Author: Vitaliy Dadalyan

11 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

FMCSA Shows Drivers How to Share the Road with Trucks

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has launched Our Roads, Our Responsibility, a safety-focused campaign to raise public awareness about how to operate safely around large commercial vehicles.

The campaign will explain how to operate around large trucks and buses, which have significant size and weight differences, blind spots, long stopping distances and limited maneuverability. With nearly 12 million commercial vehicles registered in the U.S. driving more around 300 billion miles, FMCSA aims to educate passenger vehicle drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

A website, ShareTheRoadSafely.gov, offers visitors access to public service announcements, infographics, tips and fact sheets, a PDF with suggested social media content, and more.

Under the Our Roads, Our Responsibility campaign, FMCSA suggests the following tips while sharing the road with CMVs:

  • Stay out of the “no zones” or blind spots around the front, back and sides of the vehicle
  • Pass safely and make sure you can see the driver in the mirror before passing
  • Don't cut it close while merging in front of a CMV
  • Anticipate wide turns and consider larger vehicles may require extra turning room
  • Stay focused on the road around you and avoid distraction
  • Be patient driving around large trucks and buses

“Our Roads, Our Responsibility supports our agency's core mission of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles on our roadways,” said Scott Darling, FMCSA administrator. “Roadway safety is a shared responsibility, and this initiative encourages everyone who uses our roads to be champions for safety. We look forward to working with all our partners to raise awareness around this issue.”

Related: FMCSA Proposes Taking Closer Look at Non-Preventable Crashes

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11 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Q&A: FCA US Fleet Business Chief Jeff Kommor

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Photo of Kommor courtesy of FCA.

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Photo of Kommor courtesy of FCA.

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Jeff Kommor, vice president - U.S. Sales Operations, Fleet and Small Business Sales for FCA US LLC, has been on the job since last October. He recently spoke with HDT sister publication Automotive Fleet about a variety of fleet-related topics. Following are excerpts from the interview.

AF: What message would you like to convey to fleet managers about yourself and your philosophy toward fleet sales?

Kommor: I've been visiting and talking with a lot of fleet customers since taking over this job six months ago, and the one message I have for all of them is simply this: FCA is committed to your business. I'm responsible for both retail and fleet sales at FCA, so I have a very personal interest in making sure the fleet side of the house gets treated fairly and equally. The old saying, "the buck stops here" has never been more true. FCA is “all in” when it comes to our commercial fleet business, and I'm in a pretty good spot to make things happen for our fleet customers.

AF: What are your short- and long-term goals to grow commercial fleet sales for FCA?

Kommor: My biggest goals are to achieve competitive advantages in three key areas: industry-best [on-time delivery], world-class service support after the sale, and leading-edge product features tailored to commercial customers. These are attributes that will meaningfully set us apart from the competition. The purchase decision process for today's commercial fleet customer takes into account a lot more than just [total cost of ownership]. I think we're doing a good job of addressing the full spectrum of their needs, but we can always get better — and we will.

AF: What is FCA's outlook for the commercial segment of the fleet market for 2016 and beyond?

Kommor: Certainly for the balance of 2016, the outlook for the commercial fleet market is positive. At FCA we are running significantly higher than last year's sales, led by our Ram, Jeep, and Dodge brands. Demand for our Ram ProMaster Cargo van continues to grow at a rapid pace — to the point where we are now adding a second shift at our production facility to keep up. Our ProMaster City cargo van sales are also well ahead of target, and our Dodge Grand Caravan commercial sales are up more than 100% versus this same time period last year. Best of all, we're experiencing the same success with our government fleet sales. The Dodge Charger Pursuit essentially owns the police sedan market.

Beyond 2016, I see the commercial fleet market continuing at a healthy sales pace for at least the next year or so. All the right factors are in place for our customers: low interest rates, affordable fuel prices, increasingly more capable vehicles designed specifically for the commercial market, and a trend toward stable TCOs despite the addition of significant new safety and fuel-saving technology features. I really like FCA's chances for continued commercial fleet market share growth in this type of environment.

