surveyed said that texting behind the wheel should be punished even more harshly than drunk driving. Forty-three percent said motorists who text should not be treated like drunken drivers.


    Despite studies showing that hands-free use does not increase the safety of talking on a cell phone while driving, seventy percent of respondents have no problem with drivers using a hands-free phone behind the wheel.  This is the same number found by a 2001 ABC News survey.


    The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Oct. 5-8 with 829 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    To view complete survey results and methodology, click here.

    • Industry News

  • According to a study by USA Today, reported vehicle thefts have fallen to a 20-year low even though the number of vehicles on the road has doubled.  The major reasons: automakers installing sophisticated anti-theft devices and police targeting organized car-theft rings.


    The FBI data provided by the study shows that approximately 956,846 vehicles were stolen in 2008.  That’s less than half of the figure for 1991, when 1.66 million vehicles were stolen equaling 659 thefts for every 100,000 people.  And today there are more than 245 million vehicles on the road, up from just 122 million in 1989.


    “It’s a much tougher job to be a car thief today,” says Russ Rader, spokesman for Highway Loss Data Institute, a research group funded by auto insurers that analyzes data from insurance claims. “The technology in new vehicles makes it much harder to make off with a car.”


    One of the most prevalent anti-theft technologies currently in use is the ignition immobilizer, an electronic device that prevents the engine from starting without the vehicle owner’s key.  Alarm systems and GPS tracking devices have become more widely used as well. GPS tracking technology “didn’t exist 20 years ago,” says Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “There was a time when consumers rarely chose alarm systems as an option. Over time, they’ve become more and more standard.”


    In 1989, fewer than 5% of new cars included an ignition immobilizer as part of the standard package, the Highway Loss Data Institute research shows. Now 86% of new cars are built with the device.


    The chances of having a car on the road stolen are about 1/3 of what they were in 1989. Yet insurance rates have held steady because cars cost more, says Steve Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group.


    Photo courtesy of wonderferret under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • Ford announced this week that it will be working with Azure Dynamics Corporation to build and distribute a pure battery electric Transit Connect van for the United States and Canadian markets in 2010.  Azure will be integrating its Force Drive battery electric drive train into the existing Transit Connect for commercial fleet and retail use.


    “We recognize an increasing interest in electrified vehicles and have an aggressive strategy to bring these vehicles to the marketplace,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of global electrification. “Our work with Azure to create a pure electric battery Transit Connect vehicle will allow us to offer our commercial customers an additional option for environmentally friendly transportation.”


    The battery-powered Transit Connect will be one of four electric vehicles that Ford will make available over the next three years, including:

    • Battery electric Transit Connect van in 2010
    • Battery electric Ford Focus passenger car in 2011
    • Next-generation hybrid vehicle in 2012
    • Plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2012

    “The opportunity to work with Ford on the Transit Connect BEV is a breakthrough advancement for us at Azure and for the light commercial vehicle market,” said Scott Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO. “For Azure, it’s an important evolution of our existing relationship with Ford. From an industry standpoint, we are seeing delivery fleet and utility vehicle operator’s move to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. The Transit Connect BEV will come to market at an ideal time to meet this growing trend.”


    The Transit Connect BEV will offer fleet owners the opportunity to eliminate the use of gasoline and help to lower operating costs. The vehicle will be branded with both the Ford Blue Oval and Azure’s Force Drive logo.


    Photo courtesy of crazytales562 under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News

  • A new global study by IBM says that the implementation of new technologies will make commercial trucks more fuel efficient, environmentally friendly, and safer.  The Global Truck 2020 Study, entitled “Transcending Turbulence,” was unveiled this week at CALSTART’s Hybrid Truck Users Forum National Conference in Atlanta.


    “IBM’s study shows the trucking industry is eager to transform itself,” said Sanjay Rishi, vice president and global automotive industry leader for IBM. “Increasingly, fleet owners choose cleaner, more fuel efficient trucks that also have advanced systems to make transport more efficient.”

    The study indicates that the trucking industry believes smart technologies will play a major role in commercial trucking as well as other applications, such as transportation systems.


    “Truck transportation drives our economy; goods movement fills our stores and supplies our factories. But those benefits come with costs that are causing rapid change,” said Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president of CALSTART, an organization dedicated to clean transportation. “That’s why IBM’s study is critical. It highlights the emerging needs of truck customers, the technical and environmental challenges for the industry and lays out a roadmap for clean and profitable growth for the future.”


    For a complete copy of the study, click here.


    Photo courtesy of zugaldia under the Creative Commons License.

    • Industry News