Choosing Vehicle Safety Features & Equipment
by Mary Jo Welch, Enterprise Fleet Management
For businesses with a fleet of vehicles, choosing safety features should be less about the "bells and whistles" and more about necessity. Decisions about safety features and equipment can impact the safety of every driver, as well as the total cost of ownership for each vehicle.
Some of the safety features worth considering when ordering new vehicles include:
Electronic traction & stability control systems - activate faster than a driver can react to help steer, slow down or brake a vehicle automatically in emergencies;
Rear vision cameras - provide a natural view of objects directly behind the vehicle when backing up, as well as during parking maneuvers;
Side blind zone alerts - utilize radar sensors to identify and indicate the location of other vehicles that might otherwise not be in the driver's line of vision;
Lane departure warnings - camera-based system that activates at speeds above 35 miles per hour to alert the driver when a vehicle is changing lanes with no advance signal;
Intelligent brake assist - utilizes radar and vision sensors to help drivers avoid or lessen the damage caused by a front-end crash by automatically applying added brake force.
While today's safety features are more sophisticated and effective than ever before, choosing the right safety features and equipment has become a lot more complicated. A professional fleet management company that is familiar with all the latest safety features and equipment across a wide range of manufacturers can help a business determine which features are necessary for individual vehicles within the fleet. Factors such as how vehicles will be used, lease terms, insurance costs and anticipated residual values are all taken into consideration as part of calculating the total cost of ownership.
A recent poll by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers found that two-thirds of customers are interested in looking at the latest high-tech features aimed at helping drivers avoid crashes the next time they buy a car or truck. The alliance's CEO, Mitch Bainwol, said in a statement, "More than 90 percent of crashes involve driver error of some kind, so automakers created a range of driver assist systems that aid the driver for brief periods of time to help avoid an accident."
There is little question that safety features are effective. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported that electronic stability control, which automatically detects the loss of traction, saved 2,202 lives between 2008 and 2010.
But the number of choices, features and options is extensive and growing. According to an article in Automotive News, "In many ways, the hardest part is choosing the features that help drivers and also are easy to use. It's not easy to keep from overloading drivers with features."
Ultimately, all the safety equipment in the world cannot take the place of a good driver who drives defensively and knows as much as possible about the operating systems in the vehicle that he or she is driving. However, businesses with a fleet of vehicles can easily become overwhelmed by the variety of options and choices in safety features and equipment and end up paying too much or not getting the features that offer the best protection. Working with a professional fleet management company that understands your business needs and objectives can help choose the features that will benefit your business while avoiding "bells and whistles."
Mary Jo Welch is assistant vice president, fleet operations, vehicle acquisition & licensing for Enterprise Fleet Management, a full-service fleet management company for businesses with medium-size fleets. Enterprise Fleet Management supplies most makes and models of cars, light- and medium-duty trucks and service vehicles across North America. With 58 fully-staffed offices nationwide, Enterprise Fleet Management has been recognized with the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) "Blue Seal of Excellence" award for 15 consecutive years, an industry record. For more information, visit the company's website at www.efleets.com or call toll free 1-877-23-FLEET.