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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The automotive industry is undergoing rapid innovation, with exciting advances being made into technologies that we once thought either unachievable in our lifetime or just downright impossible. No, we’re not driving flying cars with venetian blinds as one prediction from 1942 suggested, but even that idea isn’t as distant as you might think, although the concept has moved away from the car as the base platform towards as-yet-undefined modes of personal transportation, such as this “new type of craft”.

Electric and autonomous innovations get the most column inches, which is understandable. Each new development is even more remarkable than the last, and it’s exciting to see how far this new technology can be pushed. But they’re relatively easy topics to understand and digest, making for good quick news pieces. The conversation around data, however, can often be heavy and granular, and whether we like it or not, data is completely revolutionizing the way we drive. Some of the most important recent advancements in this space have focused on the use of data to improve safety for drivers. Cars can check their own blind spots and alert drowsy drivers by simultaneously analyzing hundreds of data points. They can apply the brakes by themselves in an emergency situation, and turn on the hazard lights when sensors detect heavy braking. All of these processes collect and store data within computers inside the vehicle, which is great – but how can we take advantage of this data to implement safety improvements for drivers?

Fleet managers have access to actionable data to help make their fleet a safer one. And that’s exactly where we see companies moving. To determine how risky your fleet drivers are requires gathering information from several different data sources. And the data works together to help you identify the next steps in your risk management strategy. The goal is to integrate and analyze data from multiple devices to create a holistic view of what’s happening with the vehicle, the driver and your entire fleet.

But let’s take a step back and consider some of the other ways we can be safer drivers, away from the underlying data and the technology bearing down on us. What can we do to make our journeys a little safer?

Avoid distractions. Just remember, you’re behind the wheel of a machine that has the potential to be extremely dangerous if operated without due care. I’m not suggesting that cars are inherently dangerous, but anything that distracts you from the road ahead needs to go. Of course, cell phones are the number one distraction, but even an act as simple as reaching across the passenger seat to grab something can have grave consequences. And that fast food you just grabbed at the drive thru? It can wait! Many states in the U.S. have now completely outlawed the use of cell phones without a hands-free device, so make sure you know and abide by the laws where you live. And just for reference, texting while driving is illegal in almost every state, the only exceptions being Missouri and Montana – really guys?

Embrace good distractions. But you just said to avoid them? The monotony of driving, especially if you live in a big city with heavy traffic, can sometimes drag you down into an inattentive state. Have you ever been deep in thought, driving down the highway, and then you realized your body and mind had been on autopilot for the last half mile? Focus! Listening to music can help, but is it the right type of music? That may seem like a strange question, because is there really a right or wrong type of music? Well, according to a survey completed by a British insurance web site, different types of music can affect your driving style. Specifically, rock and hip hop are especially dangerous. “Music that is noisy, upbeat and increases your heart rate is a deadly mix. Fast beats can cause excitement and arousal that can lead people to concentrate more on the music than on the road.” While I can’t say I entirely agree with the results, I think that a switch up every now and then can help. I’ve recently started listening to comedy channels on the radio. Catching snippets of full set pieces allows me to dip in and out, and laughter is a great medicine for almost every problem.

Negative influences. I shouldn’t have to say that driving under the influence will negatively impact your ability to safely drive a vehicle, but it will. And it’s not just alcohol that counts as “under the influence”. No one knows the exact moment when sleep comes over their body. Falling asleep at the wheel is clearly dangerous, but being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t fall asleep. We’ve all seen the highway signs recommending that we take a break, but often it’s impractical to do so as we’ve got places to be and people to see. Pulling over for a six-hour nap is not something any of us are realistically going to do. But parking up and taking a five-minute stroll and getting some fresh air can really help. Rolling down a window to get some air can also work wonders, and if you’re a coffee drinker maybe stop and pick up quick cup somewhere.

I’ll leave you with an astonishing fact: 94% of all road incidents are caused by driver attitudes and behaviors rather than a lack of knowledge. You probably knew all of the above already, but maybe this article reminded you of some of the ways in which we can be proactive in regard to our own safety. And if we can combine this knowledge with a data-driven safety program, then even better. Imagine a world where you could use data to proactively identify and mitigate risks before they happen. A data-driven approach to safety can help companies better predict the level of driving risk, and for more information on this topic – check out our eBook on data-driven safety.

