Tires are one of a fleet’s most important assets. “A proactive tire maintenance program supports safety on the road and helps fleets capitalize on long-term performance. From Class 8 trucks to passenger vehicles, proactive tire maintenance helps fleets identify and address problems before they happen, potentially avoiding costly downtime while multiplying savings through optimized tire performance, including improved tread life and fuel economy,” explained Kyle Chen, brand manager, truck and bus radial tires, U.S. and Canada, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO).

By managing a tire throughout its lifecycle – from selection to removal – fleet managers can make a big impact on the bottom line, all while making mobility more efficient for their fleet.

Tips for tire safety

Before they hit the road, every driver should conduct a pre-trip inspection to ensure there are no tire-related issues that need to be addressed before a haul. “For example, visually inspecting tires for irregularities such as cuts or penetrations is a simple and effective pre-trip tire maintenance step that every fleet should perform,” Chen added.

Below are some other best practices that Bridgestone recommends fleets implement before, during, and after a haul to promote safer driving conditions and efficient operations:

  1. Select the right tire for the job. Fleet managers should consider the proper tire size, load carrying capacity, and service type. According to Bridgestone, tire selection is the foundation of tire performance. Fleet managers should also consider additional factors when choosing a tire to make sure performance expectations are met, such as application, size, load carrying capacity, and route. Once a tire is selected, proactive maintenance, operations, and inspections are critical to ensure a tire’s long-term safety and performance over time.
  2.  
  3. Ensure and maintain proper cold inflation tire pressure. Tire inflation pressure is a critical and often overlooked aspect of a tire maintenance program, according to Bridgestone. Improper tire inflation pressure can lead to downtime and damaged tire casings. Proper tire inflation pressure can help to ensure even weight distribution across a tire’s contact patch, which can maximize treadwear life and fuel efficiency. It is important to remember to check tire inflation pressure when a tire is cold. According to Bridgestone, cold inflation pressure is most accurately measured when tires have been parked for at least three hours or driven less than one mile at a moderate speed. Bridgestone also recommends fleet managers and commercial truck drivers use a calibrated tire pressure gauge at each wheel position.
  4.  
  5. Inspect tires often. Hands-on inspections are helpful to identify irregular wear issues, low tread depth, and road-related damage. Before each trip, fleet managers should ensure drivers look for such issues as irregular wear, flat spotting, cuts, cracks, bulges, or penetrations. Frequent, manual inspections will help drivers address any issues before they impact tire performance.
  6.  
  7. Abide by a tire’s recommended speed rating. Fleet managers should always reinforce drivers abide by each tire’s maximum speed rating, which may be lower than posted highway speed limits. By not exceeding the speed rating of a tire, drivers can help avoid various tire-related incidents that could potentially cause downtime or create additional road hazards for the motoring public.

Fleet managers and their drivers should always be on the same page when it comes to tire maintenance. By managing a tire throughout its lifecycle – from selection to removal – fleet managers can make a big impact on the bottom line, all while making mobility more efficient for their fleet.

“Everyone benefits from proper tire maintenance practices. Training and education can help ensure that everyone behind the wheel and in the yard understands their role in a fleet’s tire maintenance program. When everyone knows their role and what proactive maintenance steps to take, fleets are better prepared to avoid downtime and improve safety on the road,” Chen added.

Debunking tire myths

Myths are abundant when it comes to tires. Misinformation is spread so much more quickly today than ever before, and it’s essential to know the truth related to truck tires.

One myth is that all tires are created equal. “Tires are highly specialized pieces of technology engineered for specific vehicles, equipment, and applications. With this specialization in mind, selecting the right tire for the application and use is critical to tire safety and performance. Fleet managers should consider the vehicle type, Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR), speed requirements, service conditions, and tire specifications such as size, load range, and intended application,” Chen said.

Tire selection with application and position in mind is particularly relevant today, as fleets are running heavier loads for longer hours of operation, according to Bridgestone. Another myth is around retreading, or the practice of replacing the tread on a tire casing instead of removing the tire from service after one use.

“Retreading helps extend the useful life of a tire casing by replacing the tread two or more times, which, in turn, helps lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) per mile,” Chen said. “Many people still believe a common tire myth that retreads are of lesser quality than new tires and are a contributor to tire debris seen on highways. In reality, rubber debris most often is the result of human error and poor tire care such as underinflation, overloading, and tire abuse,” Chen said.

