• Texting and other “distracted driving” behaviors have become a major focus of safety organizations and government initiatives over the last few years. But now it seems that one state is starting to pull back on its commitment to the cause:

    California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed state senate Bill 28, which would have increased the fines for violating hands-free and no-texting laws, which would increase the fine for a first hands-free or texting while driving offense to $50 and to $100 for subsequent offenses. It would also have added a point to motorists’ driving records for subsequent offenses.

    “I’m disappointed, but the governor gets the last word,” said California Senator Joe Simitian. “I understand and accept that. My job now is to figure out where do we go from here.”

    California Highway Patrol data showed an immediate drop of 40-50 percent in the number of distracted driving accidents attributed to cell phones after the law went into effect.

    Do you think that texting and driving needs to be regulated more strictly? What have you done to keep your drivers from getting distracted on the road?

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

    • FCUSA In the News

  • The recent MetLife Auto & Home American Safety Pulse poll examined, among other things, how drivers are using modern safety technology on the road. The results were somewhat surprising; nearly two out of three Americans think drivers are relying too heavily on tech when they head out on the road, and many were unaware of major advances. And when it comes to money, American drivers appeared to be all about cosmetics and convenience; 63% of drivers preferred GPS over safety features such as electronic stability control.

    Electronic stability control significantly decreases the likelihood of a single-vehicle crash by up to 59% and provides a 23% reduction in the probability of fatal crashes. Even with this proven effectiveness, just one-third of respondents said they would pay extra for the feature.

    Take a look at some of the poll results:


    •  90% of respondents were either very or somewhat familiar with GPS devices, which can make it easier to find your destination but can take your attention off the road.
    • Less than half (42%) of respondents were very or somewhat familiar with electronic stability control, one of the most significant safety advancements in recent years, which helps improve steering and prevent rollover accidents. Almost one-third (31%) had never heard of it.
    • 44% of respondents were very or somewhat familiar with brake assist, which applies additional brake force in the event of a sudden stop.
    • 43% were very or somewhat familiar with forward collision warning, which alerts the driver when sensors detect an imminent front-end impact.
    • 28% were very or somewhat familiar with the lane departure warning feature, which warns a driver that he or she is drifting out of the designated lane on a highway. 41% percent of respondents had never heard of the feature.
    • 59% of respondents say having a rear-view camera in their car makes them feel safer, while 54% say the feature in cars around them makes them feel safer.
    Does your fleet use safety technology on a regular basis?  If not, maybe you should be!

    Photo courtesy of Jesse757 and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

  • Much of the efficiency of a hybrid vehicle comes from what is called a start-stop system, in which the engine of the vehicle shuts off when it comes to a complete stop. This boosts gas mileage by reducing the overall energy consumption of the vehicle, while keeping the interior electronics of the car running on reserve power.

    Now, Milwaukee-based auto industry giant Johnson Controls has unveiled a new battery that brings the same start-stop system to gasoline-powered cars. The efficiency gained from these batteries does not equal that of a true hybrid; it adds about 5 percent to the vehicle’s fuel efficiency, but that would save an average family about $100 per year on fuel and helps contribute to new efficiency standards mandated by the federal government for a 2025 deadline.

    Ford plans to begin rolling out vehicles with the new batteries next year. The technology will add about $500 to the price of a new vehicle, but the added expense is part of an initiative to push U.S. auto efficiency forward. Analysts predict that the start-stop system will be in about 20% of U.S. cars within 5 years.

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

  • One of the most prevalent causes of traffic accidents is, quite simply, driver error.  Whether it is texting while driving, poor visibility or simply missing a change in traffic conditions, most accidents happen because the driver of the car makes a mistake. That’s why many companies are working towards creating cars that remove the human element and stop accidents… by driving themselves.

    Technology has already been developed to help drivers avoid collisions and even automatically correct their course, but a fully automatic vehicle could be on its way to mass production in the near future. A driverless Chevrolet Tahoe was able to navigate an Air Force base populated with other vehicles and pedestrians for 55 miles in 2007, and a test of several new driverless vehicles is scheduled to take place this October at Walt Disney World. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that connected vehicles could reduce accidents involving unimpaired drivers by 80 percent.

    The technology is still not perfect; in August, a driverless car belonging to Google was found to be at fault in an accident near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA. While the vehicle had already driven over 160,000 miles without incident, it does show that the technology in these vehicles is not perfect, and raises some questions. Would such connected vehicles be tracked at all times? And how would accidents be handled? Most proponents of driverless cars say that drivers would still be responsible for any accident their vehicle was at fault for, but others claim that the manufacturer should handle the burden.

    Regardless of how things go over the next few years, the prospect of a driverless car is certainly an interesting one. Would you feel safe riding in a car with no driver? Or sending one out on business for you? Let us know how you feel in the comments section.Photo courtesy of Elias Gayles and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

  • With hurricane season now in full swing, storms are already starting to affect fuel prices in the United States.

    As Tropical Storm Lee moved through the Gulf of Mexico this weekend, many oil refineries were forced to shut down operations, cutting the amount of US crude production nearly in half and sending the price of oil up by $1.08 per barrel. The national average price of gas rose by 5 cents over the holiday weekend, with further increases likely to occur this week.

    Hurricanes are a major contributor to rising oil prices in the latter half of the year, and with Hurricane Katia threatening some Atlantic refineries in the coming week, the changes could become more extreme.

