To reinforce LeasePlan’s commitment to providing world class fleet management services, we are introducing a solution for an issue that plagues all fleets within the United States.

TollGuard is a tolling protection service that makes safeguarding your fleet against violations easy and affordable. The program offers backup toll coverage to protect fleet vehicles against incurring violation penalties when tolls go unpaid.*

We are excited to announce all LeasePlan-owned vehicles will be automatically enrolled in the TollGuard program effective October 1, 2019.

Program Features

  • Fleet plates are enrolled in a TollGuard account with participating toll authorities.
  • If an enrolled vehicle uses an electronic tollway and the toll is not paid, the TollGuard account covers the toll, preventing a violation notice from being issued. Vehicles under TollGuard coverage have a secondary account from which the toll is paid, so no violations are incurred. Photographic record is only taken in the event of a violation. Some limitations apply.***
  • Fleets receive monthly consolidated toll activity reports, making it easier to recover violation-related costs from drivers.

Fleet Benefits

  • Save up to 80% on toll violation costs.
  • Reduce exposure to collections and other penalties, such as registration holds and vehicle impoundment.

About the Program

  • All LeasePlan-owned vehicles will be automatically enrolled in TollGuard.
  • Enrollment will begin on October 1, 2019.
  • Fleets should remind drivers with personal electronic toll accounts to add their fleet vehicle plates to their accounts before the enrollment start date. Drivers should ensure their personal toll accounts are in good standing and compliant with toll authority policies.
  • Vehicles covered by TollPlan, LeasePlan’s full-service toll management program, and in good standing are automatically exempt from TollGuard.

*Some coverage limitations apply. Non-Compliance: Vehicles with plates enrolled in an E-ZPass® electronic toll payment program must have accounts in compliance with the home toll authority; due to E-ZPass toll authority policies, TollGuard is unable to protect against violations related to non-compliance (e.g., negative account balance, expired credit card, transponder not in car, transponder misread due to excessive speed) issued by the home toll authority. Fleet customers will be liable for non-compliance-related violations issued to enrolled vehicles in the E-ZPass region. Toll Account Limits: Vehicles with plates enrolled in the Maryland E-ZPass or Washington Good to Go! toll programs may not be eligible for TollGuard enrollment; in those states, toll authority policies prohibit enrolling a plate on multiple toll accounts. Moving Violations: TollGuard does not protect against moving violations not related to unpaid tolls, such as exceeding the toll plaza speed limit. Fleet customers will be liable for any moving or parking violations not related to unpaid tolls issued to enrolled plates.

**Average toll violation penalty is based on the average penalty across all toll authorities weighted against violation frequency for each toll authority; toll violation penalties vary by region, ranging from $5 to $100 per violation event.

***The vehicle’s plate must be up to date in the TollGuard system.

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Fleet management companies often view their relationship with the corporations they serve through a hierarchical lens that begins with the fleet managers who hire them. Other stakeholders — such as procurement executives, human relations directors, and ultimately drivers — often play a less-direct role in any dialogue.

That may be changing at LeasePlan USA, the Alpharetta, Ga.-based fleet management company that’s been rethinking this connection point.

Since he joined LeasePlan in 2018, Felipe Smolka has been looking at ways to innovate how the company designs and thinks about the hundreds of thousands of daily drivers they manage. As the EVP of digital transformation, Smolka has led the company’s initiative in this area.

Smolka, who spoke with Automotive Fleet in August at company headquarters, has been bringing fleet drivers front and center to this design thinking process. Design thinking is the strategic, cognitive, and practical approach brought to bear on a corporate process. Author John E. Arnold coined the term in his 1959 book, “Creative Engineering.”

LeasePlan’s goal is to enrich the user experience and deliver meaningful exchanges that can result in lower risky behavior and a higher return on the asset for their customers.

“As we talk about innovation, do we know who we serve,” Smolka asked rhetorically. “We truly have a good sense of the different driver personas when we’re trying to solve things. It’s no disrespect to the fleet managers out there.”

This year, LeasePlan and Smolka have been charging ahead. New CEO Matt Dyer, who transferred from LeasePlan UK and started work on Jan. 1, quickly embraced the approach and initiative.

Smolka and his team revamped the MyLeasePlan mobile app in February, by rolling out a version that added an intelligent virtual assistant called Elle that it claims is the first of its kind in the market. The voice recognition technology allows drivers to access vehicle- and fleet-related information in real time.

Elle can direct drivers to a service location for a flat tire, help them locate nearby fuel stations, and answer other daily operational questions. Training Elle will never end as the company looks for more ways to add value to their drivers, Smolka said.