Today’s high-quality retreads can provide performance and reliability benefits for much less than purchasing another new tire. “It is easy to see why many of the largest fleets in North America incorporate retreads in their tire programs. Again, safety and performance come back to tire care best practices, which are critical for both new and retread tires,” Chen said.

The bottom line

It can’t be said enough: Tires are one of a fleet’s most valuable assets.

“A proactive tire maintenance program encourages fleets to monitor their tires every day and address issues proactively before they impact operational efficiency, increase incremental operating costs, cause safety concerns, and unplanned downtime. A proactive tire maintenance program treats tires like the important asset that they are, and more importantly, supports the safety of a fleet, its operators, and other drivers on the road,” concluded Chen.  

Source: Automotive Fleet

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If you’re at fault in an accident, there’s a good chance your insurance rates are going up. But just how much more money can you expect to shell out? A new study by Insurance.com ranks the best and worst states for car accident claims, based on the average rates drivers pay following an at-fault accident.

Michigan is the worst state for accident claims, according to the study. Drivers here can expect their premiums to jump to an average of $3,502 after an at-fault accident, a 48 percent increase over pre-accident rates. Louisiana and California are not far behind, as drivers will pay an average of $3,348 and $3,081, respectively. In Louisiana, that’s a 50 percent increase from the average insurance rate in the state, and in California, it’s a whopping 73 percent hike.

Worst states for car accident claims

Best states for car accident claims

1. Michigan ($3,502)
2. Louisiana ($3,348)
3. California ($3,081)
4. Florida ($3,045)
5. Delaware ($2,592)
6. Rhode Island ($2,591)
7. Connecticut ($2,589)
8. Georgia ($2,552)
9. Minnesota ($2,503)
10. District of Columbia ($2,438)

1. Maine ($1,058)
2. Ohio ($1,170)
3. Virginia ($1,250)
4. Indiana ($1,259)
5. Idaho ($1,294)
6. North Dakota ($1,338)
7. New York ($1,360)
8. Vermont ($1,405)
9. Hawaii ($1,414)
10. Alaska ($1,458)

Michigan drivers can expect their premiums to jump an average of $3,502 after an at-fault accident.

Maine is the most forgiving state where drivers pay an average of $1,058 after an accident. This is a mere 20 percent increase over the average insurance rate of $884, which is also the lowest in the nation. Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, and Idaho also ranked high on the list of best states for car accident claims.

According to Insurance.com, rates increase by an average of $450, or 31 percent, after one at-fault accident involving more than $2,000 in damage. Many factors play a role in how much you’ll pay after an accident, including your insurance company, driving record, and where you live. Some insurance companies increase your rate considerably after a claim, while others do not.

Insurance.com says the cheapest car insurance company before a claim may not be the cheapest after you file a claim, so you can really benefit from shopping around for a new policy. “Our data research shows that for the insurers surveyed, a driver can save up to $4,300, the average being about $600, by comparing car insurance quotes after an accident claim,” said Penny Gusner, Insurance.com consumer analyst.

Source: MotorTrend

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Daimler AG is showing off a new wrinkle in digitalization by Daimler Trucks that will ease the stress on commercial vehicle drivers.

At the same time, the added digitalization processes are becoming more efficient and more secure by enabling trucks to autonomously communicate with other machines and carry out legally-binding transactions, such as payments.

With the newly created digital Truck-ID and Truck Wallet, experts at Daimler Trucks have now created the appropriate prerequisites as part of a pilot project. For example, developers have joined forces with partners and successfully carried out an automatic payment at an electric charging station.

Helge Koenigs, head of the Truck Wallet project at Daimler Trucks, said, “With Truck-ID and Truck Wallet, we have laid the foundation for autonomous interaction between trucks and other machines – a true technological milestone.

“Our aim is that, in future, trucks will be able to act on their own behalf in various fields of application. Drivers can then concentrate more on their actual driving tasks and haulage firms benefit from a significant reduction in administration work and more secure processes,” Koenig said.

The system allows vehicles to themselves to other machines using their Truck-ID as if they had their own integrated ID card and can thus provide a unique signature for specific processes.

Truck Wallet works as a platform technology and central user program for all applications which can access the Truck-ID for various purposes.

