Electric Vehicle Safety for Novices

Electric Vehicle Safety vs Conventional Fuel Vehicles in Collisions

Electric vehicle safety concerns have not had near the publicity that the vehicles and initiatives have received.  Organizations like NFPA and NAHRS provide proactive training for first responders and early responders on how to identify hybrids and EVs, and prepare them to deal with the potential dangers inherent in rescue operations.  Some of us, including the writer of this post, never gave EV safety a second thought until now.  With the numbers of Hybrids and EVs on the road increasing as they are, it seems prudent to share this information on a broader scale.

The obvious reason a different approach must be taken in dealing with emergencies involving EVs is that they contain high voltage systems.  If you ever took a shock from your conventional vehicle battery you surely experienced some discomfort.  That was 12 volts DC at 2 to 10 amps.  According to allaboutcircuits.com, “common nominal pack voltages in current vehicles range from 100V-200V for hybrid/plug-in hybrid vehicles and 400V to 800V and higher for electric-only vehicles.”  That’s a lot more juice!

Dos and Don’ts

Whether attending to someone with a medical emergency in the vehicle, trying to free someone trapped in the vehicle, or putting out a fire in a burning vehicle, the rescue approach is different when there are high voltage components to consider.  Before taking action you must identify if a vehicle is a hybrid, full electric vehicle, or an internal combustion engine.  If it is an EV, Hybrid, or even CNG, alternative vehicle safety protocols must be followed.  The first thing you need to determine is if the vehicle is running.  Electric vehicles run silent so it is easy to overlook a vehicle still running that could move and cause injury.  Next, the battery should be disconnected according to the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines.

Another important piece of information to know is the battery location.  If a battery has been exposed to heat, that creates an additional hazard.  Cooling the battery with water is a good idea, but never cut, crush, or open a high voltage battery, cable, or peripheral component.  Popping noises from the battery location are a good indicator that it is hot, as well as smoke or steam.

If you have access to running water, a hot battery should be cooled by running water over the battery case or compartment.  Water has been determined to be the best way to cool or extinguish a lithium-ion battery.  If the battery case has already been opened by impact or penetration, applying water directly to the battery is even more effective.  Other suffocating or extinguishing agents like your handy fire extinguisher will not be effective.  Keep in mind that emergency responders are trained to monitor the battery for reoccurrence of heat for no less than 45 minutes before releasing a vehicle to secondary responders, so if you end up being the one manning the hose, and conditions are safe enough, continue the cooling efforts until the pros arrive. Download the free Emergency Field Guide for alternative fuel vehicles from NFPA.org or contact your local fire department for training and information if you operate electric vehicles.

More Videos on Electric Vehicle Safety and Fire Hazards

Electric Vehicle Battery Location

EV battery locations vary by vehicle make and model.  In most hybrids it is behind or under the rear seat, or in the trunk.  In fully electric vehicles it may be under the floorboard or in the transmission hump.  If you see damage to the vehicle or active fire in or near those locations, best to wait for the pros who have been trained for these situations and have the thermal imaging and protective gear to handle them.

Key Take-aways for EV Safety

We cannot stress enough that alternative fuel vehicles vary widely in the technologies used.  Each technology presents a unique hazard profile.  Buildup of fumes that are harmful or flammable, potential for delayed fire, and extremely high voltages are the primary dangers.  If you are not sure what to do, call 911 for help, and wait.

Most important, if you are first on the scene of a collision or other vehicle emergency, before you jump in to assist, stop and assess the situation for electric vehicle safety.  Treating an EV in the same manner you would a conventional gasoline or diesel fueled vehicle can do more harm than good and ultimately result in serious injury.

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7 Costly Driving Habits that are Easy to Break

We All Have Costly Driving Habits

This post shares valuable information not only for commercial fleets, but for anyone who drives.  We all want to keep our vehicles running well and far from the repair shop.  A few things you may do out of habit, and never thought much about can be causing serious damage to your vehicle over time.  Saving a transmission, braking system, or fuel pump from excessive wear will keep your hard-earned money in your pocket, and you in the driver’s seat.

Costly Driving Habits

#1 Ignoring an Unfamiliar Sound

Some sounds just get our attention more than others.  A loud scraping noise is pretty alarming.  Most drivers would recognize it as bad news and do something immediately. On the other hand, what about a subtle hissing sound?  You may not even be sure you really heard something.  Ignoring that sound is a costly driving habit.

Rather than let it go, take a minute to listen more closely.  Lift the hood and see if it sounds louder.  Ask someone else if they hear it too.  Sure, it might just be wind noise, but it could be an early warning sign of something about to go very wrong.  If you ignore it until that soft hiss turns into a whistle you could find yourself at the side of the road needing belts or vacuum hoses replaced.

