• A recent video detailing the Distracted Driving incidents faced by two Kentucky Power Company workers sheds new light on the growing problem of distracted driving:

    As you can see, distractions come in a variety of forms on the road, yet the discussion of distracted driving has remained largely defined by cell phone use or texting behind the wheel. Drivers can be distracted at any moment by common occurrences that are found along common routes. Remind your drivers that paying attention doesn’t mean just staying off the phone. They must keep their eyes on the road at all times, avoiding many other distractions:

    • Adjusting the frequency of a CB radio, or even the vehicle’s radio dials

    • Picking up dropped objects from the floor

    • Reaching for objects in the back seat

    • Straining to read billboards or other business signs

    • Changing a CD

    • Searching for documents in the console or glove compartment

    • Eating or drinking

    • Fidgeting with vehicle controls

    • Entering information into GPS systems


    These behaviors and more can take your drivers’ eyes off the road and put them at risk for an accident. Being distracted for even a few seconds can mean your vehicle is barreling down the road for hundreds of feet without a chance to stop or avoid hazards. It is important to stop drivers from texting or talking behind the wheel, but fleet safety goes much further than that. Encourage good driving habits and costly accidents won’t be a part of your fleet budget.


    Photo courtesy of Endlisnis and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Fleet Resources

  • IRS Raising Standard Mileage Rates

    Not all driving for business purposes is performed by fleet vehicles; many employees occasionally need to use their personal vehicles for business purposes, with mileage reimbursed at a rate dictated by the government. With fuel costs rising and the economy still in need of some recovery, the IRS is increasing the Standard Mileage Rate for business expenses to 55.5 cents per mile, up from 51 cents per mile.


    The new mileage rate applies to deductible transportation expenses, to mileage allowances paid to an employee, and to transportation expenses paid or incurred by the employee.


    Employers should start using the new rates for reimbursement on July 1, 2011. Any miles accumulated in the first half of 2011 should still be computed at the old rate of 51 cents per mile.


    The mileage deduction rates for miles driven for medical and moving purposes are also being increased from 19 to 23.5 cents per mile. The current deduction rate for miles driven for charitable purposes remains at 14-cents-per-mile.


    Unless the IRS extends the changes, rates will return to the pre-July standards on January 1, 2012.



    Photo courtesy of J Rosenfeld and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Small Business Help Tips

  • Employee fraud fleet risk

    Fuel theft by employee fraud is a serious problem that affects fleets nationwide.  However, many companies remain willfully ignorant of this possible expense.

    It is natural to assume that every driver in your employ is a good, honest person who would never steal from the company, but numbers prove otherwise. Recent research shows that up to 25 percent of all fuel claims could be exaggerated, and that does not even begin to address purchases that are not accounted for at all.

    Drivers may choose to make fraudulent purchases because their company has never detected or punished the practice before, or because the price of fuel has become so high that they cannot afford to fill up their personal vehicles. And the costs don’t just come in small amounts every now and then; one Baltimore public works employee was caught after stealing upwards of $1 million in fuel from the city.

    So how can you tell if your fleet is at risk for fuel fraud, and what can you do to stop it? First, examine the way your drivers pay for fuel:

    •  Does your company require receipts for every purchase? 
    • Do you record every vehicle’s odometer reading at each fill-up? 
    • Do you drivers bring itemized receipts for purchases? 
    • Do you have a system in place to prevent personal vehicle fueling?


    If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then your fleet is at risk for fuel fraud. The only way to ensure that fraud does not end up costing your business is to catch it immediately.  Make sure that every gallon of fuel is accounted for by your drivers without any room to slip a few gallons here and there. Look out for extra purchases made at service stations such as food and drink, and check fuel consumption against vehicle odometers to see if your drivers are buying more fuel than the vehicle needs.


    Keeping a close eye on your fuel expenses will ensure that your fuel money stays in your tanks and not in your employees’ pockets. FleetCards USA provides a wide variety of purchasing controls and reporting options that can identify fraudulent spending immediately and stop drivers from buying any more fuel than you allow. Visit fleetcardsusa.com for more info on how a fleet card can save you money.


    Photo courtesy of Alberto Alerigi and re-used under the Creative Commons license.


    • Industry News

  • Small business not feeling economic recovery

    The U.S. Bank’s annual Small Business Survey has been released, and it shows that while the economy is getting better for small businesses, many do not consider the hard times to be over:

    The U.S. Bank polled 1,004 small-business owners in April and May in its 25-state footprint.

    The percentage of owners who still feel like the economy is in a recession fell from 89 percent in 2010 to 78 percent this year.

    Sixty-four percent of the respondents reported higher revenues than last year, versus the 55 percent who reported increases from 2009. Still, only 49 percent expect revenues to increase in 2012.