    Don’t wait for gas prices to go up to start worrying about your fuel budget. Making sure that you keep good habits all year long will help you to ride out the stormy conditions that hit the oil markets from time to time.

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

  • car imgIn the wake of Hurricane Irene, devastating flooding has affected the Eastern seaboard. This week’s Automotive Fleet safety tip, courtesy of CBS News, is to help prepare your drivers for the potential for more flooding this hurricane season by knowing what to do in case your vehicle becomes submerged.

    If you are in a vehicle that has fallen into water, take the following steps to make sure you get out safely:

    - Don’t panic. You will use up a lot of energy and possibly make poor decisions. Stay calm and remain in your seat with your seat belt fastened.

    - Leave the vehicle on and roll down the windows. This will make escape easier.

    - Remain in your seat and wait for the car to submerge completely. Trying to climb out as water rushes in will be impossible, and water pressure will keep the doors from opening.

    - Grab hold of the window frame to maintain orientation if the car begins to roll or flip.

    - Once the car has submerged and completely filled with water, either open your door or exit through the window and swim to safety.

    - Again: Do Not Panic. Keeping calm and following these steps will ensure that you escape to safety.

    Photo courtesy of Brian Tomlinson and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
    • Industry News

  • hands imgIn a presentation to the a href="http://www.nafa.org/">National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA), analysts from Edmunds.com said that automotive market conditions could favor fleet managers in the second half of 2011 as retail sales begin to drop off.

    Declining consumer confidence and other economic factors will likely restrict the retail automotive market in the second half of the year, said Edmunds.com chief economist Lacey Plache.
If demand falls enough, automakers and dealers could turn to fleet sales to meet sales goals.  This should give fleet managers a stronger negotiating position when purchasing new vehicles for the coming year! The resale value of used cars also rose, further to fleet managers’ advantage.

    While the retail vehicle market is not yet guaranteed to suffer an extreme slowdown, fleet managers and business owners should be on the lookout to find the best opportunities for repurchasing. Making smart decisions about vehicle purchasing will keep your fleet financially secure, even in tough economic times.

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

    • Industry News

  • We’ve talked about the cars that have been shown as high-priority targets for car theft (the Cadillac Escalade topped the list, unsurprisingly), but what vehicles are thieves staying away from? That’s what the Highway Loss Data Institute set out to find with its annual report.

    While the assumption is that these would be mainly undesirable or “uncool” vehicles, it is generally not the case. Many of the vehicles that are repelling thieves are contemporary and in fairly wide use, and are gaining notoriety with car thieves due in part to their aggressive anti-theft systems.

    Here are the ten least-stolen cars found by the study:

    • Audi A6 all-wheel-drive, large luxury car

    • Mercury Mariner (2009-10) small SUV

    • Chevrolet Equinox (2010) midsize SUV

    • Volkswagen CC (2009-10), midsize car

    • Chevrolet Equinox four-wheel-drive (2010) midsize SUV

    • Lexus RX 350 (2010) midsize luxury SUV

    • Saturn Vue midsize SUV

    • Chevrolet Aveo (2009-10) mini station wagon

    • BMW 5 Series all-wheel-drive large luxury car

    • Mini Cooper Clubman two-door car

    With anti-theft technology always improving, criminals are finding it harder and harder to get away with stealing vehicles. Make sure your fleet is protected at all times, whether they are on your lot or on the job.

    Photo courtesy of Jesse Bikman and re-used under the Creative Commons license.
    • Industry News

  • A recent study showed that nearly 5% of drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once within the last month. This number is just a part of the National Sleep Foundation’s findings that more than a third of all adult drivers had fallen asleep at the wheel within the previous year.

    Falling asleep at the wheel is a major cause of accidents.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 automobile accidents occur every year as a direct result of fatigued driving. Such accidents lead to approximately 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses every year. Research has shown that the level of impairment associated with 24 hours without sleep is comparable to a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent, over the legal limit in all states.

    With fleet drivers sometimes making long trips under tight deadlines, drowsy driving is a major occupational hazard. Many drivers think that they can get through exhaustion on the road with caffeinated drinks, loud music, or some other remedy, but the best thing to do is stop and rest. Build time into your drive for short rest breaks if you have not gotten enough sleep or have been driving for long periods of time. The Federal Motor Carrier Association recommends stopping every three hours to rest on long trips.

    Keep your drivers well-rested and make sure they’re not taking on more than they can handle. It will keep them safe and keep you accident-free.

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

    • Industry News

  •  UPS has entered a new contract with Electric Vehicles International of Stockton, California, to provide 100 new electric delivery trucks for the shipping giant’s fleet. The new vehicles, which will be deployed in Southern California, run for an estimated 90 miles on a single charge.
    UPS has been adding alternative fuels to its fleet for a while now, employing technologies such as natural gas, electricity and propane. The latest electric acquisition cost UPS more than $100,000 dollars, but comes with over $7 million in financial incentives from the State of California and several air-quality management districts.

    This deal brings more focus to electric vehicles being put to commercial use, but director of vehicle engineering for EVI, Mike Britt, says there are still issues with widespread adoption.

    "The cost of these is still prohibitive," Britt said, noting that the price issue should become as production of electric vehicles and their batteries increases.

    "We would like to see the batteries lighter and a lot cheaper," Britt said. "Everything else is there."

    Fleets are increasingly turning to new technologies to supplant their regular vehicles and combat fuel costs and environmental issues. Is your fleet using any alternative fuels to do business? Leave a comment and let us know!

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

    • Industry News