As long as crashes happen, juries will want to know what a company has done to prevent them.

In May 2019, a jury awarded a plaintiff $15 million in a case in which a truck driver, talking on his cell phone, failed to stop for stationary traffic, critically injuring a driver who had stopped. As an expert on the case who was asked to testify on the company’s lack of an effective cell phone policy, I can say that one reason the jury was compelled to find in favor of the stopped driver was that the delivery company was taking no significant actions to prevent the crash, other than telling drivers in their welcome packet to not use their phones.

I wrote “…there appears to be no evidence that (the delivery company) took adequate steps necessary to prevent (their driver’s) behavior despite knowledge of the risks of phone use of any kind by its drivers and clear evidence available to fleet safety professionals that fleets with strict cell phone policies have fewer crashes.” The company had no training around their policy, no monitoring or enforcement related to the policy, and knew drivers were using phones while driving, perhaps because calls were made to drivers while they were on the road.

As I say in my talks on the subject, cell phones are designed by smart folks to make them enjoyable to use. What bored driver on a long haul can ignore everything the internet can bring them when it is at the tip of their fingers? And once a driver succumbs to temptation, the devices are almost impossible to ignore. A simple conversation can take a driver’s mind off of the roadway sufficiently to make them miss stopped traffic, and there are many more engaging things drivers do with their devices.

Given the allure of the phones, the only defense is a strong policy. A strong policy must completely ban the devices. That is less of a challenge in this day and age when phones can be put in drive mode allowing for music or maps. And the ability for a white-listed caller, such as a dispatcher, to have a call come through if they are willing to call twice in short succession permits a driver to know the call is important and they need to pull over to take it or call back. And managers need to make sure to follow the policy, too.

The ban must come with education and cover all employees. Drivers need to understand the risk of the behavior, with real examples of what can happen, such as the crash described above. Companies must monitor for employees who fail to follow the ban. That can be as easy as checking phone records when there is a crash, as easy as a phone-based telematics and monitoring system and as thorough as in-car camera systems.

One Fortune 100 company I have worked with saw their crashes decline by 72% below the industry average when they followed these rules. But it took time for employees to understand the rules and that the company was serious about enforcing them. When I last checked, their stock was up, and they were doing well. The only thing that was down was crashes.

As long as crashes happen, juries will want to know what a company has done to prevent them. And companies that don’t have a good answer will rightfully be seen as putting the driving public at risk and placing themselves, and their employees at risk.

By Paul Atchley, PhD, eDriving’s Brain Scientist Advisor

eDriving’s Brain Scientist Advisor Paul Atchley, PhD, is the University of South Florida’s Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Undergraduate Studies. As a Professor of Psychology, he specializes in research in cognitive factors, including the implications of multitasking on driving.

Source: eDriving

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Oregon secures the position of the strictest state for texting while driving with a maximum fine of $1,000 for the offense, which is 10 times the median fine in the U.S., according to a recent study from Rosenblum Law.

However, Oregon doesn’t use a point system so while violators are hit in the wallet, they won’t necessarily have their license suspended.

Easily the second-strictest state, Utah will fine drivers as much as $750 for a first offense of texting behind the wheel. In addition, the offense carries 50 points; those who accrue 200 points in three years can have their license suspended. 

Illinois ranks third — hitting drivers where it hurts most as opposed to in their pocketbooks. While the $75 penalty may seem mild, a conviction for texting means 10 points on a license. What’s more, the state can suspend a license that accrues 15 or more points over a 4-year period — making Illinois the state most likely to suspend a license for texting.

Wisconsin ranks fourth for being tough on texting. A texting ticket in the state can set drivers back as much as $400. It will also result in four points on a license, and Wisconsin can suspend any license with 12 or more points on it. 

Alaska can be pretty cold when it comes to drivers who text — taking the fifth spot for strictest state. In fact, Alaska previously had the most aggressive anti-texting laws on the books, charging drivers with a misdemeanor criminal offense.

In 2016, Alaska changed texting behind the wheel to a moving violation with a fine of up to $500 and two points on one’s license. A driver who reaches 12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months can have a license suspended. 

The top five most lenient states for texting include Montana, which imposes no fine and no points, followed by California with a $20 fine, New Mexico ($25), South Carolina ($25), and Iowa ($30). None of these states give motorists points on their license for texting behind the wheel.

Source: Automotive Fleet


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A vehicle’s total cost of ownership (TCO) is comprised of its fixed costs, all operating expenses, and depreciation per year or during the course of its service life, minus its anticipated resale value. Typically, this formula is calculated prior to initial acquisition to use as a selection metric, but it is important to remember that TCO is not a static number.

