Blog

The Element Fleet blog is written by various fleet experts we've invited to participate. They offer their opinions and comments on issues related to fleet management, maintenance, telematics, trucks, vehicle accident management, driver safety and more. You also have the opportunity to respond or ask questions. So go ahead and join the conversation.

Just a note: The opinions of the writers don’t necessarily reflect the position of Element Fleet Management on these subjects.

My latest article in Fleet Management Weekly is all about one of the most important subjects related to material handling equipment: Fleet maintenance. 
 
It’s one thing to have a checklist of normal things to take care of, like checking batteries, cables, electric wires and spark plugs for wear and corrosion; transmission fluid for appropriate level, color and odor and hoses and hydraulic valves for leaks or breaks in the sealing.
 
But what’s really valuable is a fleet maintenance plan – and this article provides some recommendations for developing one. Read it here:
 
 
Having and sticking to a maintenance plan not only enhances safety and productivity, but reduces costs.
 
If you’d like to read some of the other blogs we’ve posted on this series of articles, you can find them here:
 
 
And if you have a topic you’d like me to cover in my series of article on material handling equipment, please let me know!
 
If you operate a commercial truck fleet, you probably know that one of the most frequent accidents in your vehicle operation is a rear end collision. In many cases these accidents are the result of “following too close,” where there was not enough stopping distance available. 
 
It’s not always the fault of the driver, as in many cases, another vehicle or motorcycle will try to slip in front of the truck without realizing the distance the truck needs to stop in.
So how much distance IS needed? Take a look at this infographic:
 
TruckStopDistance Blog
 
The data shows stopping distance for vehicles operating in perfect weather conditions. If we add inclement weather such as rain, snow or ice to the equation, the stopping distances increase. And darkness potentially increases stopping distance even more, as it affects the driver’s reaction time. So add one second for each variable.
 
Tips to reduce rear end collisions:

  1. Increase the distance between the vehicle you are driving and the vehicle in front of you. Statistics have shown that most drivers keep a 2-second distance between vehicles travelling at speed. The 4-second rule gives the driver a better chance of stopping in time to prevent a collision.

    How to determine the 4-second rule:

    Pick out an item on the side of the road, whether it’s a tree or lamp post. When you see the car in front of you go past that tree or post, count off how long it takes you to reach that same marker. Anything less than 4 seconds when travelling at speed could mean that you are following too close to the vehicle in front of you.
  2. Keep your eyes scanning ahead of you as far as possible to detect potential hazards and give yourself time to react if needed.
  3. Always know the location of each vehicle around you, including vehicles behind you.
  4. While stopped at an intersection, always make sure you can see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you from your normal sitting position. To avoid rear ending the vehicle in front of you if it makes an unexpected stop in the intersection, look left, right and left while counting “123 go” before starting up your vehicle.
  5. If a vehicle cuts you off, stay calm and maintain the correct following distance to include slowing down if needed.
  6. Avoid conversations in your vehicle and thoughts that keep your mind off your driving.
  7. To prevent accidents – or in some cases to define who was at fault – some companies choose to install cameras in the vehicles. There are several companies that market this technology and can provide you with data that will justify the return on investment. This technology can possibly fill in the gaps of ‘who said what’ and what actually happened. However, the accident footage is not always admissible in court. 
Let me know if you have other suggestions for reducing rear end collisions!

 

We’re excited about the upcoming NAFA 2015 Institute and Expo in Orlando, Florida, April 13-17 and hope we’ll get a chance to see you there. This conference is the fleet management industry’s largest event – and Element Fleet will be there to help you enjoy it even more! Be sure to attend these education sessions and visit our booth at the Expo: 
 
The following institute sessions feature Element Fleet Management speakers:
 
  • Monday, April 13, 2:00 p.m. (International Fleet Academy)
    Charting Your Global Roadmap: An interactive workshop 
  • Tuesday, April 14, 2:00 p.m. 
    Creating Bid Proposals to Achieve Results Sooner Rather Than Never 
  • Tuesday, April 14, 3:45 p.m. 
    Fleet Finance Explained: Funding Alternatives for the Global Fleet 
  • Wednesday, April 15, 1:15 p.m. 
    Emerging Controversarial Issues and Their Impact on Your Fleet 
  • Wednesday, April 15, 1:15 p.m. 
    Turn Off the Engine! (Explore ideas & techniques to change behavior of excessive idlers) 
  • Thursday, April 16, 2:45 p.m. 
    Implementing Telematics: A Manager’s Success Story 
  • Friday, April 17, 9:00 a.m. 
    Fleet Managers Only: The FMC Executive Panel
VISIT ELEMENT IN BOOTH #1129
Follow the flip-flops on the floor to our booth. Our consulting experts will provide a quick “fleet diagnostics” to help you tune up your fleet! Expo hours are April 15 (10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.) and April 16 (10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.).
 
