• In 1973, the United States government passed a law restricting the speed limit on all American roads to a maximum of 55 miles per hour.  As soon as the law was enacted, road fatalities began a steady decline that continued until 1987, when the law was changed to raise the speed limit to 65 in select states.  In 1995, the law was repealed completely and states were allowed to set the speed limit on their highways as they saw fit.  Currently, speed limits in the United States climb as high as 80 miles per hour.

    According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, traffic accidents and their impact on human life have increased dramatically since the repeal of the 55 miles per hour maximum speed limit.  Their study found that between 1995 and 2005, about 12,500 more fatalities occurred in traffic accidents than would have been expected with the old speed limit.  Car volume density, population density, variations in fleet sizes, the types of vehicles on the road, vehicle age, and driver habits were all considered when preparing the final data for this study.

    While it may come as no great surprise that driving faster leads to more accidents, the most astonishing thing about higher speed limits is that drivers continue to exceed them every day.  In order to keep your fleet and the drivers with whom they share the road safe, it is essential to inform your drivers about good speed practices.  Vehicle monitoring systems are available to keep track of the speed of every vehicle in your fleet.  Talking to your drivers about safe speed practices will not only keep your fleet running smoothly, but will save lives in the process.  Not to mention that lower speed saves a lot of money on fuel.  For more information on driving safety, click here.

    Photo courtesy of NathanFromDeVryEET under the Creative Commons License.

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  • When deciding which vehicles your business will use, the possibilities are endless.  In the auto market, there is truly something for everyone, and that kind of selection can be a bit intimidating for business owners who want to get the most out of their fleet.  That’s why we have taken this time to highlight the most important things to consider when choosing your fleet vehicles.

    -The Right Car For The Job

    Choose a vehicle size that suits your business’ needs.  If you are a remodeling company constantly hauling lumber from one side of town to the other, you will definitely need a larger truck or van to get the job done. The same large vehicle may be a waste of space and gas money for a consulting firm, so don’t go too big if you don’t have to.

    -Count on It

    Find a car that you can rely on. Check the vehicle history report for any previous accidents, and keep an eye on the mileage of older vehicles.  Stick to models well-known for their reliability that are affordable to repair if should they ever need it.  And if you’re sill not sure, have the vehicle inspected before you buy it.  Finding a reliable vehicle means you will never have to worry about losing precious time to repairs.

    -Safety First

    The safety of drivers is the highest priority in commercial driving.  Make sure your drivers are protected by seeking out models with excellent safety ratings.  Make sure the car has all of its airbags in working order and that no previous body work has lessened the vehicle’s structural integrity.  Your drivers will thank you.

    -The Right Look

    Think about the way you want people to perceive your business when they look at your vehicles.  Larger vehicles allow for signage to be incorporated into them, while a smaller, sportier car will showcase a more laid-back business attitude.  Remember that your vehicles say a lot about the way you see your business and will leave a lasting impression on your customers. And finally…

    -Go With the Flow

    Choose the vehicle that feels right for you.  If you have had great experiences in the past with a particular vehicle and want another one of the same, go for it.  If you prefer a little power over fuel efficiency, feel free.  After all, it’s your business and your choice.  Explore. Research. Sign up.  Take your time to find what you want.  You’ll be glad you did.

    Photo courtesy of Vandelizer under the Creative Commons License
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  • As fleet vehicles become older and need to be replaced, business owners must decide what to do with the older vehicles.  Generally, the vehicles in question are simply sold at auction or relinquished to a leasing company.  But recently, fleet owners have ramped up programs that offer the out-of service vehicles to be sold to drivers at low cost, which saves companies money in selling costs and offers a valuable benefit to employees.

    For many employees, the prospect of owning a familiar vehicle for a low price is very enticing.  Employee vehicle sales have been met with great success at companies such as Mission Foodservice, where fleet facilities manager Chris Syed confirmed that at least 45 percent of the company’s out-of-service vehicles are resold to its employees.  The program has been consistently successful; Syed reported that “The percentage has remained steady over the past several years.” Mission Foodservice operates a 300-vehicle fleet, leased from LeasePlan USA. With fleet vehicles being replaced every four years or so at Mission Foodservice, there is a steady flow of vehicles in need of new owners.  The vehicle’s regular driver is given the first rights to purchase the vehicle, and the sale is opened to the rest of the company if the driver declines.  The vehicles undergo safety inspections on-site and will not be sold to employees if they have any safety issues.  The best part of the deal for employees is the selling price; drivers pay wholesale price for the vehicle while other employees pay, according to Syed, “somewhere between wholesale and the Kelley Blue Book private party price.”

