The 2023 Government Fleet Expo & Conference featured dozens of educational opportunities for public fleet professionals to learn about common industry problems and solutions. - Photo: Ross Stewart...

The 2023 Government Fleet Expo & Conference featured dozens of educational opportunities for public fleet professionals to learn about common industry problems and solutions.

Photo: Ross Stewart Photography

The 2023 Government Fleet Expo & Conference (GFX), set in the heart of Dallas, was ripe with opportunities for public sector fleet professionals to learn from their peers and share ways they're overcoming common challenges they face in the industry.

GFX, the largest annual conference for public fleets in the nation, saw record total attendance this year. Here are some takeaways from this year's event.

1. Empower Women to Take Up Fleet Roles

Panelists discussed the challenges they faced as women in the public fleet industry. But the fleet world is changing and women are being encouraged to use their talents, from technicians to fleet managers.

Now it’s all about bringing in a new generation of women into fleet who will carry operations forward with innovative ideas and a new way of tackling challenges. And as Sara Burnam, CAFM, fleet management director for Palm Beach County, Florida, pointed out, look for mentors in the industry. 

“If you’re a female try to make a connection with someone at a higher level who can help bring you up,” she said. “Because mentorship is very important.”

2. Let Patience Pay Off

Several sessions focused on the day-to-day challenges that all fleets face, from best practices for the entire team to fleet safety management from the perspective of municipalities and telematics platforms.

During the session, "Navigating Fleet Management Uncertainty," attendees were able to learn more about the impacts of supply chain and labor shortages within the government and public sector fleet space. The good news? Experts are looking at supply chains normalizing in the near future. 

"When do things get better? When do things normalize? Right now the expectation would be for next year," said Bill Blais, director of Strategic Consulting for Element Fleet Management. "Expectations for this coming model year and order cycle you should see improvement versus what you've experienced over the last couple of years."

In the "Police Vehicle Procurement Problems and Solutions" session of Police Fleet Conference (PFC), representatives from Ford, GM, and Stellantis joined forces to share about the impact of the supply chain crisis, while David Renschler, CPFP, of Fairfield, California, shared ways he has been navigating the crisis with his own fleet. The OEM representatives shared the sentiment that they are having to get creative in managing the ongoing crisis.

“In general, we’re not out of the woods yet. And I wish the three of us could tell you that we can control all these things. Don't worry, we're going to fix them. But they are so random and so unpredictable that we just have to find ways of creatively coping with them. Phil Bockhorn of Stellantis said.

3. Ensure Your Customer Knows their Vehicle

When your fleet customers aren't educated on the basic functions of their vehicle, they may operate it improperly. That's a recipe for disaster.

In "Knowing Your Police Vehicle," Sgt. Tom Gorman of Connecticut State Police shared some of the vehicle basics he teaches to officers so they know what operational issues to look for in their vehicles and how to address them, plus how to know when a vehicle needs to be brought in to the repair shop.

4. Telematics Data is Invaluable for Your Fleet

In 2002, the Oakland A’s changed the game of baseball by allowing data analytics and sabermetrics drive their decision-making. With fleets capturing more data than ever, speakers in the "Use Telematics to its Full Potential" and "Moneyball for Fleet Management" sessions touched on the importance of fleet managers being able to leverage analytics to get the full value out of their data.

The common consensus was that fleets needs to be predictive and proactive rather than reactive. But how is that done? A resounding answer was telematics. Learn the ins and outs of vehicles, maintenance cycles, and potential roadblocks so that when problems do arise, the fleet team is ready.

5. The Future of EV is Data

Data is a key part of successful fleet electrification plans. Whether in the process of electrifying the fleet or in the beginning stages, understanding each vehicle’s data and what it means on the road and while charging can help plan for success.

During EV-related sessions, fleet managers were advised to learn about key hardware and software considerations as regulations push for more emissions regulations. This points back to taking advantage of telematics and fine-tuning it to fit the fleet’s needs.

6. Customer Relationships Are Important

Having a working relationship with your customers who drive the vehicles you manage is crucial. It's vital to know the customer preference, especially in law enforcement fleets. In "Fit to Serve: Law Enforcement Vehicle Upfitting," speakers addressed the importance of knowing what equipment officers want in their vehicles.

“Talk to the leadership and make sure that you're meeting their expectations because sometimes what I think is important is not necessarily important for your command staff. Make sure that you understand their expectations,” Jen Brown of Coconino County, Arizona said.

Customer feedback can also help with the vehicle procurement process.

7. Inaction is Not an Option

In October 2000, Commander Kirk Lippold, USN (Ret.) was the Commanding Officer of the USS Cole when it came under a suicide terrorist attack by al Qaeda in the port of Aden, Yemen. After the attack, Lippold determined it was up to him to keep the ship afloat and assist with wounded crewmembers. He realized the importance of taking action in the face of conflict.

"You have to make decisions; there's no such thing as no decision...If you get better and more information you get to change your decision. What you're really doing at this point is what I call asking the 'what next' question. What do I need to think about next, what do I need to plan for next, and what do I need to do next? And by asking the 'what next' question, you're actually creating time and space for better decision making by getting better information to base that decision on," Lippold shared in the opening keynote address.

Didn't make it to Dallas for GFX this year? Join us in Louisville in 2024!