• It looks like all of that integrated text-eliminating technology we were talking about a few days back is coming along sooner than you may think! Ford is set to begin installing a feature that reads text messages out loud to reduce distraction due to reading them while driving:

    The feature, which will be installed in new vehicles and some older models, is part of Ford's voice-activated technology, Sync, and is already installed on all model 2012 Ford vehicles with the exception of the Ranger.

    The system syncs with smartphones via a Bluetooth connection and alerts users when they receive text messages, reads them out loud and allows users to respond with a selection of standard pre-written messages without taking their hands off the wheel.

    Vehicles model 2010 or later will carry the new system as an upgrade available as a download. Older Ford vehicles that have Sync will soon be able to make the update as well.

    Studies have shown that distracted driving is a major factor in fatal traffic accidents. What is your fleet doing to reduce distracted driving?

    Photo courtesy of HighTechDad and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • With Moammar Gadhafi no longer in power, oil companies are already looking to start ramping up production in Libya, whose supplies had been tightly controlled by the former dictator. Now a question remains: what effect will this new production capacity have on worldwide oil prices?

    Some senior analysts within the industry recently spoke to Edmunds Inside Line about the possible effects.

    "Gadhafi's death won't be a big game-changer in the short term," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com "I don't see prices going below $3 per gallon."


    "I think consumers can expect lower short-term (gas) prices and then another vicious winter-spring rally," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. "Gadhafi's loss was factored into the marketplace when Tripoli fell this summer. There was a huge drop within a few days." He predicts that gas will average about $3.40 per gallon from now through Thanksgiving with prices rising to as much as $4.25 per gallon in the spring.


    Before the civil war, Libya produced only 2 percent of the world's oil, but because the market is so touchy, any interruption in oil production can have a big impact on gas prices.


    DeHaan said a bigger impact on gas prices in the U.S. will be China's economy.


    "If China's economy hit a slowdown or if it started to see negative growth, it would be huge on oil prices," he said. "To see China's economy slow down would mean the pace of imports would slow down and that would be big. It would lower (gas) prices.”


    (Tags: Libya, Oil Prices, Production)
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  • With new standards in place to raise the overall efficiency of new vehicles by 2025, it would stand to reason that automakers would be taking steps toward higher fuel economy standards already. Apparently, this might not quite be the case yet! Some vehicles have taken a step back, as 2 different reports out this week conflicted over whether the average mileage has slipped back.

    The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in September was 22.1 mpg --unchanged from August and at the lowest level in 12 months. TrueCar.com said that the September fuel economy for new vehicles sold stood at an average 22.0 mpg compared with 21.7 in August and 21.4 in September 2010.


    Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan’s institute, said fuel economy has gone up from 21.1 mpg two years ago and said he was not surprised by the difference between his calculations and the TrueCar measure.


    “The two methodologies and the data sources are slightly different. However, the actual values are not that different from each other,” he said.  


    How do you feel about the recent changes in fuel economy standards, and do you think it is important to fleets like yours? Leave a comment and let us know.

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  • Here’s another story of a real fleet taking on more alternative fuel technologies in the name of efficiency:

    DeKalb County, Ga. has ordered 24 new Freightliner Business Class M2 112 compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks. The Atlanta Metro county will receive the vehicles in late 2011. The trucks will be used for sanitation and maintenance.

    By converting the county’s methane waste to energy, DeKalb produces enough electricity to run 2,500 homes and will produce enough natural gas to run 600 trucks. 

To support the gas-to-energy program, DeKalb County is building two fueling stations for passenger cars and trucks.

    “We take environmental responsibility very seriously, and we are very proud of all our green initiatives,” said Robert Gordon, fleet service superintendent, DeKalb County Fleet Management Division.

    With more and more government fleets taking on alternative fuels to maximize their efficiency, commercial fleets are starting to take on similar habits. What is your fleet thinking about for the future?

    Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Richards and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • With mobile Internet becoming more and more ubiquitous in our daily lives, it only makes sense that it is showing up in our vehicles. As time goes on, our vehicles will become fully integrated with Internet connectivity. Glenn Lurie, president of AT&T’s Emerging Devices business, recently spoke about the future of connected cars to The New York Times:


    “Five percent of cars are connected today,” said Lurie. “Three to five years from now, 100 percent [of new vehicles] will be connected. You’ll see diagnostics, calls when the airbag goes off, real-time traffic reports, entertainment in the back seat.”
    Mr. Lurie thinks that the next step may be more grassroots, as smaller companies figure out how to repurpose existing devices, like the iPod, to work in new environments.