About the author: Kristofer Bush serves as vice president, product management for LeasePlan USA and has been with the organization for more than 19 years. He recently took on this new assignment with a focus on product management. His team is responsible for the development of products such as Safety, Connected Vehicles and client portal tools like the MyLeasePlan driver app. While he believes that he is an excellent driver, many of the tools that LeasePlan provides their clients’ drivers have proven to him that he still has a lot of room for improvement.

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While accident management safety statistics reported this year remained mostly consistent to what was reported in last year’s annual report, crashes that occurred during parking maneuvers, or rear-ending incidents, continued to dominate the fleet industry. These incident types are prevalent in the industry, and are a perennial concern to fleets everywhere.

Alarmingly, more than 6,000 people are injured every year as a result of vehicles backing up, with roughly 2,400 of those injured being children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The introduction of having backup camera’s being implemented in all new vehicles beginning with the 2018 model year has seeked to curb this problem. However, the issue is still ubiquitous, especially in parking situations.

According to the National Safety Council, more than 50,000 collisions occur in parking lots and garage structures annually — resulting in 500 or more fatalities and over 60,000 injuries.

Despite the large numbers, fleets know these events are preventable.

Source: Automotive Fleet

“It’s not always a high cost because it’s usually at lowers speeds, but it’s 110% avoidable,” said Phil Samuelson, fleet and capital asset manager, USIC, with regards to vehicle backing incidents. “All the vehicles that we’ve acquired in the last three years have back up cameras and we’ve implemented back up alarms as well, but we still have backing accidents.”

Other in-vehicle technologies designed to prevent crashes in situations such as this includes automatic braking. Ten automakers report equipping more than half of the vehicles they produced between Sept. 1, 2017, and Aug. 31, 2018, with automatic emergency braking, according to both NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Similar to the mandate requiring new vehicles to be equipped with back up cameras, this is the second update of manufacturer progress toward equipping every new passenger vehicle with the crash avoidance technology by Sept. 1, 2022, according to NHTSA.

Since technology is not a panacea solution that will be able to make these types of different accident disappear overnight, drivers need to be more so considerate of their surroundings.

Source: Automotive Fleet

So whether or not drivers are equipped with the aforementioned technologies, reducing the risks associated with backing up begins with some simple preparation prior to driving. This includes adjusting mirrors, eliminating distractions, surveying the perimeter of the car, etc.

Other vehicles hitting a parked fleet vehicle was the No. 1 accident type for fleets in 2018. This was followed by other vehicles rear-ending a fleet vehicle, and then fleet drivers crashing into stationary objects.

“Being rear ended at a traffic light, or coming back to your vehicle in a parking lot and finding damage seems unavoidable, but there are things a driver can do differently to lessen the chance of this happening, from parking in a safer, less congested space to beginning your stop earlier, which can give the driver behind you more time to react. These safe habits are teachable moments worth reflecting on before and after an incident,” said Brian Kinniry, senior director, strategic services, The CEI Group.

Reviewing the Data

When analyzing other data that was reported, some of the data has remained mostly flat when compared to last year, though some of the data reveals noteworthy shifts.

For example, analyzing accidents by time of day, service fleets still experienced, on average, an 8%-10% accident rate during a majority of the work day. However, the peaks and valleys have altered somewhat. For example, for service fleets the hour between 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. remains the time period in which drivers are the most susceptible to accidents, and increased by 0.37%.

The time of day that is also the least likely to have service fleets experience an accident, noon to 1 p.m., had its accident likelihood increase slightly, by 0.67%.

Source: Automotive Fleet

On the other end of the spectrum, peak accident times for sales fleets showed declines in the final hours of an average work day, accidents between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. collectively dropped by 1.77%, and accidents between 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. showed declines by 1.71%.

In other data reported for this year, accident rates for drivers aged 36-45 was listed as the age group with the highest percentage involved in crashes in 2018. Accident rates for drivers increased in every other age group except those between the ages of 46-54, which dropped by almost 4%. Drivers between the ages of 26-35 saw the biggest increase, growing by 1.46% between 2017 and 2018.

In the last five years of data compiled for the survey, drivers aged 55 and older saw the largest increase in accidents, compared to other age group chunks: in 2013 this age group was at a 15.9% accident rate and in 2018 it jumped to 20.76% after years of gradual growth.


