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Earlier this year a group of fleet professionals led by AfMA headed to Miami for the annual Fleet Conference. AfMA President Lee Sauerwald was there and logged the following diary notes of the time away.

No Comfort Zone

It’s often said that the definition of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Sometimes we need to try something new and different to get a different outcome. Well there is nothing like getting well and truly out of your comfort zone and trying something quite new and different by participating in AfMA’s Study Tour and co-presenting at the Global Fleet Conference in Miami, Florida. This was certainly a long haul trip – any further and we probably would have had to leave the planet! A 15 hour flight from Australia to Los Angeles and then another 5 hours across the USA from the West Coast to the East Coast to arrive in Miami, Florida. However despite this long haul, interestingly we had landed before we had left … who said time travel doesn’t exist?! If only it had been in a DeLorean … We finally arrived at the Miami Marriott Hotel Biscayne Bay Hotel for a well-earned rest the day before our jam packed week, starting with two days of planned site visits.

Wrong Way Go Back!

Old habits die hard. Apparently it takes us 21 times to practice doing something a different way to break the habit. Like learning to drive on the ‘right’ side of the road. As opposed to the ‘left’ and not the wrong side of the road … except when you are driving in the United States! Which we found out on our first trip out of the hotel towards our first site visit. We had barely left the hotel and literally stumbled at the first turn – missing the ‘tight’ right and by habit headed straight for the left lane into oncoming traffic, which fortunately where stationary at the traffic lights. Astoundingly, a police officer was already standing on the corner to greet us and after enquiry and a response from our fellow American passenger “it’s alright he’s from Australia!”, we were allowed our ‘right’ of way.
The lesson here for us was that despite your best intentions, sometimes you might find yourself heading in completely the wrong direction. However, as long as you are open and listen to other people’s feedback and guidance, you are able to quickly get back onto the correct path.

First Stop: FLD – Fleet Lease Disposal

Our first site visit was to FLD – Fleet Lease Disposal. A vehicle and equipment remarketing industry leader, FLD has been successfully operating for more than three decades. Our Study Group: Lee Sauerwald – AfMA President, Mace Hartley – AfMA Executive Director, Monalisa Marin – AfMA General Manager, Mike Antich – Editor and Associate Publisher Bobit Business Media (USA) and Andy Lundin (taking the photo), Assistant Editor, Automotive Fleet (USA) and Peter Rodriquez, President of Global Motors and Past President of AMAV (Mexico) met with key FLD staff: Gary Mott, Ron Sanders, Ron Breslow, Rita Miller, Santiago Ramirez and Bill Bishop.
FLD shared with us the keys to their success and their particular focus on recruiting new young staff as well as using technological solutions that they have developed for their customers, including remarketing related apps with their own app developer on staff. Once a remarketing company using technology, they are now a technology company who remarkets.

Next stop: The City of West Palm Beach

Our study group (minus Mike who had Global Fleet Conference duties) then made its way to the City of West Palm Beach to meet with Mario Guzman – General Services Manager of their Support Services Department. Mario provided us with an informative tour of their workshop, including the out-sourced management of their spare parts to a specialist firm with third party staff placed on their site to directly service their facilities. While their Fleet Management was handled internally with the aid of a specialist fleet analyst. But perhaps the most interesting element from the tour was that each City is responsible for their own buses, garbage trucks and watercraft through to their own police and fire vehicles with a one million dollar ladder!

Trump Towers …

We then had a quick stop tour of City Hall before a cruise along millionaires/billionaire’s row along West Palm Beach which included President Trump’s 10,000 m2 Mar-a-Lago Estate – his “Winter/Southern White House” and 19th largest mansion in the United States, complete with a 1,900m2 ballroom, 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces, 3 bomb shelters, 5 clay tennis courts and a waterfront pool …

Hazard Ahead

The weather was warm – much warmer than our record cold winter back in Australia – with a top of 30C every day and an overnight low(?) of 25C. However, thunderstorms were forecast everyday …

While we had arrived at a time when Miami had been in drought, the rains had certainly arrived just after we did and we were subject to continual down pours over the next two days of our site visits, with humidity running very high. The hairiest moment we encountered was returning from day one of our site visits and the heavens opened-up while we were travelling on the expressway, severely limiting our visibility. Our Forrest Gump ‘Lieutenant Dan’ moment occurred when the road signs were flashing: “Caution Tornado Warning Area”!