Truck-ID and Truck Wallet – both currently still in the prototype phase – are stored as encrypted software programs within a cryptographic processor. Koenig said the system makes it practically impossible to carry out such things as fuel card scams whereby criminals copy a fuel card and spy on the PIN number being entered.

This processor is part of the Truck Data Center, the central telematics control unit of the new Mercedes-Benz Actros.

It receives data from the sensors, cameras, etc. in the truck and evaluates this for the most varied of use cases. What’s more, as the interface for all connectivity services, it is responsible for the truck’s external communications.

Just like a modern smartphone, the Truck Data Center communicates via Bluetooth or 4G with the infrastructure, with other vehicles and other instances which are part of the logistics process.

“Also in terms of highly automated trucks, our prototypes show the direction in which such further developments can go,” Koenig said.

Source: The Detroit Bureau

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Spec’ing a vehicle can be a misleading task. It’s something fleet managers are probably already aware of, and may already believe they can do well. But, under-spec’ed and over-spec’ed trucks often come with their disadvantages, including unnecessary costs and loss of productivity.

“The wrong vehicle will not meet our customer’s needs. Productivity will suffer, drivers will be unhappy, and our customer and their customers will not be served. Proper vehicle specifications are the key to greater productivity,” explained Art Trahan, sr. manager national account technical support for Ryder Fleet Management Solutions.

Changing times

It’s news to no one that fleet management is evolving. The job of fleet manager has grown and evolved to include more and more responsibility, and the auto industry has evolved and grown in similar ways. This is why even fleets should remember to revisit their specs on a regular basis.

“Today, trucks are becoming very application-specific due to programming demands. Yesterday’s truck is not equal to today’s truck, and the application’s productivity may not be the same as the tool has changed. Productivity is affected by safety, fuel economy, longevity, uptime, and reliability. Evaluation and inclusion of these points allow for the optimization of productivity. Including anti-collision systems and stability control can affect productivity through the avoidance of an incident,” noted John Felder, product marketing manager, Volvo Trucks North America. 

Felder pointed to trucks that may require power take-off (PTO), a technology that continues to evolve to become more efficient.

“The spec’ing of the truck with the PTO in mind can allow for improved fuel economy, longevity, uptime, and reliability. And this is accomplished through the selection and optimization of the hardware and software components targeted for the application,” he explained.

Jake Hebenstrait, senior account manager – truck product specialist for Merchants Fleet Management, pointed to the healthcare industry, where fleets change as equipment needs change.

“Because of the constant advancements in technology, companies who provide bedside imaging services have been able to scale down the equipment used to provide their mobile clinical care service. Due to this, larger vans that were historically used to transport the imaging equipment are no longer needed, and the same job function can often be accomplished with smaller vehicles that are easier to use, creating an opportunity to increase overall production and output,” explained Hebenstrait.

Look past up-front costs

Fleet managers may often feel pressure to choose the most affordable option, either to meet budget constraints or to avoid the requirements of a larger truck, like a CDL driver.

“It’s a short-sighted strategy as, in the long run, vehicles that are not optimally configured face increased maintenance costs, longer downtimes, shorter life­spans, and increased liability. On the flip side is over-spec’ing. Although this is, of course, inadvisable due to increased capital cost, over-spec’ing doesn’t come back to haunt you the same way that under-spec’ing might.”

Wayne Reynolds, manager, upfit design and consultation, LeasePlan USA.

Hebenstrait from Merchants explained that under-spec’ing might also be a symptom of the growing role of fleet management. “As fleet managers begin to wear multiple hats and have various responsibilities outside of managing just the vehicle fleet, their focus and attention’s pulled away from the needs of their stakeholder — the vehicle’s end-user,” he explained. “Combined with a company’s push for increased profit margins, an inevitable situation can develop where fleets begin to get by with bare-minimum vehicle requirements, leading to assets that are less able to accomplish multiple tasks. The result is a less productive employee.” 

Needs may vary

The best way to spec a vehicle that meets fleet needs is to learn the operator’s day-to-day needs.

“If a client believes that their vehicles will be spending a significant amount of time off-road — a truck on a remote building site for example — then productivity would be improved by spec’ing the vehicles properly to be able to handle that kind of work. Likewise for a tradesman that needs to carry sheets of ply — if his van or truck isn’t wide enough between the wheel wells, he likely won’t be able to carry as much or be as cost-effective as he could have been.”