Source: Automotive Fleet

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New research from AAA reveals that most vehicle escape tools, intended to quickly aid passengers trapped in a car following an accident, will break tempered side windows, but none were able to penetrate laminated glass. Motorists may not realize it, but an increasing number of new cars – in fact, 1 in 3 vehicle models – have laminated side windows, a nearly unbreakable glass meant to lessen the chance of occupant ejection during a collision. AAA urges drivers to know what type of side window glass is installed on their vehicle, keep a secure and easily accessible escape tool in their car and have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work.

In its latest study, AAA examined a selection of vehicle escape tools available to consumers to determine their effectiveness in breaking tempered and laminated vehicle side windows. Of the six tools selected (three spring-loaded and three hammer style), AAA researchers found that only four were able to shatter the tempered glass and none were able to break the laminated glass, which stayed intact even after being cracked. During multiple rounds of testing, it was also discovered that the spring-loaded tools were more effective in breaking tempered windows than the hammer-style.

“To improve safety, more vehicles are being equipped with laminated side windows – but a majority also have at least one window made of tempered glass,” said John Nielsen, managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair for AAA. “Our research found that generally vehicle escape tools can be effective in an emergency, but only if drivers know what type of side windows they have, otherwise they could waste precious seconds trying to break glass that will not shatter.”

Drivers can determine the type of glass installed on their vehicle by first checking for a label located in the bottom corner of the side window, which should clearly indicate whether the glass is tempered or laminated. If this information is not included or there is no label at all, AAA advises contacting the vehicle manufacturer. It is also important to note that some vehicles are outfitted with different glass at varying locations in the car (i.e. tempered glass on rear side windows versus laminated on front side windows).

The increased use of laminated glass is in response to federal safety standards aimed at reducing occupant ejections in high speed collisions. In 2017, there were an estimated 21,400 people who were partially or fully ejected during a crash, resulting in 11,200 injuries and 5,053 deaths. While these types of crashes are more prevalent, there are instances where vehicles may catch fire or become partially or fully submerged in water, forcing drivers and their passengers to exit the vehicle through a side window. In situations like this, vehicle escape tools can assist ahead of emergency responders arriving.

Vehicle escape tools come in many varieties, but AAA suggests avoiding tools with extra features such as lights or chargers since these functions do not improve the performance of the tool itself. Drivers should also remember that in the event their vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool (as opposed to a spring-loaded-style) will be ineffective underwater.

“Drivers should pick a tool they feel comfortable with and find easy to use, but most importantly they should store it somewhere that is secure and within reach following a collision,” added Nielsen.

Being prepared in an emergency can greatly improve the chances of survival, especially if drivers and their passengers have become trapped in the vehicle. AAA strongly recommends drivers do the following:

Prepare ahead of time:

  • Memorize the type of glass the vehicle windows are made of – tempered or laminated. If the car has at least one tempered window, this will be the best point of exit in an emergency. Also, remember – standard escape tools will not break laminated glass.
  • Keep an escape tool in the car that the driver is comfortable using, has previously tested and is easy to access following a collision. To make sure a vehicle escape tool is working properly, test it ahead of time on a softer surface such as a piece of soft wood. The tool works if the tip impacts the surface, leaving a small indent in the material.
  • Plan an exit strategy in advance and communicate it to everyone in the car. This will help avoid confusion in an emergency, which could increase the time it takes to exit the vehicle. Also, have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work.

If trapped in a vehicle, remember there is a S-U-R-E way out:

  • Stay calm. While time is of the essence – work cautiously to ensure everyone safely exits the vehicle.
  • Unbuckle seat belts and check to see that everyone is ready to leave the car when it’s time.
  • Roll down or break a window – remember if the car is sinking in water, once the window is open the water will rush into the car at a faster rate. If the window will not open and the car has tempered glass, use an escape tool to break a side window to escape. Drivers should also remember that:
    • Drivers and/or occupants should make every effort to roll down a window as soon as the vehicle enters the water. However, if a window will not open or cannot be broken because it is laminated, call 911 immediately.
    • If the vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool (as opposed to a spring-loaded-style) could be much harder to swing underwater.
  • Exit the vehicle quickly and move everyone to safety.
  • Call 911 – while this is typically the first step in an emergency, if a vehicle has hit the water or is on fire, it is best to try to escape first.


