• In a recent study by Robert Poole, revealing information was brought to light on the status of the United States National Highway System (NHS). Most notably of which is the lack of inflation indexing for the current pre-gallon fuel taxes. This is an issue for the interstate infrastructure due to the road surfaces reaching the effective lifetime of 50 years, thus providing a need of modernization and replacement.  Unfortunately, the national average fuel tax of forty-six cents per gallon of gasoline or fifty-two cents per gallon of diesel (Source) in conjunction with the state and federal highway trust funds is not nearly enough to adequately finance the near one trillion dollar project; aptly named "Interstate 2.0".  According to Poole "reconstruction is estimated at $589 billion, in 2010 dollars, and lane additions at $394 billion, for a total 2010 cost of $983 billion." For sufficient funding of this project, Poole has proposed a per-mile tolling system which will garner enough revenue to provide 99% of the net present value of the project's proposed cost.

    Included within these costs is the estimate for executing the tolling system. One of the overt drawbacks of the current toll booth/ toll plaza system is the traffic congestion that builds up behind the checkpoint. Within the proposal for 'Interstate 2.0' adjustments to this antiquated process have been delineated. State-of-the-art All-Electronic Tolling (AET) equipment will allow fleet operators to travel throughout the United States with a single transponder linked to the fleet's account without having to reduce speed for a toll plaza.

    Value-Added Tolling

    Recognizing that regular interstate users would be more than perturbed at the concept of being tolled on a surface that was already paid for with fuel taxes, Poole has proposed that the practice of per-mile tolling "be implemented on the principle of 'value-added tolling." This principle means that tolling would only begin after a corridor has been brought up to 'Interstate 2.0' standards. In addition to quelling the population's nerves, this will effectively limit the risk of redundant taxation that has the possibility to occur if states are slow to remove the gas tax currently in place. However, if there is an event of double taxation, the system permits "rebates of fuel taxes generated by the miles driven on the tolled Interstates".

    Advantages of Per-Mile Tolling

    Since the current system of fuel taxes supports the funding of all roadways at an average rate, light passenger vehicles and long-haul tractor trailers all pay the same average price to utilize the entire nationwide transportation surface. In this outdated system of taxation, a fleet that operates primarily on inexpensive local streets pays the same fuel tax as the fleet of long-haul tractor trailers that spend a majority of its miles on multi-billion dollar bridges, interchanges and expressways. However, with the per-mile based AET proposed for Interstate 2.0, toll rates will be "tailored to the cost of each highway."

    Cost dependent toll rates is just one of the advantages of per-mile tolling, in addition to this, Poole describes six other reasons for per-mile tolling creating greater benefit than per-gallon taxation:

    Per-mile tolling reflects greater fairness, since those who drive mostly on Interstates will pay higher rates than those who drive mostly on local streets.

    If per-mile tolling is implemented as a true user fee, it will be self-limiting, dedicated solely to the purpose for which it was implemented (and enforceable via bond covenants with those who buy toll revenue bonds).

    Per-mile tolling will guarantee proper ongoing maintenance of the tolled corridors, since bond-buyers and other investors legally require this as a condition of providing the funds.

    Per-mile tolling also provides a ready source of funding for future improvements to the tolled corridor.

    Toll financing means needed projects, such as reconstruction and widening, can be done when they are needed, and paid for over several decades as highway users enjoy the benefits of the improved facilities.

    Finally, a per-mile tolling system using AET can easily implement variable pricing on urban expressways to reduce and manage traffic congestion.

    Roadblocks to Interstate 2.0

    For the wheels to be set in motion on modernizing the NHS, Congress needs to provide permission due to current federal law prohibiting tolling of existing lanes on Interstate highways.  In the
    current pilot program, only three states – Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia - have the opportunity to implement tolls on interstates for funding of reconstruction. Local politics for each of these states has created a stalemate in the process which is inhibiting the system from being tested. Fortunately, the Federal Surface Transportation Program is up for reauthorization in 2014 which would expand the immobile pilot program from Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia nationwide. This expansion could be the necessary catalyst for both individual states and the federal government to realize the benefits of 'value-added tolling'.