    The program became so popular that Syed could no longer handle all of the work on her own.  In October of 2006, five years after the program was introduced, Mission Foodservice hired Flexco Fleet Services to handle the overwhelming demand for the program.  Since the move to Flexco, the employee resale program has been just as popular as ever.  Syed remains confident in the need for employee resale.  “Employees love this program. They view it as a bonus.”

    Photo courtesy of Caitlinator under the Creative Commons License
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  • In recent years, the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has become common in many consumer and business applications.  For those who may be unfamiliar with RFID, the system consists of a small tag that either transmits or receives radio waves for the purpose of relaying information and the reader that receives that information.  If you have ever driven through the automatic pay lane on a toll road or heard the anti-theft door alarm go off in a retail store, you’ve seen RFID in action.

    RFID easily adapts to fit the desired application.  The tags can be set to send a simple on/off signal (such as the anti-theft application mentioned above) or something more complex like the location of the tagged object in relation to known receiver locations.  The tags can be read by receivers up to several yards away and are cheap to manufacture and utilize, costing between 5 and 20 cents per tag.

    What does this mean for the commercial fleet?  RFID technology is already used extensively by delivery services to provide consumers with the ability to track their package as it is in transit.  By extrapolating this model, commercial fleet owners can easily monitor key areas of their fleet’s effectiveness.  An RFID chip on a vehicle’s cargo doors keeps track of how many times they are opened along a route, and tags on each individual piece of cargo can confirm that the correct cargo was delivered to the correct location at the correct time.  This creates a real-time inventory of the vehicle, erasing any uncertainty that may lead to later problems.  Information about special conditions affecting freight, such as temperature, can be quickly relayed to the driver of the vehicle through an on-board computer.  With the ability to track your fleet’s status in real time, delivery efficiency is increased and the savings in time and money can be passed along to your customers.

    RFID is an affordable solution to many problems of the modern day fleet.  With the help of RFID, your drivers and customers can always be aware of the status of their inventory and delivery. Nothing bolsters consumer confidence more than knowing that their orders are being handled in a safe, efficient, and speedy manner.  With RFID, delivering this kind of security to the customer is not only possible, but easy.

    Photo courtesy of myuibe under the Creative Commons License
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  • A new study conducted by Better Place shows that almost 30 percent of prospective car buyers in the United States are considering buying an electric vehicle as their next car.  The study, which surveyed several nations, also showed a response of 57 percent in Israel, 40 percent in Denmark and 39 percent in Australia.  On average, the data shows that almost half of the world’s population (a significant 48 percent) are considering the switch to electric transportation.

    Domestically, most of the respondents’ reasons for switching to an electric vehicle hinged heavily on social concerns, including dependence on foreign oil and environmentalism.  Also mentioned by many respondents was a desire to stimulate the US into becoming a leader in renewable energy.  Younger people tended to be more likely to consider electric vehicles.

    With electric vehicles becoming more and more mainstream
    , the choice to switch some of your fleet vehicles to electrics depends on your business model. Do you want your fleet to reflect your commitment to environmental issues?  Are you looking to expand with more fuel-efficient vehicles to cut long-term fuel costs?  If so, electric vehicles may be a good option (and the next best thing to a Fleet card!).

    Photo courtesy of carrott under the Creative Commons License
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  • A recent study found that companies with fleets using GPS systems have seen reductions in idle times, daily usage and fuel costs.

    According to an article posted on automotive-fleet.com, the study showed organizations are installing GPS’s in company vehicles because it not only enables them to be more efficient with cost, but the system is also helping to improve customer service satisfaction rates.

    On average participants reported a 25% reduction in idle times, 32% increase in fleet utilization, 22% decrease in fuel costs, 31-percent drop in daily mileage and a 23% boost in workforce productivity.

    To read the full story and find out more about the study, click here.

    Photo courtesy of Jimmy Joe under the Creative Commons License

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  • Dozing off at the wheel is a serious danger.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers who fall asleep at the wheel cause over 100,000 traffic accidents every year. This spring, Chinese police in the Chongqing region came up with a new way to combat the problem and keep drivers from falling asleep at the wheel: by feeding them raw chili peppers.

    As the most heavily populated country on Earth, China’s streets are already overcrowded and have a low rate of traffic safety obedience, making them some of the most dangerous streets in the world.  And just like everywhere else, sleepy drivers make a large contribution to the problem.