During the course of a vehicle’s service life, TCO is subject to change due to a vehicle’s age and numerous external factors. For instance, external market factors cause fuel prices to fluctuate, commodity costs to rise exerting upward pressure on tire and part prices, and depreciation rates tend to parallel wholesale market conditions and consumer buying preferences. These external factors can influence the TCO competiveness of one vehicle segment vis-à-vis another. For example, lower fuel prices are changing TCO considerations by lowering truck operating costs and increasing resale values, while negatively impacting residuals for compact sedans and hybrids.

TCO also influences vehicle replacement policies. Nearly all fleet-related expenses, both fixed and operating, are influenced by when a vehicle is taken out of service. The long-term trend in vehicle cycling by commercial fleets is a gradual increase in the service lives of vehicles. Over the years, automotive OEMs have dramatically improved vehicle quality and lengthened powertrain warranties, allowing companies to more confidently extend the service life of less risky fleet assets, such as fleets operating light-duty trucks.

Industry data reveal that light-duty truck and cargo van fleets have steadily pushed out their months-in-service parameters; with sedan fleets likewise extending asset use but at a slower average rate. Many fleets, especially mid-size fleets, are now moving to an 80,000-mile replacement parameter as fleet operations are pressured by senior management to rein in capital expenditures. Often, replacement cycling is only seen by management through a financial prism and viewed as a dollars-and-cents lifecycle cost decision. It is very common for companies to cut fleet costs by extending vehicle replacement cycles so the deferred cash flow can be diverted to other corporate expenditures. 

Evolution from policy to flexible guidelines

Traditionally, fleet replacement policy is expressed as a combination of time and mileage, such as months-in-service and mileage bands. The policy is based on the converse trending of fixed and variable expenses during the life of the vehicle. Fixed costs tend to decelerate as a vehicle ages, while variable/operating costs tend to increase. When these two costs are charted over the life of a vehicle, the conventional wisdom is to replace a vehicle when the descending fixed cost line intersects the rising variable cost line.

Today, a growing number of fleets are shifting to more flexible vehicle replacement cycles. In fact, some fleets no longer call their replacement cycle a “policy” and now refer to it as a “guideline.” The rationale is that they want to reserve the right to determine when to take a vehicle out of service based on prevailing market conditions, rather than predetermined mileage and/or months-in-service parameters. Enabling this shift is the growing sophistication of lifecycle optimization modeling, in particular, the development of analytics to calculate the various “what if” scenarios to identify the optimal vehicle replacement parameters.

A flexible replacement guideline can take diametrically opposite directions. One direction could be to extend a replacement cycle as a short-term solution to compensate for a reduction in a capital expenditure budget. For example, service fleets, which have higher cap costs due to additional upfit equipment, will keep vehicles in service longer than light-duty fleets to control capital expenditures.

The other direction in a flexible replacement guideline is to shorten service life to shortcycle vehicles to take advantage of an exceptionally strong resale market, as was the case several years ago. Some fleets have decided they don’t want to be locked into a specified vehicle replacement cycle and prefer to remain nimble with a market-driven flexible replacement strategy. This mindset believes it is financially prudent to have greater flexibility in replacement cycling since extenuating market circumstances may make it more advantageous to either keep vehicles in service longer or shorter, depending on market conditions. 

Migration from TCO to a more precise LCO

Vehicle connectivity and more sophisticated predictive maintenance data analytics will prompt a shift away from TCO to a more precise methodology focused on the “lowest cost of ownership” (LCO). In the final analysis, the most accurate lifecycle analysis in making the initial acquisition decision up through the best replacement strategy is one based on real-time data coupled with historical data.

Predictive modeling based on vehicle data continuously streamed by telematics will increase fleet efficiencies. For example, a study by IBM found that predictive analytics could cut fault diagnostic times by 70% and repair times by 20%. 

Predictive modeling will provide the ability to better manage downtime and maximize fleet utilization. This will transform the traditional preventive maintenance model that is time- and mileage-based to one that is data-driven. Long-term, this will usher a shift away from a traditional reactive maintenance program to predictive maintenance model. In the future, repairs will be only completed before a disabling failure, so the utilization of vehicle assets will be maximized. 

Predictive maintenance technology doesn’t prevent failures; it provides early warning of future failures that allows managers to decide where and when to repair before a failure occurs. This will help to minimize unexpected downstream failures and reduce driver/vehicle downtime. Ultimately, this data will be used to forecast the optimal time to replace a unit. 