Storm Ahead: What’s most important is how you respond in challenging times …

Third stop: Cox Automotive Manheim – Fort Lauderdale

General Manager, Ryan Mason and his staff played host to us for the morning of our second day of site visits and our third stop. We witnessed one of their ‘smaller’ auction days with only three lanes running with two auctioneers in each lane auctioning six cars simultaneously. Their larger auction on Fridays can see upwards of twelve lanes operating all at once. There were plenty of different vehicles on show, including numerous American muscle cars. We also had a tour of the extensive yard including their onsite repair and paint shop. Where the motto is:

Our Final stop: FPL – Florida Power & Light

Luis G Martinez, the Senior Area Fleet Supervisor, was our guide for the afternoon who took us around their 10-Bay Garage Maintenance Facility. FPL is a maintenance facility in the Northwest and Southeast region which covers 28,000 sq miles with 3,000 vehicles, including cranes, boom trucks and diggers with 80 technicians. A ‘family’ culture was strong amongst the team and they run one of the cleanest workshops you will ever see. It was evident that safety was embedded into the culture of FPL. Safety was everywhere you looked and they conducted peer to peer safety reviews.

Pink Flamingos

Somehow? … Pink Flamingos were the theme on this trip. Probably because references to the Pink Flamingo feature throughout Miami, Florida. Just think back to the opening credits of Miami Vice …
After some research, we found that the Pink Flamingo was resident to this area, but had left for about one hundred years and had only returned in recent times. The tenuous link here is that Australia are also about to undergo a transition after one hundred years of vehicle manufacturing.
You can spot the Pink Flamingo on the desk displayed during our presentation. Curiosity got the better of Michael Bieger, Senior Director Global Procurement for ADP, who had to ask what was going on with the Pink Flamingo. And after a brief explanation of our ‘local’ research he was promptly awarded the bird … no, the Flamingo!

Market Report: State of the Australasian Fleet Market

Super Size Me

When it comes to size, the only thing that is comparable between the U.S. and Australia is their land mass. Just about everything else in the U.S. is bigger. Their roads with multiple express way lanes, their vehicles with trucks everywhere, their meal portions and endless pots of coffee, even their weather patterns. After a while we were becoming accustomed to the serving of roasted potatoes which accompanied most breakfast meals! While the Toyota Hilux is consistently the number one selling vehicle in Australia, it’s only small compared to the size (as well as the sheer number) of trucks on the roads in the U.S. By comparison, Australia’s fleet market is only 1/15th of the U.S.

Truly Global

Global Fleet Conference 2017 – Miami

Topics were vast, with everything from the state of the global economy, disruptive technologies and forecast future trends, market report updates from Latin America, Europe and Australasia, to several company case studies covering global procurement and supplier relationship management to creating a successful safety culture, curbing distracted driving and furthering the global new car assessment program (NCAP) in this United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 – 2020.

Global Fleet Networking Consortium – Strategy Planning Day

Following the success of the two days of the study tour site visits and then the two day global fleet conference, it was time to spend the final day in a strategy planning session to formally setup the Inaugural Global Fleet Networking Consortium.

AfMA was the first association to join AFLA – the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association based in the United States to sign up to this Global Fleet Networking Consortium. Since then both AMAV (Mexican Association of Vehicle Leasing) and CRTA (China Road Transport Association) have also joined. All parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

The long-term vision of this Memorandum of Understanding is to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship between the associations that embraces innovation, which is open to new ideas, and shares a vision of creating partnerships with the other major fleet associations around the world.

The consortium agreed that the mission of the group should be “to facilitate the growth of global fleet management” with education continuing to be fundamental. Governance structures, funding streams, information sharing, online platforms, future meetings and more where all considered on the day. As this alliance of global fleet associations begins, it is likely that a board of directors comprised of representatives from each allied association will facilitate communication between alliance members.

Lift your Eyes … and your Thinking

Navigating a different car, with the steering wheel on the opposite side, new people as passengers, driving in a different country, as well as a Navman and passengers simultaneously telling you what to do can be challenging. Yet, lifting our eyes from our immediate dashboard in front of us is what is required if you are to keep on the correct longer-term track.

As important it is to be aware of your immediate surroundings, it’s just as important to keep your eyes on the road up ahead so you can see what twists, turns or hazards may be coming around the corner. We can get so caught up in the day to day that its often difficult to step back from our operational activities and contemplate strategy.

Travelling to another country, driving on the ‘right-side’ of the road, attending an AfMA Study Tour, presenting at a Global Fleet Conference and participating in a Global Fleet Networking Consortium are all great ways to stretch yourself and your thinking. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you can take a new perspective and the time to look at things differently, learn new things and new approaches to your existing challenges. And who knows, with new-found knowledge and an increased network, you might even be able to solve some of them. Take the opportunity, because it’s time to get in the driver’s seat – what-ever side it’s on!