    “What will be more innovative than people realize is the accessories business,” he said.

    From iPod docks to integrated systems, we’re all becoming more and more dependent on technology to help us drive and do our jobs. Does your fleet use mobile devices in your vehicles during the workday?

    Photo courtesy of Amy Guth and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • A while back, we looked at Ford’s new inflatable rear seat belt technology designed to reduce injury to passengers during accidents. Now that technology has received the prestigious Popular Mechanics’ Breakthrough Product Award.

    "Ford's goal is to develop innovative safety technologies that give our customers more peace of mind, so it is a great honor to receive the Breakthrough Technology Award," said Srini Sundararajan, safety technical leader for Ford Research and Innovation. "I thank Popular Mechanics for recognizing the contributions of a number of dedicated engineers from Ford."

    The advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries. Ford introduced the inflatable rear seat belts in the 2011 Explorer, which already has a lot of positive feedback for its safety and driver-assist technologies.

    Ford plans to roll out inflatable seat belt technology in more vehicles in the coming years.

    Photo courtesy of JD Hancock and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • With Autumn now in full swing an winter just around the corner, it’s important to make sure your vehicles are ready for the coming winter. Take a moment to look over these winter preparation tips courtesy of Automotive Fleet and AAA:

    • Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician to make sure your engine will start reliably.
    • Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying.
    • Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or excessively spongy feeling.
    • In areas with heavy winter weather, installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread.
    • As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Check tire inflation pressure more frequently in fall and winter.
    • Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability.
    • Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights.
    • Replace any wiper blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In areas with snow, consider installing winter wiper blades.
    • Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing.
    • Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.
    Photo courtesy of Andrew Magill and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
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  • It seems that the recent drop in gas prices in many parts of the country may be coming to an end, as changes in the market are likely to increase prices in the near future. Wholesale prices have seen dramatic increases in the past couple of days, with some markets back above $3.00 per gallon.


    With supplies tightening and rising wholesale prices, drivers should expect to see a bounce in retail prices over the coming weeks. Many experts believe that prices will remain relatively high through the rest of the year.


    As winter approaches, the annual relief from high summer gas prices may be a bit late in coming. Prepare your fleet for more high prices this winter by taking a good look at your practices and using good fuel management techniques!
    • Control your costs by keeping track of purchases
    • Eliminate unnecessary or fraudulent spending
    • Cut down on administrative time
    And remember, you can do all three with a fleet card!
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  • If your fleet is partial to Chrysler vehicles, you may want to make sure you’re not about to lose your favorite model…
    As part of a plan to end duplication in dealer showrooms and give each of its brands a strong and distinctive lineup, Chrysler Group LLC will discontinue several models in the coming years. The much-loved Grand Caravan will be one of those eliminated – replaced by the Chrysler Town & Country.


    The Grand Caravan minivan and Avenger mid-sized sedan will be replaced by a single crossover in 2013. Both the Dodge crossover and a new Chrysler sedan to replace the 200 will be built on Fiat platforms.
    "We cannot have the same type of vehicle in the showroom because the consumer is not stupid," Marchionne said. "We're not going to create the confusion and conflict in the showroom."


    Further details of Chrysler’s new plan:


    •    A second smaller Dodge crossover is planned to replace the current Journey. That vehicle will arrive after 2014.
    •    Dodge will cover the compact segment with a four-door sedan, expected to debut at the Detroit auto show in January.
    •    The next-generation full-sized minivan, due in 2014, will be offered only by the Chrysler brand.
    •    Chrysler has decided against introducing a new subcompact, citing price concerns.

    If any of your favorite models are on the chopping block, stock up now!

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  • We talk a lot about distracted driving here on the FleetCards USA blog, but it’s important to realize just how much this risky driving practice can affect the safety of drivers and everyone around them. Now a new study from the Texas Transportation Institute shows that the impact is not insignificant; the results show that it takes a driver twice as long to react when they are distracted by reading or sending a text message.


    The study, sponsored by the Southwest Region University Transportation Center, tested 42 drivers between the ages of 16 and 54 on a closed track with and without the task of texting a story while navigating the course.
    Researchers also measured each driver’s ability to maintain proper lane position and a constant speed. They found drivers were less able to safely maintain their position in the driving lane when they were texting. Texting drivers tended to slow down but also had larger variations in speed overall.


    More than 20 percent of all drivers have admitted to texting while driving. This leads to thousands of accidents every year, and should not be taken lightly. Make sure your drivers know the risks of texting and put policies in place to discourage it.


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