#2  Resting Your Hand on the Gearstick While Driving

According to carthrottle.com and many other sources, this common habit can cause easily avoidable damage to your transmission. The constant weight of your hand or arm on the shift lever, puts pressure on the parts connecting below in the gearbox.  That pressure causes unnecessary wear and tear and can lead to very expensive transmission failures.

Break that costly driving habit easily by keeping both hands on the wheel.  You will find you have more control and may even react a little faster to potential hazards.

#3  Over-Revving a Cold Engine

Winter is here and vehicles may be very cold when we get in to drive.  Newer vehicles with fuel injection systems do not require the same care as older vehicles did in this regard, but after reading a few articles on the subject, it seems prudent not to over tax cold vehicle components.  Thermal expansion is a fact and precision parts operate best when they are at their optimum operating temperatures, so spending a few minutes to allow the engine to warm just makes sense.  It also makes sense to warm the car before you get in for the sake of your own comfort.

This video shot with a thermal camera shows the warming of a frozen engine is very interesting and informative.

Costly Braking Habits

Your brakes may be the single most important system on your vehicle.  Wherever you go and whatever you encounter, when you want to stop, or need to stop in an emergency, the brakes have to work!  The alternative ways to stop a vehicle can be extremely unpleasant.  There are 3 costly driving behaviors that are easy to break  specific to how and when we brake.

#4  Excessive Downhill Braking

Of course, you want to brake when necessary, but riding the brake pedal when driving downhill is a common costly driving habit.  Continuing to do it will overheat your brake components and wear them out before their time.  Instead, try slowing down some before you crest that hill, take your foot off the gas, and downshift to slow the engine.  If you pick up too much speed, brake as needed to slow the vehicle, but don’t keep constant pressure on the brake pedal.

#5  Frequent Hard Braking

Sudden and frequent braking often go hand in hand with distracted driving.  Both are costly driving habits.  A driver that is aware of what is going on around him (or her) has more time to react.  They can more easily swerve safely to avoid an obstacle or decelerate slowly rather than brake at the last second.  In any case, breaking the hard braking habit pays off in fewer brake repairs and replacements as well as fewer collision incidents and stressful close calls.

#6  Not Using the Parking/Emergency Brake on an Incline

Those of us who mainly drive in the flat lands may not know this, but you should always engage the parking/emergency brake when parked on an incline, AND it should be engaged before you take your foot off of the main brake and put the gear shift lever into the park position.   As a side note, if you drive in a mountainous region you also need to curb your wheels.  Communities like San Francisco routinely issue citations for not doing so.

The reason for using the parking/emergency brake is pretty simple to understand.  Automatic transmissions have a device known as a parking pawl that prevents the transmission output shaft from moving when your shifter is in park.  It looks like a pin that engages a notched ring.  When these parts are worn, you will notice the vehicle moves a couple of inches forward or back after you put it in park.  According to AAMCO, when you set your shifter to park before setting the parking or emergency brake, the entire weight of your vehicle rests on the parking pawl device.  Over time it becomes weak leading to premature failure and very costly repairs.

#7 Emptying the Tank Before Refueling

Costly Driving Habits

This is an easy costly driving habit to break once you accept that you are not saving a dime by filling the tank later rather than sooner.  The fuel that you pump into your vehicle at the gas station contains some impurities – all fuel does.  Over time, these impurities settle to the bottom of your tank.  Again, this may be more of a concern for older vehicles and colder climates than newer vehicles in the south, but it still applies to all vehicles over time. When you burn the fuel at the bottom of the tank, those impurities (including water) can be pulled into the fuel pump and engine. Enough water will stall the engine.  More important, the last thing you want are impurities getting trapped in critical moving engine parts.

Top mechanic’s recommend to never run the tank dry.  Certainly refuel before you are below 1/10 or under 2 gallons.  Others say to keep no less than a quarter tank at all times.  This is so the fuel level does not go below the level of the fuel pump within the engine.  They say when the fuel level is below the fuel pump, the fuel pump generates more heat causing it to wear faster than normal.

Why not start off the new year by breaking those costly driving habits?  Your wallet and your vehicle will thank you!

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Move Over Laws

Move Over Laws in all 50 States

According to the USDOT blog, all 50 states have now enacted move over laws.  There are some significant differences between states, but the basic premise requires changing lanes or slowing down when approaching vehicles stopped on the roadside.

ResponderSafety.com has reported that two emergency responders per day, on average, are struck by passing vehicles.  Move over laws were enacted to provide a cushion of safety for law enforcement officers, workers, and others that may be stopped on a busy road or highway.  The earliest versions of these laws were often  vague and unenforceable. More recent efforts between cooperating agencies have provided model language that is clearer and is being adopted more broadly.

Roadside Accident w-Emergency Responders

Primary Differences

The move over laws across the 50 states have much more in common than not.  The primary differences are the definitions each state has for an “emergency scene”.  In many states they apply only to emergency vehicles.  In other states they apply to emergency vehicles and towing vehicles.  Alaska includes animal control vehicles in their definition and South Carolina has the broadest definition.  Their text includes “a location designated by the potential need to provide emergency medical care and is identified by emergency vehicles with flashing lights, rescue equipment, or emergency personnel on the scene”.

