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The 2018 Fleet Conference & Exhibition kicked off in glorious style at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre on Thursday. Over 300 delegates gathered for the opening session launched by MC Brett Routledge and a keynote address from the Chief Executive of the AAA, Michael Bradley.

In the first plenary session, it was a delight to hear from Steve Bletsos (Head of the Research Unit and Senior Research Analyst at the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce) and Dr Steve Nuttall (Head of Automotive Research, ACA Research).

Steve Bletsos shared insights into the forecast disruption of the automobile industry, citing the end of the production of vehicles in Australia by Holden and Ford as a significant shifter for employment and business opportunities. As Steve put it, the simplicity of an electric vehicle engine makes it a compelling choice for manufacturers alongside environmental factors.

“There are only 17 moving parts in an EV, while a traditional combustion engine has over 2000,” he said.

“Over the next decade, we will see the growth and the uptake of electric, autonomous and connected vehicles”.

Steve also noted that particularly affected sectors are likely to include automotive repair and maintenance, car retailing and wholesale industries, fuel and motor vehicle parts retailers, alongside used parts wholesalers and dismantlers.

“We are forecasting a reduction of two thousand organisations assuming a 20 per cent EV uptake in Victoria in coming years,” he said.

“I think there is a need for a clear framework from the government on electric and autonomous vehicles”

Later in the day the extended lunch session in the Exhibitors Hall was a highlight for delegates and exhibitors alike. It was a chance to understand and take a look at the latest fleet trends, innovations and initiatives, and there was a buzzing energy of noise and enthusiasm throughout the room.

From a fleet management perspective, this was a chance to gather and consider solutions that are safer, cheaper and more efficient for their organisation. It was particularly delightful to see how new exhibitors relished the opportunity to share their products with a captive fleet audience, alongside our returning guests from previous Fleet Conferences.

The day was also a chance to break out into smaller sessions to talk about specific fleet and automotive issues, and the only real shame is that delegates have to choose between a number of quality sessions that are going on concurrently. In saying that, the selection of speakers this year have certainly delivered in spades and the addition of more speed dating opportunities for exhibitors has certainly drawn a warm response from delegates.

Jerome Carslake’s breakout session on Australia’s Road Safety Strategy gave attendees a fantastic opportunity to share their thoughts with those around the table about how both the government and the industry can act in a way to promote road safety. Is it a priority, and if not what are some realistic strategies that can be pushed forward to encourage it?

The afternoon concluded with the playout of a Mock Trial led by Bruce Whitehead and Mark Maddox from Mock Court International. Featuring a mock judge, a court officer and three witnesses, this was a highly practical way of showing what can happen when safety procedures aren’t adhered to in the mobile workplace. In their rulings the judge hinted that there was a collective responsibility for organisations and individuals when it comes to vehicle safety.

“The evidence in this case is clear – there was an ongoing failure to act, a visible lack of commitment and a collective failure to embrace a practical and responsible approach to workplace safety,” the mock judge said.

We thank our delegates, speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, event partners and event organisers for their continued support of AfMA and of fleet management as a vacation in general. We look forward to a relaxed night of connecting with one another in an informal way at the Networking Dinner and another day of learning tomorrow morning.