Source: Automotive Fleet

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A pair of Michigan car owners sued a dealership in 2013 after a tire came off while driving, leading to a crash. A tech at the dealership hadn’t tightened the lug nuts after a tire rotation.

The owners, one of whom was injured in the crash, won their case against the dealership and were awarded $110,000 for damages and legal costs under the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act.

The dealership appealed, according to a report of the case by Jalopnik. The Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act is violated in part when a shop charges for repairs that “are not in fact performed.” A Michigan appeals court decided to take a close look at what constituted “performed” in this tire rotation.

Judges ultimately concluded that the tire rotation is performed when the tires are moved, but that’s where it ends. As highlighted by Jalopnik:

“We conclude, under the plain language of MCL257.1307a, that defendants ‘performed’ a tire rotation, albeit negligently…There is no support for the trial court’s determination that a tire rotation is not “performed” if a service person fails to sufficiently tighten the lug nuts on one tire,” the ruling said.

The ruling noted that the tech had successfully moved the tires. The tech who did the rotation admitted that he placed the lug nuts back on the tire but didn’t wrench them tight, which the court determined to be negligent. But a strict reading of the law prevented that to be a violation of the law.

It’s an odd ruling that, as Jalopnik notes, could have ramifications in other services like oil changes. How far does the performance of an oil change extend? Refilling the reservoir or tightening the drain plug?

It may take other court cases or legislative action to find out in Michigan.

Source: Ratchet and Wrench

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As vehicles become more and more technologically advanced, drivers are becoming more and more comfortable with a future that involves self-driving cars, according to a new study.

About 40% of drivers are in favor of self-driving vehicles being available for purchase right now, according to Adobe Analytics’ newly released Future of Driving Report. The report doesn’t clarify what level of autonomy they are comfortable with.

The report chronicles the responses of more than 1,000 people across the U.S. and finds somewhat unsurprisingly that millennials are much more comfortable with autonomous vehicles and other forms of technology in vehicles. However, it also finds there are very disparate opinions about vehicles between electric vehicle owners and gas-powered vehicle owners.

People who are ready for the self-driving future now have big plans for the time they used to spend driving. Once they’re in the car, research shows nearly half of drivers (49%) intend to eat and drink while being driven, followed by talking on the phone (47%), holding face-to-face conversations (31%), writing emails (42%) or even working (36%). Thirty percent plan to nap.

Many drivers are looking for what the study describes as “self-driving” features, but typically fall under the category of advance driving assist systems, or ADAS. Language aside, demand for these safety and convenience technologies is growing as 44% of drivers say having a car with self-driving features such as lane-keeper assist and parking assist is currently a factor in their car buying decision.

Not surprisingly, millennials are much more comfortable with advanced technology in vehicles and are more willing to buy electric vehicles or those with connectivity features. Nearly half of EV owners are millennials whereas gas-powered vehicle owners are more evenly dispersed across all age groups.

The study revealed that EV owners hold very different opinions than their gas-powered counterparts. Electric/hybrid car drivers are also twice as likely to feel comfortable getting into a self-driving car vs. gas-powered car drivers.

Gas car drivers more willing to share their car data in exchange for rebates and promotional offers whereas 60% of EV owners said they would do so if rewarded with personalized experiences. However, owners of gas-powered vehicles aren’t entirely inflexible about what powers their vehicles.

According to the study, 60% of gas car drivers say they’d be more willing to purchase an electric car if charging stations were more readily available, batteries had a longer range and the cars were more affordable. Further about one in three are mulling the possibility of switching sides and buying an EV or hybrid next.

Overall, the advent of interactive vehicles has increased everyone’s comfort level. The desire to have that technology in a vehicle is on the rise. In fact, a third say a built-in voice assistant is a factor in what vehicle they will buy next.

Familiarity helps with this as 25% reveal they’re driving a vehicle with some type of built-in voice control functionality, and 39% of drivers say they use their voice assistants daily. That usage is going up as the quality of the systems improves. Initially spotty, in terms of reliability and usability, 61% of drivers with connected car functionality confirmed their built-in voice assistants work well.

A quarter of drivers with built-in voice control functionality are handling tasks they would otherwise take care of outside the car, such as texting (49%), shopping (9%) and searching sports scores (9%). This is in addition to using their voice assist for more typical in-car activities, such as navigating traffic (44%) and listening to music (33%).

Source: The Detroit Bureau

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