Based on the South Carolina definition, one can infer that if a common citizen stops to assist another vehicle pulled off the road, there could be “potential” need for emergency medical care making even that a qualifying emergency scene that the law would apply to.

What Move Over Laws Have in Common

All of the move over laws place responsibility on the driver of a motor vehicle to take specific action when approaching an emergency scene.  The driver must change lanes if the adjacent lane is available and the maneuver can be performed safely.  Drivers must also slow down and control their vehicle to avoid collision.  The image below from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website tells Florida drivers exactly what they need to know.

FLHSMV Move Over Law

I recall, many years ago, being at the side of the road on Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  I was driving a friend’s pickup truck when the engine seized because the oil was too low.  Stuck on a curve with 2 lanes of traffic moving fast in both directions, and a concrete barrier between, I was alone and unprepared.  There was very little room at the roadside and no way to move the truck further off the road.  I waited in the truck hoping someone would stop to help.  It was unnerving that drivers did not slow down, and absolutely frightening when one drove by so close he clipped off the side view mirror and sent it tumbling down the hill.

Common sense and human decency dictate if someone… if anyone is in distress at the side of the road, whether that distress is a heart attack or a flat tire, give them and anyone who is assisting them plenty of room.  Move over laws ensure a higher level of protection for public servants and a consequence for violators.  Bottom line, they encourage us all to do what we know is the right thing.

Driver Training

Play this short video to remind your drivers and employees of the Move Over Law.

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Some Statistics Regarding Roadside Inspections

Understanding Roadside Inspections 

Most drivers dread having to deal with a roadside inspection.  That dread is well founded when you consider that the drivers career is on the line every time he faces off with a DOT inspector who is just doing his or her job.  Being able to anticipate what inspectors are focusing on can be a great help.

We recently found a web page that contains interactive tools that can really give the driver an edge.  It contains statistics regarding roadside inspections that are searchable by state, violation type, vehicle weight, fleet size and much more.  For instance, if you are going to be driving in Arkansas, you can do some quick research to see how many inspections are being conducted and what kind of violations are being cited.

FYI, Arkansas was picked totally at random, we are not picking on them.

Roadside Inspection Activity

The chart below shows that in 2020 in Arkansas there were very few Federal Inspections, but State enforcement officials were very active.  About 25% of inspections are full inspections, so best to make sure my logs and inspection records, as well as my vehicle, are in tip top shape.

It also looks like the Federal inspectors were a little more stringent with drivers than local enforcement, but local enforcement was much more stringent regading vehicle infractions.

Roadside Inspection Activity AR

Driver Violations

Looking at the top 3 driver violations cited, it would seem that most violators were pulled over for a relatively minor speeding infraction of 6-10 mph over the speed limit.  Common sense tells us that obeying the speed limit while driving in Arkansas is its own reward.

Driver Violations AR

Vehicle Violations

Now that you have been pulled over for driving 7 mph over the posted speed, you can bet the inspector is going to check all of your lights and not miss a thing.  Inoperative turn signals and lights will have you taken out of service in Arkansas.

Vehicle Violations in AR

Monthly Trends in Roadside Inspections

Understanding the roadside inspection trends by month can also be very interesting.  From the chart below we speculate that after the initial COVID 19 shutdowns either enforcement was staying home or drivers were.  It would be interesting to dig deeper to see if this is actually a seasonal trend based on some other factor.

Roadside Inspections by month in AR

Information is Power

Understanding the trends based on the factors discussed is certainly interesting and give drivers an edge, BUT nothing takes the place of constant vigilance when it comes to vehicle and driver safety.  Our goal is for every driver to arrive home safely after every trip.  No exceptions!

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Tell Us Your Story!

We Hear a Lot of Great Success Stories

Fleetistics is sponsoring a contest for a chance to win an Amazon gift card when you tell us your story.  We hear lots of great stories from our customers, all kinds of stories actually.  Things like amazingly quick recovery of a stolen vehicle, litigation avoided after a collision based on telematics data, and one customer reported discovering that his clients with the prettiest receptionists always received much longer stops than others.

Tell Us Your Story

With that in mind, tell us your story!

We want to hear your GPS tracking success story.  Your experience could be exactly what someone else needs to know, so tell us your story for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.  Even better, have your story featured on Fleetistics’ Blog with a link back to your business. Only Fleetistics’ customers are eligible to win.

Amazon Gift Card

Put those writing skills to work and tell us your story today.  Email it to contact@fleetistics.com.  Deadline for submissions is January 29, 2021.  We will select a winner from the submissions we receive to tell your story in an upcoming blog post.  Your name, logo, and a link to your website (with your approval) will be posted as well.  We look forward to hearing about your success with telematics and sharing your story with others.  So send us your story today!

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