“This technology has a lot of potential in the future,” Smolka said. “Within the mobile app, drivers can exchange with a virtual assistant to get answers and get the chatbot to take actions too. We can deliver this at a very low cost, given the available artificial intelligence capabilities in the marketplace. The level of richness that we bring, combined with our data, is one of our company’s differentiators.”

When communicating with the drivers through other channels, LeasePlan aims to personalize the messaging using various technology platforms. Omnichannel messages sent to drivers greet them with their first name and provide content that is relevant and timely.

Some insurance and telematics companies have been experimenting with real-time messages to fleet drivers in recent years to address risky driver behavior with immediate coaching. The messaging can be tied to gamification strategies and driver scorecards to improve expected behavior.

“We are at a time where comprehensive gamification is possible for our drivers,” Smolka said. “Our big data can and will benefit each and every client.”

As one example, if a driver is running a vehicle with severely underinflated tires, LeasePlan will be able to determine exactly how much that’s costing in terms of needless fuel used and additional wear on the stressed tire.

“If you just look deeper at the folks who are doing the riskiest driving or the most inefficient driving and work on that small group of people, you can have a big impact,” Smolka said. “We’re working hard to create a better connection with our user base that will be more impactful when it really matters.”

As LeasePlan takes a data-driven approach that’s underpinned with new technology, the fleet management company expects to be able to provide fleet managers with even greater granular-level data points about operating costs, Smolka said.

Source: Fleet Forward

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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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Labor Day weekend is often regarded as the “last weekend of summer”, with millions taking to the highway for one final summer getaway. Tragically, this particular holiday has become associated with drunk driving – over the 2017 Labor Day holiday period 44 percent of traffic fatalities involved drivers who had been drinking.

To help ensure the 2019 Labor Day holiday is a time for celebration, eDriving is sharing the following road safety tips for you and your loved ones:

Perform vehicle checks before setting up (brakes, lights, tires, fluid levels) and pack a breakdown kit that includes a flashlight, charged phone, jumper cables, first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, emergency flares, non-perishable food and plenty of water– plus any additional emergency items required by law in your state.

Plan your route in advance, allowing for regular rest stops in safe places; at least 15 minutes for every two hours of driving and more frequently if you feel tired. Even if you are using GPS it’s recommended that you familiarize yourself with the planned route before setting off to avoid confusion while driving.

Ensure the whole family buckles up. Children should seated in correctly-fitted car or booster seats – and pets should be properly restrained too.

Look out for others. Traffic can be heavy over the holiday period – and some road users might be unfamiliar with the roads on which they are traveling. Be prepared for vehicles stopping or turning unexpectedly. Be particularly cautious when traveling close to trucks – don’t let yourself be caught up in truck drivers’ blind spots and don’t cut in front of heavy trucks. It takes them a lot longer to stop! Learn more about driving defensively.

Remember that maximum speed limits are not “target” speeds; they’re maximum limits in good conditions. Traffic, weather and environmental conditions impact on suitable speeds. Learn more.

A three-second following distance is for good conditions. Increase it if traveling in wet weather or when visibility is poor. Be aware of your “escape route” when driving and when stopped at intersections. Learn more.

Aim for a “distraction-free zone” in your vehicle. Pack quiet toys/ tablets/ DVD players with headsets to help keep children entertained during long trips. Set up GPS before setting off and put your phone away or on silent – or give it to a family member to be your “designated texter”.

If you’re drinking, don’t drive. If you’re driving, don’t drink. It’s that simple. Don’t forget the morning after effect of drinking alcohol too – and remember that other drivers don’t always follow the rules. Be prepared for the actions of others and remember that driving defensively is the best way of keeping you and your loved ones safe this Labor Day Holiday.

Here are some sobering Labor Day statistics:

  • During the 2017 Labor Day holiday period (6 p.m. September 1– 5:59 a.m. September 5), there were 376 crash fatalities nationwide. Forty-four percent of those fatalities involved drivers who had been drinking (.01+ BAC). More than one-third (36%) of the fatalities involved drivers who were drunk (.08+ BAC), and more than one-fourth (26%) involved drivers who were driving with a BAC almost twice the legal limit (.15+ BAC).
  • It is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher in all 50 states and the District of Columbia—no exceptions.
  • Despite the fact that it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, in 2017 one person was killed every 48 minutes by a drunk driver on our nation’s roads.

Source: eDriving

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General Motors has been offering the Chevrolet Malibu since the early 1960s, and the midsize sedan has been a staple of commercial fleets for decades. So, it should be easy to identify five benefits of the vehicle for fleets.