    The mood in Illinois was more pessimistic: 79 percent still feel as if the economy is in a recession, and 60 percent believe the state’s economy is worse than the national economy.

    While 65 percent reported higher revenues than 2010, only 44 percent believe revenues will increase in 2011.

U.S. Bank has 12 branches in the Rock River Valley: eight in Winnebago County and four in Stephenson County.

    Michael Abate, the market president for U.S. Bank in the Rockford area, said his discussions with local businessmen mirror the results of the survey

    “Most of the business owners I talk to will also say that things are coming back very slowly and that has impacted their ability to bring back workers who have been laid off,” he said in an email.

    “There’s a sense that employment levels, while they may improve, will not get back to previous levels for quite some time.

“As bankers, I think now is the time for us to step up our activities with small-business owners to be sure they’re prepared for the recovery, which I think has begun. Loan requests are slightly higher than the last two years, and I think that’s a very good sign.”

    Do you feel like things have gotten better for your business?

    [via Rockford Register Star]


    Photo courtesy of kalacaw and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Industry News

  • Tire Prices to Rise

    Fuel is not the only expense that continues to rise for fleets.  Several major tire manufacturers are set to raise their prices in July, which could put an even bigger strain on fleet budgets:

    Modern Tire Dealer magazine provided an update of upcoming commercial tire price hikes on the horizon, which are listed below.

    Effective July 5, 2011, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. will increase the dealer base price list on commercial truck tires up to an average of 9%.

    Yokohama Tire Corp. will increase its medium truck and commercial light truck tires effective July 1. The hikes will average 8%, with some in-line adjustments.

    Continental Tire the Americas LLC will increase prices on all Continental, General and Ameri*Steel brand replacement commercial truck tires sold in the U.S. by 11% effective July 1, 2011.

    Michelin North America Inc. will increase prices by an average of 12% on Michelin and BFGoodrich replacement commercial truck tires effective July 1. The increase also includes Michelin Retread Technologies retreads sold in the U.S. Michelin also raised prices up to 6% on Michelin brand replacement ag tires sold in the United States and Canada effective July 1.

    Double Coin Holdings Ltd. raised prices up to 6%, effective June 1, on all Double Coin produced radial truck, OTR, crane and industrial tires. That included associate and private brand radial truck tires.

    Falken Tire Corp. raised commercial truck tire prices by up to 10% effective June 1.

    Hankook Tire America Corp. raised prices on its commercial tires, including Hankook and Aurora, effective June 1. The increases were up to 9%.

    Remember, rising costs make good fuel management more important than ever! Protect your fleet’s budget today with a fuel management solution.

    [via Automotive Fleet]


    Photo courtesy of The Tire Zoo and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Industry News

  • Railroad Safety Tip

    This week's Automotive Fleet Safety Tip is about the proper behavior at railway crossings. You may want to pass this advice along to your fleet drivers as a friendly reminder.
    When you see the round railway crossing sign, slow down, be ready to stop and remember:

    • Look both ways, even if there is no stop sign or signal that a train is coming.
    • If there is a stop sign at the crossing, you must stop. If a train is coming, you must stop at least 15 feet from the tracks.
    • Even if there is no stop signal and no train is coming, passenger buses and trucks carrying flammable or dangerous materials must stop.
    • Do not shift gears while crossing the tracks.
    • If you are stopped at a crossing where there is more than one set of tracks, wait until you have a clear view in both directions before you start across.
    • Trains cannot stop in time to miss cars.
    • It is difficult to accurately judge the speed of a moving train.
    • A crossbuck sign indicates the location of a train crossing and means you must yield to trains.
    • If a gate is lowered, you may not proceed around it even if no train is visible.
    • If the signal lights are flashing, you must stop. You may proceed if no train is visible or it is safe to cross.
    • If you get stuck on the tracks, leave your vehicle immediately and notify the local law enforcement or railroad authorities.
    • Never park your vehicle within 50 feet of the nearest rail of a railroad.

    Photo courtesy of upsidedownsphere and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Industry News

  • Recall Roundup

    Jun 24, 2011
    Automotive Recall

    We would like to take a moment to inform you of some recent vehicle recalls.  If your fleet contains any of these vehicles, take the necessary action to have the problem corrected as soon as possible:

    1.  Mazda Motor Corp. is recalling 103,300 model-year 2008-2009 Mazda3 and Mazdaspeed3 vehicles in the U.S. because of a potential problem with the windshield wiper motor.  The ground terminal of the windshield wiper motor may have been inadvertently bent during assembly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If this condition exists, over time the electrical resistance of the motor circuit may increase up to a point that results in windshield wiper failure. This poses a safety risk.