We look forward to seeing you there, and if you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow @elementfleet for our tweets (#NAFA2015) from the conference and show floor!
 

This morning, I had the privilege to attend the unveiling of the latest Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® van in Baltimore!

Element's 50-year client, Colgate-Palmolive, has reached children around the world with free dental screenings and oral health education through the Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program. In the United States, Colgate's fleet of mobile dental vans travels around the country to rural and urban communities, serving over 165 million children to date.

At today's festive event, the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® program expanded its focus on Baltimore children by officially dedicating a brand new mobile dental van, managed by Element Fleet. The van is staffed by program coordinators and local volunteer dental professionals, and it will operate six days a week through partnerships with local schools, churches and community events.

Jim Halliday, President of Element Fleet Management, spoke at today's dedication, as did Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, Dr. Marsha Butler, Vice President of Global Oral Health and Professional Relations for Colgate, and other health and school officials. It was a great day, the kids were delighted to explore the new van, and Element Fleet is very proud to partner with Colgate in this unique and valuable community program.

At the BSBF dedication in Baltimore: (l to r) Jim Halliday of Element Fleet, Lee Wagoner of Colgate-Palmolive, and Scott Dunbar, Mary Ann Moeri and Rich Zambroski of Element Fleet.

brightSmilesBrightFuturesPic

April is distracted driving month, so what better time to focus your fleet drivers on this important topic?

"Distracted driving" is any visual, manual or cognitive distraction that has the potential to distract a driver from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing. Some of the most common distractions are talking on a mobile phone or texting while driving, adjusting the radio or temperature controls, eating or drinking, picking up objects, using an electronic device such as a GPS, applying makeup or being preoccupied with passengers.

According to numerous studies, too many drivers are still talking or texting while they drive, despite numerous laws put in place throughout North America.

Reducing your risk from distracted driving

When an employee is involved in a crash because of distracted driving, the victims have the law on their side when it comes to getting recompensed. One crucial step in protecting your fleet drivers – and your company – is to develop and implement a cell phone policy, using the following guidelines:

  • Know your risk. Understand how many crashes your company has had in the past, the number of insurance claims and your premium history. Find your organizational balance of revenue and risk management.
  • Don't make a policy in a vacuum. You need to talk to the people who will be following the policy.
  • Communicate from the top down. Executive sponsorship is required for a cell phone policy to be successful.
  • Reward and recognize. Once a policy is in place, ensure that safe drivers are rewarded for their behavior.
  • Enforce it. If you don't plan on enforcing it, don't create a policy at all.

Another important step in protecting your fleet includes training. At Center for Transportation Safety, we've found that an effective training involves use of multiple methods: classroom and online instruction, work in simulators and behind the wheel. Training should focus on a driver's behavioral attitudes, including understanding the dangers inherent in distracted driving.

Let me know your experience with cell phone policies at your company.

Fleet telematics technology is enabling fleet managers to have access to vast amounts of information that was formerly inaccessible. This data can have an enormous impact on productivity.
 
How?
 
If you already think you know, you may be surprised. Our clients who use telematics are discovering new and exciting possibilities every day. We’ve put together a short tip sheet that tells you more – you can access it here:
 
 
We have clients who say telematics technology has helped solve stubborn fleet challenges they’ve struggled with for years. I’d be interested to hear your story about using telematics – what has your experience been like?
 

I hope you’re enjoying our series of articles in Fleet Management Weekly on the subject of material handling equipment. Past blogs can be found here, here and here.

In this month’s edition, I focus on an important part of your fleet management strategy. “Financial Decision-Making: Leasing Versus Buying Material Handling Equipment” lays out the advantages and disadvantages of each financial alternative, depending on your organization’s specific needs. I provide some advice on how to go about making an informed decision taking numerous considerations into account.

Read the article now and let me know what you think.

Are you going to the ProMat Expo in Chicago?

On the same subject of material handling equipment, Element Fleet will be at the ProMat Expo in Chicago, March 23-26. This event is the largest expo for manufacturing and supply chain professionals in North America. At ProMat, you’ll have access to the latest material handling and logistics equipment and technologies.