    Impact for Fleet Owners

    Like all political decisions, Interstate 2.0 will have a ripple effect throughout the transportation industry. Whether this will be a positive reaction from small fleets or large has yet to be evaluated. Fleetcards USA has reason to believe that fleet owners and fleet managers will look upon this favorably after open-mindedly reviewing the study. With fuel taxes being removed, the cost of fuel will be reduced while the tailoring of toll rates will create an ecosystem of fairness for fleets that travel hundreds of thousands of miles annually. Fleet Owners should approach the study with objectivity rather than stubborn bias for the long-standing system of per-gallon fuel taxes.

    • Industry News

  • Here at FleetCardsUSA we stress the important decisions that fleet managers need to make in order to prevent costly mistakes for the whole business. These necessities range from stressing efficient driving to keep fuel costs down to ensuring that fleet drivers are healthy and safe throughout their tenure.  Unfortunately, the backbone of the industry – the drivers themselves – is swept to the side as replaceable and uncouth. With the third week of September halfway through, it is important to note that we are in the midst of Driver Appreciation Week.

    Consistently delivering around 68% of the U.S. freight tonnage year after year, truck drivers are not only the backbone of the shipping industry but the country as well. These tireless operators haul the necessary wares that keep your life organized, your car running, and your stomach full. In addition to the payload consistently tagging behind the Tractor to keep shelves stocked, aggressive updates in regulations by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have allowed safe, defensive drivers to rise to the top of this thankless career.  By logging nearly 400 billion miles annually and looking out for fellow man, these highly skilled fleet operators are facilitating a safer transportation environment for those of us that merely utilize the highway infrastructure weaving across America as a commute medium.

    Fleet management needs to continue this upward trend of higher regard for drivers by effectively communicating to individual operators and fleet teams on the topics of safety, fuel efficiency, productivity and satisfaction of the driver. Through transferring the focus of the fleet from goals to the people responsible for goal completion, managers can effectively increase productivity and employee retention. This can be accomplished through provision of proactive insight on responsibilities as well as allowing a back-and-forth line of communication so that operators can provide feedback on their satisfaction with, and desires from the company.

    These drivers have long hours away from loved ones, in unhealthy environments so that the rest of the country can survive on the goods being delivered. As summer comes to a close this weekend, if you find yourself at a rest stop, take a moment to thank the individuals that enable many of us to live in a consistent, happy lifestyle.

    • Industry News

  • Cargo theft has been a topic of concern for fleet managers for as long as there has been cargo; maritime pirates of the 16th and 17th centuries where cargo thieves, just as stagecoach robberies of the 18th and 19th centuries and train robberies of the 19th and 20th centuries were cargo thefts. Thwarting this ever present injustice continues to burden fleets with stress and the issues that arise from micro-managerial tactics. However, there are simple practices that, if implemented, can prevent cargo theft, a $35 billion industry in 2011.

    Cargo Theft Prevention

    With the advancement in technology that fleets have access to in the 21st century, criminals have had to devise alternative methods of stealing. Systems like Lo-Jack®, and other GPS tracking systems have led to a decrease in violent acquisition. Unfortunately, cargo theft overall has not seen a significant decline due to these technological advancements.  There have been numerous reported cases of employees of shipping companies transacting the theft because they have garnered trust from the corporation.  In addition to interior offenses, lack of clear communication in the logistics channel has led to countless other robberies. This lack of communication is the area that fleet managers and fleet operators should place the greatest focus. Without knowing precise drop-off and pick-up details beforehand, drivers have succumbed to feats of deception and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of cargo because of this oversight in transparency. To ward off these efforts of deceptive crookery, fleet managers need to ensure that the receiving and shipping teams are on the same page with time and location of drop-off.