    To resolve the problem, dealers will install an additional ground harness on the wiper motor. There will be no charge for this service.
    The recall is expected to get under way in mid-July. Vehicles covered by the recall were manufactured from Jan. 7, 2008 through Nov. 28, 2008.
    Vehicle owners can reach Mazda at (800) 222-5500.

    2. Chrysler has recalled a total of 11,351 vehicles across a number of 2011-MY models (built between April 15 and May 14), specifically the Chrysler 200, Chrysler Town and Country, Chrysler 200 Convertible, Dodge Avenger, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Journey, Dodge Nitro, Jeep Compass, Jeep Liberty, Jeep Patriot, and Jeep Wrangler.

    Some of these vehicles may have been built with a missing or incorrectly installed steering column pivot rivet, which could potentially compromise the steering column’s ability to support occupant loads in the event of a frontal crash.

    Chrysler released a statement saying that this manufacturing issue does not affect the ability of the driver to steer the vehicle under normal driving conditions. The automaker also said it’s not aware of any accidents, injuries, or property damage related to this issue.



    Photo courtesy of Jeff Keen and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Industry News

  • Fleets Increasing Personal Use Charges

    Many fleets charge employees for the personal use of company vehicles.  Now, it seems that the struggling economy is prompting some fleets to raise their price:

    Automotive Fleet recently conducted a personal use survey, which asked fleet managers a range of questions related to company personal use policies. Although the full article will be available in print and online soon, here’s a preview of some of the statistics from the survey:

    In 2011, personal use charges increased to an average monthly value of $118. According to past surveys, this amount has steadily increased from $103 in 2008 to $108 in 2009, and up to $110 in 2010.

    In addition, Automotive Fleet’s annual survey of personal use charges and policies found an increase in the percentage of fleets allowing personal use (89 percent in 2011, up from 86 percent in 2010) and as noted, an increase in charges/fees as well. This is still down from the high of 91 percent in 2009.

    Does your fleet charge a personal use fee, and if not, would you consider adopting one to ease your financial burden? Let us know in the comments.


    Photo courtesy of sushi ina and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Industry News

  • In tough economic times, many individuals and businesses are struggling with the ever-increasing cost of fuel. For many, this means cutting back on other expenses or simply using less fuel. For others, it means more drastic measures. Incidents of fuel theft have been increasing along with the price of fuel, with individuals stealing fuel right out of the tanks of unattended vehicles. The thefts have hit consumers and business fleets alike, making security yet another concern for vehicle owners.

    Fuel theft, crime, fleet safetyAccording to a recent ABC report, tank and line punctures are on the rise, with thieves taking any means necessary to get at their victims’ fuel. Cars, trucks, and even buses have had fuel drained by thieves breaking and drilling through gas caps and lines. Fleets are especially vulnerable when large numbers of vehicles are clustered in a single location. And the problem isn’t just with profit losses, according to Denver Police Detective John White.

    "What made this particular method so dangerous and concerning for us was the way in which they were doing it — using cordless drills to puncture holes in these tanks," he said of the rash of cases his department has investigated this spring. "The heat, friction generated could have easily sparked a fire.”

    Make sure that your fleet is protected from gas theft by taking appropriate measures. Store your vehicles in a secure location such as a locked parking lot or a parking deck with video surveillance, and make sure that your vehicles’ fuel doors are secured with a device such as an external lock or locking gas cap. And, as always, prevent fuel theft WITHIN your company with the protection of a fleet card.

    Photo courtesy of bradleyolin and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Industry News

  • The last Mercury brand vehicle produced, a Grand Marquis, is being shipped to a fleet, according to Ford. The identity of the fleet was unavailable as of press time.

     Last Mercury Becomes a Fleet Vehicle

    Produced for 25 years at the Ford Motor Co.'s assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, the Grand Marquis rolled off the production line Jan. 4. The Grand Marquis, first introduced in 1975, has been Mercury's longest-running and best-selling nameplate, with more than 2.7 million sold as of June 2010, according to Ford.

    In June 2010, the automaker announced its plan to focus on the Ford and Lincoln brands and cease production of Mercury vehicles by the end of fourth quarter 2010. However, delayed parts shipments caused by snowstorms pushed production of the final vehicle into the start of 2011.

    Mercury, which accounted for 0.8 percentage points of Ford's overall 16-percent U.S. market share, was originally created in 1938 as a premium offering to Ford. The first model, the 1939 Mercury 8, went into production in 1938. The vehicle sold for $916 and boasted a 95 hp V-8. Sales for the first year total were 65,884 vehicles, according to Ford.

    [via Fleet Financials]

    Photo courtesy of Miguel Vaca and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

    • Industry News