If you’re planning to go, please visit our Booth #4863 to talk with our material handling equipment experts. They can help you meet the equipment specialists supporting your fleet, introduce you to new industry contacts, and walk the show floor with you to make the experience more valuable in every way.

Hope to see you there!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all, whether you’re Irish or not. It’s a day when we think “green” with shamrocks, wearing of the green and more. Fleet managers, let’s take this occasion to think green in another way – with environmentally-friendly driving practices!  Slight adjustments to daily driving habits can effectively reduce fuel consumption (and thus cut greenhouse gas emissions). Here are 8 tips to help fleet drivers become eco-drivers:  
  1. Avoid aggressive starts: A single second of “flooring it” can produce nearly the same amount of emissions as 30 minutes of normal driving.
  2. Keep vehicle properly maintained: Keeping tires properly inflated and getting regular oil changes and tune-ups not only lengthen the life of your vehicle, they improve fuel economy.
  3. Combine trips when possible: Warmed-up engines generate less air pollution.
  4. Reduce weight in vehicle: An extra 100 pounds of cargo can reduce a vehicle’s fuel economy by 1-2%. A fully loaded roof rack can reduce fuel economy by 5%. If you do need to carry the extra items, put them in the trunk or the bed of the truck. 
  5. Drive at a moderate speed: Driving the speed limit not only improves safety, it can increase fuel efficiency by 10% or more.
  6. Reduce use of the air conditioner. The A/C consumes nearly a gallon of gas per tank. If it’s really hot outside and you need the A/C, open your windows to remove hot air before turning it on.
  7. Park in the shade: Not only does a hot car take longer to cool, heat can cause fuel evaporation, hurting the environment and your wallet! 
  8. Use cruise control: By maintaining a constant speed, vehicles are more fuel-efficient.
These green driving tips also have a positive impact on fleet safety – so they’re good for the environment and good for the employee behind the wheel. One final but very important tip for St. Paddy’s Day: Be safe and designate a driver if you’re planning to celebrate!
 
Fleet Managers: If your fleet operates any DOT-regulated vehicles, safety is a top priority. One way for you (and others) to see how your fleet vehicles are doing is through CSA scores. Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck safety and reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities related to commercial motor vehicles. 
 
Every organization that operates these vehicles is rated – and the scorecard is public. Today, many shippers and potential clients that might use your services will validate carriers based on this report card. Too many infractions may be a sign of too much risk – potentially leading to lost shipping contracts.
 
In my formal training as a Six Sigma Blackbelt, we learned that “if it can be measured, it can be managed” – so your first step to a safer, more profitable fleet is knowing what your CSA scores are.
 
How to find out your CSA scores
  1. Go to http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/
  2. Scroll down the page to the bottom left, where there’s a box that says “Check Motor Carrier Safety and Performance Data”
  3. Enter either your company’s DOT number or the company name you want to look up to check the current rating. You may need to add additional information as some carriers have similar names. 
These ratings are updated both hourly and daily depending upon the application.
 
Ratings and interventions
 
  • Companies are rated by the FMCSA on the following categories.
  • Unsafe driving
  • Crash indicator
  • Hours-of-service compliance
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Controlled substance & alcohol
  • Hazardous materials complianceSafety
  • Driver fitness
If the organization has a yellow triangle (pictured at right) attached to one of the above categories, action will be taken by the appropriate authorities to investigate. 
 
To dig deeper into what caused a potential investigation, click on the Box with the triangle and you will be directed to a graph. Click onto a Violation Summary and Inspection History to gain additional information about these
occurrences. By data mining, you can gain a clear understanding of your operation and develop a plan to get back on track and avoid potential audits, lost business and – most important – accidents.
 
Safety + Compliance = Safer Roads for Everyone
 
Today is Employee Appreciation Day, an “unofficial” holiday begun in 1995 to encourage employers to honor their employees. We did that today throughout our offices in the United States and Canada – and with good reason.
 
Element Fleet Management is in the business of managing assets for our clients – but our own greatest asset has always been our people, who care so much about delivering the highest quality service to our customers and their drivers. 
 
In addition, we’re proud to work with thousands of companies who also feel that their employees are of ultimate value. These clients care about their drivers’ safety and providing the right vehicles to help them be more productive, and we’re honored to help them do it.
 
As one of our activities for Employee Appreciation Day, our folks wrote cards to each other to say “thanks,” and our Senior Leadership Team personally distributed over 1700 cards throughout our offices in the U.S. and Canada. It has been a great day – and we celebrate all our Element employees for their dedication, hard work, creativity and caring hearts!
 
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