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The Best Ever

Afterthoughts from Anaheim…

NAFA’s 2018 Institute and Expo was the best I have attended in some time. I would have loved to have been able to attend every session but had to settle for eight or nine. Like most of you, I took copious notes and after some review, have picked out my most significant takeaways.

International Fleet Academy

The first takeaway was from my favourite session of the conference— Stephen Choi’s (Uber) keynote on machine learning that was part of the International Fleet Academy pre-conference.

I had heard Stephen speak last year in Brazil when he was transitioning from Google to take over Uber’s autonomous vehicle project. He spoke about the things that people are good at compared to the things that machines are good at and how we can harness the things machines excel at to make mobility more sustainable, economical and safer for everyone.

He spoke about the enormous amounts of information needed to run an autonomous vehicle for a single day (in the order of all the information currently on NETFLIX) and he made the subject understandable and intriguing for a fleet audience.

Dealing with disaster

Another class I found fascinating was the inspirational tale of Florida Power and Light and their disaster response during Hurricane Irma. The Director of Fleet Services, Joe Suarez, spoke of the extensive preparations made in advance of the disaster and impressed the audience with the scale of the response.

Irma impacted 4.4 million customers and 95 percent of customers had their power restored within seven days. All that with a fleet of 3,800 vehicles and a network of contracted support. Joe left audiences with a number of important lessons on the benefits of underground systems, tree placement and the criticality of public communication.

Improving safety

The third and final idea I took away was from the DOT session on Friday morning. Bryan Wenger, Equipment Program Manager from Wyoming Department of Transportation, presented the work that the State has done to improve safety on the I-80 corridor. This corridor is 400 miles (640 km) long and has an incredible 240 truck blow-overs a year. That is when a tractor-trailer is simply driving along one minute and is blown onto its side by wind gusts the next.

Their ground-breaking project is to connect vehicles, especially trucks, to the road, signs, other infrastructure, and to other vehicles in a seamless network. This connectivity would provide continuous information on road conditions, weather (including wind), crashes and road work so that early warning and constant reminders keep everyone safe.

Local application

Back when I was doing more hands-on fleet management, I can remember my staff dreading my return from I&E with my lists of potentially life-changing (but work-intensive) ideas. So, this year, I condensed my list to three—three ways that people are using technology and resources and making a significant difference in the fleet industry.

Individually, we may not be able to program a vehicle for machine learning, or implement a connected highway, but we can certainly think of local applications of these technologies and ensure our CEOs, elected officials and others are aware of how fleets can be sustainable, operational and safe.

If you are like me and missed some of the sessions you wanted to see, there is some good news. As a pilot project, NAFA had the two pre-conferences on Mobility and Disaster Planning professionally videotaped. These are for sale at nafa.org.

Do you have a take-away from I&E? Please share!

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june, 2021

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