We turned to LeasePlan USA for help in this latest installment of our “5 Fleet Features” web series.

The 2019 Malibu, which is now in its ninth generation, offers a choice of three powertrains, including a gasoline-electric hybrid. GM began offering the Malibu as a 1964 trim grade of its (at the time) new Chevelle geared to families.

The second-generation Malibu in 1968 moved to a slightly longer wheelbase for sedans. After Chevrolet discontinued the Chevelle following the 1977 model year, the Malibu continued as a smaller midsize model. Chevrolet began offering a police package in 1978.

GM discontinued the Malibu after the 1983 model year and brought back a fifth-generation model in 1997 as a front-wheel drive sedan that was named Car of the Year by Motor Trend.

The current model is available in six trims – including L, LS, RS, LT, Hybrid, and Premier. The base L retails for $22,965. Fleets typically order the LS trim with the 1FL fleet package. The sedan is a staple in sales fleets for pharmaceutical, manufacturing, or food service companies.

“It’s been a traditional fleet vehicle, one of those strong and steady vehicles that has held up well, that’s been very popular because it’s comfortable and fuel efficient,” said Becky Langmandel, LeasePlan USA’s vice president of analytics, consulting, and transformation.

“It has the capacity to carry four passengers in addition to the driver in a comfortable setting,” Langmandel said. “It also has a nice cargo space in the trunk to carry some supplies.” The 2019 Malibu offers 15.7 cubic feet of trunk space.

Favorable TCO vs. Compact SUVs

Despite the public’s nearly insatiable appetite for SUVs, sedans like the Malibu still represent a value proposition for fleet managers who must consider total cost of ownership over the approximately three years of an open-ended TRAC lease.

A comparable SUV is likely to retain more of its value for fleets, but it could cost $2,000 or more in up-front capital. You can recoup more with an SUV, but you will also tie up more of the company’s funds.

A 2019 Chevrolet Equinox would retail for at least $23,800 not including commercial incentives.

Fleets tend to drive the Malibu about 20,000 miles per year, Langmandel said.

Good fuel economy

The Malibu delivers solid EPA-rated fuel economy that gives the sedan an edge over a comparable compact SUV. The front-wheel-drive Malibu delivers 3 to 4 miles per gallon more than the front-wheel-drive 2019 Chevrolet Equinox on the highway, in the city, and in combined driving.

When equipped with the 1.5-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic, the Malibu returns 26 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

That fuel savings could equate to 3 to 4 cents per mile, Langmandel said.

“The Malibu is going to save me fuel, and that’s the reason I choose it,” she said.

Chevrolet has discontinued the Malibu Hybrid, which sold for about a $5,000 premium over the gasoline model when comparing entry-priced models. The 2019 Malibu Hybrid will be the last model year. It returned significantly higher fuel economy ratings of 49 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, but drew low interest, according to General Motors.

Lower preventive maintenance costs

The Malibu would likely deliver lower preventive maintenance costs for items such a tires and oil intervals.

The cost of a replacement Malibu tire would be about $20 less than a comparable SUV tire. The Malibu also requires about 1 quart of oil less than an Equinox.

“We do see that the Malibu does have lower maintenance costs than SUVs,” Langmandel said.

One item that may be a factor for longer-term users could be the continuously variable transmission that Chevrolet added to the Malibu for the 2019 model that replaced a six- or nine-speed automatic.

Commercial fleets rarely hold a vehicle to a point that it needs a transmission replacement, but a CVT replacement typically costs between $3,000 and $5,000.

Comfortable interior that helps employee retention

Because the Malibu has a lower starting price, fleet managers can “dress it up a bit,” Langmandel said, by adding comfort options such as leather seats or a moonroof.

These options can improve an already comfortable and solid package and can improve the morale of the employees who are driving it, she said.

The Malibu has ample trunk space and leg room that’s not much less than an SUV.

“It’s very comparable on leg room both in the front and rear of the vehicle,” Langmandel said. “So, it’s actually a longer vehicle in terms of cargo capacity.”

Available safety technology

The Malibu has captured the highest crash-test score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, even though it missed a Top Safety Pick from a leading insurance safety institute.

While some driver-assistance technology isn’t available on the lower trim models, the Malibu offers automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control as optional equipment.

The safety tech is causing some fleets to upgrade to the Premier and other higher trims, Langmandel said.

“We have a lot of fleets that will not order a vehicle without certain safety features,” she said. “If you’re looking at the SUV versus the sedan, you’re going to have to add the safety options to the sedan. Perhaps you can add more safety options and still be at that lower price point.”

Source: Fleet Financials

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