    Police began distributing the peppers to drivers at service stations in China in accordance with a belief that people are drowsier in the spring.  While this may seem a strange alternative to your favorite energy beverage, authorities say that the spicy cure really helps drivers who may be feeling drowsy.  Chinese commercial van driver Chen Jun agrees: “It’s really good to have some hot peppers when you are tired from driving. They make you alert.”

    While Americans may prefer a few cups of coffee to a peppery pick-me-up, there is still no substitute for a good night’s sleep before taking to the highway.  But who knows, maybe we’ll see some fancy chipotle energy shots coming to our favorite rest stops in the future.  For information on how to combat drowsy driving with your drivers, check out the National Sleep Foundation’s tips behind the link.

    Photo courtesy of ian_ransley under the Creative Commons License
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  • The California Department of Insurance has introduced a bill this week to begin offering pay-by-the-mile auto insurance policies to California drivers.  Under the new program, drivers would be able to select an insurance payment plan based on the number of miles they drive per month. A significant amount of money would be saved on insurance for, say, a vehicle that only makes occasional trips to a supplier a short distance away and spends most of its time sitting in a parking lot. For fleet owners, this system provides a way to keep themselves insured without overpaying for insurance on a vehicle they may very rarely use.

    In addition to payment plans based on paying for a set number of miles per month, the proposed system also allows for mile-by-mile vehicle tracking at an even lower rate.  The miles traveled by a vehicle would be checked by odometer inspections at various locations that are convenient to the driver’s routine, such as their local mechanic or emission center.  Vehicle mileage could also be monitored by GPS devices, but don’t fear Big Brother just yet; GPS could be used to monitor a car’s mileage without relaying the vehicle’s location to the insurance company.  With some drivers already hesitant to adopt GPS tracking for other purposes, this privacy clause offers reassurance that they retain the trust of their employers.

    The legislation to create this system will be voted on in the next several months, and could become law shortly in the state of California.  If California has any success with it, the same system could be on its way to other states across the country later this year.
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  • Two different cases of company vehicles being stolen were reported this week.  The vehicles were used as getaway cars in Nebraska and Mississippi.

    The vehicle recovered in Lexington, Nebraska had been stolen from a construction company in New York and was identified as stolen during a traffic stop.  It seems that the man driving the car had good reason to be so far away, as he was identified as one of the New York Parole Division’s most wanted men.  He and his female companion were arrested.  In Petal, Mississippi, a drug company’s vehicle was stolen after robbers stole prescription drugs from the employees.  The keys were given to the fleeing criminals by employees.  The vehicle was found abandoned in a nearby field and taken to impound.  This is not the first time criminals have targeted drug companies; since May two trucks full of pharmaceuticals have been stolen in Georgia.

    Nothing is a bigger waste of money than losing a car…let this be a reminder to keep a close watch over company vehicles! For information on vehicle security, see tips here.
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  • The harsh economic climate has hit the auto industry hard with sales drastically down, and it seems that consumers aren’t helping.

    A recent study conducted by AutoPacific found that 72 percent of the general public plans not to buy a new car in the next year, and 59 percent of new car buyers intended to keep their car for at least four years.  Last year, that number was 45 percent.

    So what does this mean for the commercial fleet?  A fleet owner may want to jump at the chance to haggle with desperate automotive sellers for a good price on new fleet vehicles.  But unless keeping up with new vehicle trends is of great importance to your fleet, the most affordable way to keep your fleet in top condition is to follow a strict maintenance routine.  Regular maintenance can double the useful life of your vehicles and keep them from suffering costly breakdowns and spending time in repair shops.  Even something as simple as making sure tire pressure or oil and coolant levels are correct can extend the life of your vehicles.  The less money you spend replacing your fleet vehicles prematurely, the more money you will have to invest in your business.

    With credit becoming harder to come by every day, weathering the economic storm with your current vehicles is a smart choice.  However, if you do wish to replace some of your fleet, you can make it more economically viable by investing in more fuel efficient cars: lighter models, vehicles with smaller engine sizes, and hybrids. This will save you money over time in fuel costs and even help the environment!

    Whether you decide to keep your current vehicles or replace them, remember that the most important thing is for your fleet to remain efficient and on the road, doing their job and making you money.  For more information on keeping your fleet as efficient as possible, check out FleetCards USA’s tips for improving fuel efficiency.

    Photo courtesy of Beth and Christian under the Creative Commons License

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