Wayne Reynolds, manager, upfit design and consultation, LeasePlan USA.

It would also be beneficial to know the types of routes that this vehicle will run during its working life.

“In rural areas, a larger truck allows for larger loads with fewer trips back to the terminal and a more effective delivery route. In an urban setting, a cabover truck rather than a full-chassis cab will help you access tighter delivery areas with greater ease. Similarly, in some scenarios, curtain side boxes may allow for faster, more effective loading/unloading rather than rear-entry options that may require other product to be offloaded (and then reloaded) to access what is being delivered, adding additional time to routes,” said Ted Davis, vice president of North American supply chain for ARI.

And don’t forget what sets your company apart from competitors — it may also mean a more specialized vehicle.

“Even companies in the same industry will have some type of unique differentiator in their business model. The vehicles that serve a company’s business requirement should not be thought of any differently, as these assets are an extension of their image, culture, and ability to provide a service,” said Hebenstrait from Merchants.

Fleet managers should get all stakeholders involved to ensure all fleet needs and business needs are met. When speaking to operators, the goal is to understand their job and the equipment needed to accomplish that job.
“Some of the questions asked during the needs assessment center around the need for special equipment such as a liftgate, refrigeration unit, side doors, and body configuration,” said Trahan from Ryder Fleet Management.
With this understanding, you can distinguish between needs and wants.

“It is important for each fleet to take a good look at what they really need for specs,” said Brandon Grenier, manager of truck consultation for Donlen. “We recently worked with a customer that was using Class 6 trucks for deliveries. While it was what they have always done, it was a lot more truck than they needed. By making one spec change, the customer was able to move to a Class 4 truck to accomplish their daily requirements, and save some money in the process.”

Don’t forget the big picture

Getting to know how the truck will be used in detail and planning accordingly is key, but fleet managers should remember the big picture, too, especially when fleet assets aren’t all kept in one place, noted Davis from ARI. 

“When you allow your various divisions to dictate individual spec configurations, you inherently reduce standardization and efficiency. Varying specifications and erratic replacement cycles lead to inconsistencies that drive costs higher and result in operational struggles that ripple throughout your entire organization,” Davis explained. “By having a comprehensive, holistic understanding of your business and the role fleet plays in supporting your key objectives, you can begin to tailor your specification strategy to focus on how fleet enables your employees to see more clients, conduct more efficient service repairs, or add one more stop to their route each day.”

Plan, Plan, Plan

However, none of this guidance matters if vehicles are not cycled out regularly. 

“No client wants to be left in the lurch without a vehicle, but when it does happen, there is an immediate need for a vehicle to fill the void or risk extensive downtime. This results in buying what is available rather than what you want or need. The outcome often ends up being an expensive, improperly spec’ed vehicle from existing dealer stock. If you plan ahead of time and understand the lifecycle of your vehicles, you’ll be better positioned to transition to a new unit when the time comes.”

Wayne Reynolds, manager, upfit design and consultation, LeasePlan USA.

A truck ordered last-minute may be less effective than a carefully spec’ed one, and may come along with a higher price tag.

“The absence of an effective, proactive cycling strategy often results in a significant number of units being purchased from dealer stock (rather than factory ordered), driving acquisition costs higher and delaying the acquisition process which hampers efficiency,” Davis from ARI explained. 

Source: Work Truck

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Fleet drivers with a WEX Inc. fuel card will now be able to use their mobile device to pay for fuel at Shell stations, the company has announced.

WEX’s DriverDash mobile payments app is enabling the transactions at about 13,000 Shell stations. WEX struck a similar deal in June 2018 that enabled mobile payments at 11,000 Exxon and Mobil stations.

Mobile payments are more secure than card payments, and they ensure faster payment processing, according to WEX. Fleet managers can also use the technology to better control expenses.

“This evolution in fuel cards will provide fleet customers with a faster, more secure, more intuitive payment experience at Shell branded stations,” said Peggy Watson, senior vice president of product and marketing for WEX.

Drivers who use the WEX app can also accrue points through the Fuel Rewards Pro loyalty program.

WEX, which is based in Portland, Maine, acquired Shell’s commercial card portfolio in 2018.

Source: Automotive Fleet

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