    Theft Prevention Tips for Fleet Operators

    ~  Before departing verify delivery location, time and with whom the cargo is being left with at the destination
    ~  Secure tractors with air-cuff and tractor steering joint locks
    ~  Implement tracking devices in both the trailer and on products in the event of theft
    ~  Secure both unloaded and loaded trailers with ISO 17712 compliant barrier seals
    ~  Utilize hardened padlocks for access doors.
    ~  Ensure unattached trailers remain immobile with kingpin locks
    ~  Avoid leaving trailers unattended, if abandoning equipment is an absolute necessity be sure they are in a secure location
    ~  Utilize a theft prevention device like SafeKey or the Ravelco Anti-Theft Device

    These are simple steps that all fleets should already be implementing as habit. Do not make a costly mistake as a fleet manager by believing that your deliveries are not going to be targeted. Having a fleet be reduced in size negates all other cost saving practices that have been tediously executed, from meticulous fleet maintenance, training drivers safe operation habits, and most importantly, money saved from fuel efficiency is now null due to the liability ensued by theft.

    • Small Business Help Tips

  • The drivers of a commercial fleet have one of the unhealthiest careers.  In the United States, a fleet driver is permitted to drive for a maximum of 11 hours before having to leave the captain’s chair for ten hours. In an eight (8) day period, drivers are only allowed to have 70 hours of road time before being required to be off-duty for 34 hours. This career is so detrimental to an individual's health because of the lack of activity that occurs in those 11-hour windows – 95% of this time is spent motionlessly seated – as well as the less-than-healthy food choices that litter the American Interstate system.  This lack of daily action and poor diet leads to a myriad of internal issues that cause the average life expectancy of a fleet driver to be 61 years.  In addition to concern for the well being of the fleet operators, Accident Analysis & Prevention recently found a strong correlation between a driver's obesity and their chances of falling victim to a vehicular accident (full study).  Fortunately, there are in depth resources for a fleet manager to adopt for the development of an engaging wellness program so that drivers can expect to live long and fruitful lives.

    Tips for a Healthy Driving Lifestyle

    The greatest roadblock for improving health as a driver is limited access to exercise opportunities.  However, a gym membership is not needed to get the blood moving and the muscles aching. As a fleet manager, it is your responsibility to encourage drivers to think outside of the box in terms of fitness. A quick, personal gym can be setup in minutes with only resistance bands gallon jugs of water and a jump rope. As a driver who has been sitting for nearly 11 hours straight, when you get to a stopping point, complete your checklist routine and then, instead of sitting or lying down in your sleeper, go be active for 30 minutes; jump rope, jog laps of the truck lot or even just your truck if you are pulled over to the side of the road for the night, and complete a resistance band circuit. This daily activity, while brief, will lead to an uplifted state of well-being as well as reduce the risk of serious medical issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol, sleep apnea and circulation difficulties.

    Furthermore, the effects of minimal activity are compounded by the general poor diet that fleet operators often rely upon while on the road. Fast food has proven to be a detriment to the wellness of long-haul drivers nationwide. The ease of access and low cost makes fast food a simple choice to make on the surface.  However, the low quality proteins of these establishments, as well as the increased levels of sodium, cholesterol, and complex sugars prove that this is more costly in the long run than spending a few extra dollars on quality dining items.

    Thankfully, DrivingHealthy.org has launched as a strong resource for fleets to utilize to stay in good health from desk managers to fleet drivers.  This website gives insight into various means of living healthy in a range of environments.  In addition to the exercise suggestions, this viable resource provides guides for eating healthy both on the road and at home.

    Developing a wellness program for your company needs to be all-inclusive so that those employees lower in the hierarchy witness executives practicing what is being preached. Becoming cognizant of health and wellness is a necessary and easy step to be made in today's fleet driven industries. Proper fleet management is more than making sure that fleet vehicles are properly maintained, you have to make sure that the fleet's most valuable assets – the drivers – are also operating at maximum efficiency.