Commercial Vehicles 2007

Online Exclusive: Insurance and Saving Gas

Get Covered
The best insurance for your business-and how to get it for less.

All businesses need property/casualty insurance coverage, and the biggest portion of it might be for your transportation needs. There is good news, however: According to the Insurance Information Institute, 2006 signaled the smallest increase in insurance rates in six years, at one-sixth the rate of inflation. This gives reason to hope for the same in 2007.

If your drivers have good safety records and you own safe vehicles, you could see savings of $25 to $50 per vehicle on your policy. Switching to smaller vehicles can also decrease premiums, because they aren't as expensive to insure and repairs cost less. Hybrids usually earn insurance discounts, too. Safety features such as electronic stability control, traction control, antilock brakes and additional air bags all affect insurance costs.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety evaluates a vehicle's crashworthiness. Among the safest 2006 minivans are the Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Ford Freestar. Well-rated small pickups include the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado and Nissan Frontier.

Auto theft also affects rates. Installing theft protection systems and security devices such as tracking systems can keep policy premiums down. According to a June report by the Highway Loss Data Institute, among the most frequently stolen vehicles are the Cadillac Escalade SUV and Dodge Ram 1500 quad cab.

Auto insurers consider several others factors when estimating coverage: distance and type of driving, claim records, number of accidents, number of speeding tickets and other citations, and the age, gender and experience of the driver. A younger employee may lack experience, thus costing more to insure. Driver training and classes on defensive driving (even how to handle road rage) are also often taken into account.

New vehicles are more expensive to insure than used ones, so check out Certified Pre-Owned programs to compare premiums before purchasing your business fleet. Leasing? New car leases require full fire, theft and collision coverage-coverage that may be dropped on older, used vehicles.

Mileage Plus
No time is better than now for saving on gas. Here are some tips for getting better mileage.

Until the federal government finalizes proposed plans to reform auto manufacturers' fuel economy standards, making light trucks more fuel-efficient, what can you do to reduce those big gasoline bills? Here are some tips.

  • Find out from the dealer if your vehicles can function using a lower-grade, lower-priced gas. Some cars and trucks may lose 5 percent of their horsepower but can gain more fuel efficiency.
  • Advise your drivers to go easy on the gas pedal and use cruise control to maintain a constant pace at the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds over 60 mph.
  • Service your vehicles regularly to replace clogged filters and worn components. Follow the service manual's maintenance schedule for optimum results.
  • Map out and combine deliveries and business trips through the fastest, most efficient routes to avoid doubling back.
  • Empty the trunk or bed of unnecessary cargo. Excess weight can reduce your fuel efficiency. An extra 100 pounds could reduce mpg by up to 2 percent.
  • Excess idling wastes gas, especially in vehicles with the type of large engines that power light trucks. Instead of idling while you defog or defrost the windows, buy a windshield cover and invest in high-quality ice scrapers.
  • Use the overdrive gear to save gas and reduce engine wear.
  • Check out www.gasbuddy.com for the lowest-priced gas in your area. For example, in Toledo, Ohio, and Charlotte, North Carolina, 15 gas stations and their addresses are listed for each city.
  • Air conditioners can eat up gas, because they add an extra load to your engine, causing it to work harder. Some A/C systems have an economy mode that keeps the compressor from engaging as often. Correlate your air conditioning to your speed: At lower speeds (under 40 mph), it is more fuel-efficient to open the windows and turn off the A/C, according to AAA. Use the Auto Climate Control and set it as low as is comfortable.
  • Under-inflated tires can cost a mile or two per gallon, and gas from your fuel tank can vaporize if the gas caps are loose or missing.
  • Keeping the tailgate closed with the truck bed covered can reduce drag.
  • Check out the Environmental Protection Agency's green vehicle guide at www.epa.gov/greenvehicles to compare fuel economy estimates and help you determine which truck is best for you.
  • Consider a fleet management program to monitor your drivers' driving habits and how your vehicles are operated.

 

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This article was originally published in the December 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ready to Roll.

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