2019 Fleet Technical Congress addresses timely issues affecting commercial fleet operations

This article was published in the April 2019 edition of NTEA News.

The fleet community gathered at the 2019 Fleet Technical Congress for expert strategy and insight on optimizing resources and navigating current challenges. Held on March 5 in conjunction with The Work Truck Show® 2019 and Green Truck Summit, this forum covered disaster recovery planning; strategies to secure fuel supplies; using data to design work trucks; ensuring a reliable fleet power supply; and last-mile delivery. Sponsored by Altec Industries, the event featured a keynote address and five general sessions.


George Survant, NTEA senior director of fleet relations, speaks at the 2019 Fleet Technical Congress.

Keynote address
W. Craig Fugate, former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, delivered the keynote address, outlining the work truck industry’s role in disaster recovery efforts. He explained communities and the private sector are major recovery players following disasters (not necessarily the government).

“Without emergency vehicles, utility trucks, service and repair trucks, and fuel delivery trucks, first responders would be walking to the disaster,” said Fugate. He reminded the audience they are part of the disaster recovery team and having a plan is critical. “If disaster response plans are not prepared, prepare to lose customers. Just because you have a plan, it doesn’t mean your suppliers have planned.”

Based on his experience as emergency management director under Florida Governor Jeb Bush from 2001–2009 and FEMA administrator under President Barack Obama, Fugate stated, “In a disaster situation, those who didn’t plan are looking for generators and diesel fuel — consumption often exceeds fuel suppliers’ capabilities.” Schedules for producing, shipping and delivering diesel fuel are typically built around normal capacity. When the power goes out, companies look to diesel fuel to run generators following a hurricane, for example.

Fugate went on to describe the disaster plans of a large grocery store chain in Florida, which included installing the appropriate number of high-capacity generators to keep stores open and implementing procedures in the event of a power outage. One detail was left out, though — how to maintain a steady supply of diesel fuel to power the generators. In Florida, fuel is delivered via seaports. During and after hurricanes or other natural disasters, these ports are sometimes closed. Without a contingency plan for fuel delivery supply, businesses may not be operational. Fugate’s message was clear in regard to planning ahead and ensuring those along the supply chain are equally prepared.


W. Craig Fugate, former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, gave the keynote address at the 2019 Fleet Technical Congress.

In addition to readily available fuel, Fugate underscored the importance of accounting for additional consumables (e.g., vehicle tires and windshields) that may need to be replaced. As work trucks move through downed trees and debris to get where services are needed, they may sustain damage. “Work trucks are in use all day and often being serviced all night — 24/7 — during and following a disaster,” he emphasized.

General sessions
The keynote address was followed by five general sessions, which kicked off with Restoration and Disaster Recovery Planning: Being Your Team’s Hero, moderated by Claude Masters of Claude Masters Fleet Consulting. Presenters Sara Burnam, CAFM, director, fleet management for Palm Beach County; and Joe Suarez, director of fleet services at Florida Power & Light Co., explained preparing to meet operational demands in response to a disruptive event or disaster is one of the most important and challenging elements of fleet management. Attendees learned the critical elements of recovery planning necessary to manage a smooth, effective restoration to business-as-usual.

During Securing Fuel During Supply Disruptions, the audience was reminded fuel supply disruptions are common during disasters but can also occur during localized power outages along pipeline routes and at tank farm sites. Roger Murray, chief operating officer of PS Energy Group Inc., shared how fuel resource users can establish contingency plans and strategies to insulate their companies from being without access to fuel.

The next session was Designing Your Next Work Truck — Make it an Acquisition, Not a Purchase. Michael Britt, CEO of MG Britt Inc.; Adam Duran, program manager at National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and Lauren Lynch, researcher – mechanical engineer at National Renewable Energy Laboratory, outlined tools every fleet manager can use when acquiring their next work truck. Presenters discussed how using structured experiences, intelligent analysis, and drive and duty cycle data to design work trucks provide a more effective customer experience, longer vehicle life and higher residual value.

The ability to deploy a fleet, as presented in Critical Considerations for Restoring Equipment Without Wheels, often depends on a company’s infrastructure being able to survive a disruptive event. Even with on-site fuel resources, if the power supply running your pumps or dispatch center isn’t functioning, fleet resources can’t be effectively applied. Bill Burns, fleet & facilities maintenance manager at SWACO, shared insights on what it takes to ensure an on-site power generator runs reliably under demanding conditions.

The final Fleet Technical Congress general session, How Last-Mile Delivery Affects Vehicle Design and Operations, was moderated by Kevin Beaty, president of YUNEV. Presenters outlined how the evolution of technology is dynamically redesigning information management, speed of accurate decision-making and how work is completed. Package delivery, specifically last-mile, to a time-sensitive consumer is the most expensive and cumbersome portion of meeting heightened customer expectations. Michael McDonald, sr. director of sustainability & government affairs at UPS; Chris Nordh, sr. director – advanced vehicle technologies at Ryder System Inc.; Angela Strand, managing director of Strand Strategy; and Rich Tremmel, vice president of sales & marketing for Morgan Olson, clarified how two of the delivery industry’s most forward-looking companies plan to meet this challenge.

Save the date
The Work Truck Show 2020 runs March 3–6 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sessions begin March 3, and the exhibit hall is open March 4–6. Sign up to receive email updates about the event, including when registration opens in the fall, at worktruckshow.com/wts20signup.