Related: Cargo Vans: Prosperity as a Problem

AF: What do you see as being the top trends currently facing the commercial fleet market, and how are these trends going to play out in the future?

Kommor: The commercial fleet market is constantly evolving, but cost-containment and driver safety are always at or near the top of our customers' list of concerns. The end result is a steady march toward the deployment of more vehicle technology related to these concerns — particularly active safety systems and fuel management systems. FCA has these technologies available now, and we believe they make our products very attractive.

A second and more recent trend — and one that's putting a lot of wind into FCA's sails — is the shifting fleet preferences between vehicle segments. Five years ago, a lot of skeptics wondered about our focused investment in crossover vehicles. Today, we're reaping the benefits of that decision as a growing number of fleet managers are considering and choosing crossovers instead of mid-size sedans.

A similar example of preference shifts seems to be happening in the cargo van segment where — as a result of the massive fleet migration to Euro-style cargo vans — we're starting to sense a void for minivan-sized vehicles, and we're now happily be able to fill that need with our all-new Chrysler Pacifica. Even with 37 segment-first innovations on this new vehicle, fleet buyers have been very pleased to learn that the Pacifica's TCO is very competitive.

Another movement that's receiving a lot of fleet managers' attention these days is the electrification of vehicle powertrains. No one is quite sure how this will all play out in the fleet world, especially with relatively affordable prices for gasoline and diesel fuels continuing for the foreseeable future, but all OEMs including FCA have to keep an eye on developments in this area and build products that can meet the changing needs of the fleet market. I'm not sure too many of the electrified vehicles currently offered for sale can truly say they are designed with fleet buyers in mind. Our all-new Chrysler Pacifica will finally offer fleet managers a viable option for a full-sized electric vehicle that can address their people and their cargo-carrying needs.

AF: What initiatives is FCA developing to make it easier for fleet managers to do business with FCA?

Kommor: Improving the way we do business has really been an obsession of mine since I took over fleet operations, and it's a hot topic at every one of my staff meetings. All departments are represented at the table, and we collectively figure out what we can do better from a customer perspective. One example is the way we recently simplified the vehicle re-invoicing process so our customers receive their incentive payments in a much more timely and accurate manner.

Another action we took in response to customer requests — and it's been very successful in driving faster OTD — is the inventory pool we established at the Baltimore port of entry for our Ram ProMaster City Class 1 vans. This really separates us from the competition, and with a number of our upfitter partners located within 10 miles of the port, we ensure a smooth process from selection to upfit to delivery for our customers. Depending on the upfit, we have the potential to deliver a ProMaster City to a customer within 30 days of its arrival in Baltimore.

From an after-sale perspective, our Mopar Servicenet invoicing system has been a home run since the day it was introduced. Fleet customers can have all of their maintenance and repair order billings from FCA dealerships across the country consolidated into a single monthly invoice. We also offer 0% financing and convenient payment schedules to help our customers manage their cash flow. We were the first OEM to provide this package of services, again at the request of our customers, and we recently made some improvements to keep us ahead of the pack. For example, we now provide participating fleet management companies with electronic purchase order processing via Auto Integrate, the online maintenance authorization tool.

Another item that often gets overlooked because it's become an expected delivery at the beginning of every June, is our new model year Fleet Buyer's Guide. Our 2017 model-year edition contains 244 pages of absolutely every possible product detail our fleet customers are looking for. Having seen several, I can tell you no other OEM guide is more comprehensive. Based on customer feedback, we recently added sections dedicated to Green Technology, Safety & Security, and Engines & Transmissions. Everything is arranged for quick reference, and customers can easily access it online from anywhere or download it as an iPad app.

AF: As an industry-wide issue affecting all OEMs, what is FCA doing to make its dealers more fleet-minded in terms of fleet maintenance turnaround times and fleet driver satisfaction during the courtesy deliveries process?