Source: AAA

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There’s no such thing as a perfect driver. We all have driving habits that aren’t so great. While tailgating or forgetting to use a turn signal can be an annoyance (and even a danger) to other drivers on the road, some bad driving habits can affect your car’s condition, too. Follow along as we break down seven common driving habits that damage your car and how you can avoid them.

1. Slamming Into Potholes
Some cities may have worse pothole problems than others, but the reality is that potholes are everywhere. And these road gashes can make for more than a bumpy ride. When hit head on, potholes can also damage your car’s suspension, steering, and alignment.

Stay alert and drive defensively to help avoid potholes. If you can’t avoid hitting a pothole without crossing into another lane of traffic at the last minute, slow down instead. You’ll minimize the impact and the potential damage.

2. Speeding Over Speed Bumps
Similar to hitting potholes at high speed, going over a speed bump too quickly is another driving habit that can compromise your car’s alignment. Speed bumps are designed to keep both pedestrians and drivers safe. By slowing down when you approach a speed bump, you can help keep your neighbors and your car happy.

Tread with extra care if your vehicle rides low to the ground. Hitting a speed bump can put a dent in your bumpers or damage components in the undercarriage. If you think you might already have damage from speed bumps, head to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care for a quick Courtesy Check to identify issues before they worsen.

3. Ignoring Your Parking Brake
Did you know? You’re supposed to use your parking brake every time you parkno matter what kind of terrain you’re on!

“Whether your car is a manual or automatic, the terrain is hilly or flat, you should use your parking brake every time you park,” writes Driver’s Ed Guru.

While your transmission can stop your vehicle from rolling when it’s in “Park,” the parking brake is the only part truly designed to keep your car wheels locked in place. Failing to engage your parking brake can cause stress and premature wear on other parts of the car.

Engage the parking brake before shifting the car into “Park” to limit the stress that’s put on your transmission, help prevent parking failure, and even prevent transmission repairs down the road.

4. Not Stopping When You Shift from “Reverse” to “Drive”
We get it. Sometimes you’re in a hurry to get going, and you switch from “Reverse” to “Drive” while your car is still moving. But consider this every time your impatience gets the best of you, your car’s transmission system takes a hit.

The transmission isn’t built to stop your car and switch gears at the same time. It relies on the brakes to stop the car’s motion so it can make a smooth transition between gears. Shifting while your car is in motion, even a little bit, can damage an essential mechanism in the transmission.

Instead, come to a complete stop before shifting from “Reverse” to “Drive,” or vice versa. If you think your car may have damage stemming from this bad driving habit, don’t wait until your transmission is beyond repair! Schedule a transmission service appointment at your earliest convenience.

5. Ignoring Dashboard Lights
Is your dashboard display lit up like a Christmas tree? While a smattering of dashboard lights might have you daydreaming of sugar plum fairies and holiday feasts, your car isn’t. It’s asking for help in one of the best ways it knows howwith warning lights!
Leaving dashboard lights uninvestigated could leave you stranded or stuck with major repairs down the road. Pay special attention to the battery, brake, airbag, coolant, oil, and check engine light. When one of these lights pops on, it’s a sign that something needs to be investigated for your safety and your passengers’ safety. Stop by Firestone Complete Auto Care for a free vehicle diagnostic code scan.

6. Letting Your Gas Tank Sit Near Empty
Fuel gauges are notoriously inaccurate. You may think you have another 40 or 50 miles left in the tank after the low fuel light comes on, but you might not. It depends on the driving conditions!

Gasoline can act as a coolant in your fuel system, and keeping too little gas in your tank can cause parts to overheat and malfunction. Your catalytic converter, fuel pump, and fuel system could all be damaged, especially if you run out of gas completely.

Help prevent this type of damage by keeping your gas tank at least a quarter full and investing in regular engine tune-up and fuel system cleanings.

7. Riding the Brakes
“Riding the brakes” means you leave your foot on the pedal for prolonged periods, and it can lead to brakes overheating. When brakes overheat, they lose some of their stopping power, making it harder for you to stop quickly and safely.

There are a few things you can do to help prevent overheated brakes. Rather than keeping your foot on the brake pedal as you drive down a hill or navigate through stop-and-go traffic, try:

  • Switching to a lower engine gear (if you drive a manual).
  • Driving cautiously, with extra space between cars.
  • Letting up on the accelerator to slow down.

Source: Firestone Complete Auto Care

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