Kommor: We fully realize that 95% of our customer relationship occurs after the sale. During that time, fleet managers are primarily focused on maximizing uptime and minimizing operational costs, so, after a full year of talking with fleet customers and benchmarking the competition, we just launched what we think is the most comprehensive preventive maintenance and service solution of all OEMs. We call it the “Fleet Preferred Mopar Express Lane Program.” By offering our fleet customers and fleet management companies what they appreciate from the aftermarket shops today, namely convenience and nationwide pricing, we can now provide a world-class “One Stop Shop” experience for the fleet driver at our dealerships — performed by factory trained technicians using OEM parts. And, thanks to our Magneti Marelli parts brand, our dealerships are fully equipped to service all makes and models, further streamlining the fleet manager's ability to manage their business. Plus, if any warranty work is needed, it can be performed at the same time and location as the preventive maintenance — something the aftermarket shops can't offer.

Also, our 1,000 certified BusinessLink dealers offer fleet customers priority access with their Next Available Service Bay experience. For fleet customers, getting their vehicles serviced at our dealerships should be like making a pit stop during a race. Our goal is to get them back on the road in record time.

Regarding courtesy deliveries, we have ongoing dealership training which stresses the importance of a proper courtesy delivery process. A growing trend is for our dealership service managers to take charge of the courtesy delivery, which enables them to personally introduce the fleet driver to all of the dealership's service facilities and personnel that are specifically trained and dedicated to support fleet customers.

What keeps our customers coming back is when they fully realize the combined commitment our Mopar service and parts organization and our dealerships have made in facilities, tools, personnel, and processes to service the fleet customers in the unique and urgent manner they require, versus trying to fit them into a retail service operation.

Related from the archives: Up Close With Ram's New ProMaster City Van (2014)

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11 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Court Rules NY Truck Tolls Can’t Fund Canal System

A federal court has ruled against New York State's practice of using tolls paid by interstate truckers to finance the unrelated tourism and recreation projects that make up the New York Canal System.

The U.S. District Court ruled that using toll revenue in that way violates the Constitution's Dormant Commerce Cause because the money is diverted away from interests that actually benefit trucking. The conflicting interests are centered around the Thruway Authority, which charges tolls for the use of several major arteries of interstate commerce but also owns the canal system.

The Thruway Authority has spent over 1.1 billion since 2012 maintaining and funding the canal system, with costs reaching over $100 million annually.

“The canal system is a jewel in the crown of the Empire State, and some combination of New York taxpayers, local businesses benefitting from tourism revenue and the actual users of the Canal System's many facilities should want to pay for its upkeep,” stated the Court. “But … the State of New York cannot insulate the Canal System from the vagaries of the political process and taxpayer preferences by imposing the cost of its upkeep on those on drive the New York Thruway in interstate commerce.”

American Trucking Associations expressed support for the ruling.

“ATA believed that the courts and Constitution were clear – revenue from tolls must be spent maintaining the roads they're collected on and not diverted to finance bike paths and waterways for recreational kayaking and canoeing,” said Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO. “We hope today's ruling will not only end this practice in New York, but dissuade other states from financing their budget shortfalls on the backs of our industry.”

Related: Americans Support Mileage-Based Fees to Fund Infrastructure

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11 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Used Truck Market Stable, NADA Guide Says

The used commercial truck market has generally been stable the past three months, notes an August report from NADA Used Car Guide. So far in 2016, auction prices have decreased less than 3% per month compared to nearly 5% per month in the second half of 2015.

"The sweet spot for pricing seems to be a 4-year-old truck with 400,000 to 500,000 miles," said Chris Visser, a senior analyst at the guide. “That type of truck has consistently brought pricing in the low to middle $40,000 range since January.

"That price range is attainable for many buyers, and the truck still has a year or two before a minor overhaul will be necessary." Visser's presentation on the August report is here.

The August report also says the market is less positive on the retail side. Three- to five-year-old trucks lost more of their value than anticipated because large groups of similar trucks brought average prices down. That group has lost 14% of its value so far this year, compared to 5% in the same period last year.

In general, NADA analysts state in the August Commercial Truck Guidelines that the market is back to its typical 3% to 5% monthly depreciation rate. Analysts point out the behavior is logical given current conditions. The freight environment remains moderately negative, but the domestic economy generally continues to show incremental upward growth.

NADA analysts do not expect any significant market changes through the end of the year. The conclusion is based on past presidential election cycles, which typically keeps industry from betting on large investments.

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11 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

255 American Firms Involved in Clean Transport, CalStart Map Shows

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Suppliers of high-efficiency, low-carbon transport vehicles and equipment are listed on the map at www.calstart.org. Image: CalStart

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Suppliers of high-efficiency, low-carbon transport vehicles and equipment are listed on the map at www.calstart.org. Image: CalStart

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The supply base for clean transportation technologies comprises 255 American companies, and CalStart, a non-profit management and promotional group, says it has identified and mapped them for general use by seekers of such products.

That “green” industry is ready to help meet upcoming national standards for fuel efficiency and greenhouse-gas reduction in medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, according to US Heavy-Duty Vehicle High Efficiency Technology Suppliers, a new white paper from CalStart.

An on-line interactive map is part of the publication, said Bill Van Amburg, the group's senior vice president and one of the paper's authors. The publication and map are available at its web site, www.CalStart.org.

The companies range from vehicle manufacturers to component suppliers to technology developers, and operate from 535 facilities in 40 states, impacting 80% of the nation, he said.

The map also shows clusters of activity in the upper Midwest; California and along the Pacific Coast; East Coast areas including Massachusetts, New York, and the Carolinas; and a corridor that runs through Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio.

"This report showcases what we know from experience: The U.S. is a leader in transportation tech, including next-generation advanced engines," said David Johnson, president and CEO, Achates Power, a developer of advanced opposed-piston engines. "Our industry can meet aggressive efficiency targets at affordable prices. Strong standards will encourage continued investment and drive advanced tech innovation and jobs in this sector."

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles currently account for about 20% of GHG emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector, but are only about 5% percent of the vehicles on the road, CalStart noted. National efficiency and carbon standards for them are being updated to Phase II levels, covering 2019-2027, due out soon from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“America has a rich, nation-wide network of high-efficiency suppliers developing and providing products for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that can meet and exceed proposed standards,” Van Amburg said. “This white paper just scratches the surface of that capability.

“High efficiency technologies and the companies making them represent an area of competitive advantage and jobs for the United States,” he said. “And in a world where country after country is increasingly trying to save on fuel use, cut pollution and tackle climate change, efficient transportation technology can represent an export driver, as well.”

European companies have enjoyed a reputation for leading the move to efficient trucks and buses, he said. But as the CalStart effort discovered, North American vehicles are changing that trend partially due to fuel economy rules. American firms are developing and manufacturing a wide variety of advanced technologies, including many with export potential.

“The U.S. is in the midst of a complete reinvention of how we transport people and cargo and, as demonstrated by this report, the U.S. in general, and California specifically, is at the center of electric heavy-duty vehicle innovation to make this happen,” said Ryan Popple, president and CEO of Proterra, Inc., a maker of zero-emission, battery-electric buses.

"It's clear that America has what it takes to grow this market," said Joe Dalum, president and CEO of Odyne Systems, a manufacturer of hybrid systems for medium- and heavy-duty work trucks. "Flexible rules that include technology like ours help businesses save money and significantly reduce emissions."

Businesses that rely on large trucks and buses know that more efficient vehicles save money, and reduced fuel use is a fundamental driver for heavy-duty efficiency technologies. But as the report says in a series of profiles, many companies in this sector support strong national standards because they help signal future technology needs, provide clear goals and reduce risk for making investments.

"Demand for efficient vehicles is growing, and advanced technologies like ours are answering those needs,” said Dr. Ed Lovelace, CTO of XL Hybrids, a manufacturer of electric powertrain upfits for fleet vehicles.

Suppliers can add themselves to the CalStart map by filling out the input form also found on-line, the group said.

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