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Readiness & Flexibility: The 2009 Police Fleet Expo

Written by Dennis Tucker

The theme, “Readiness & Flexibility” was suggested by Bruce Wiley, the late law enforcement product manager from General Motors, so police fleet professionals could be prepared for the future. Wiley was a very wise man! Bruce was my friend and valued colleague, but he lost his battle with cancer last December at the pinnacle of his career.

He and I spoke of the challenges facing the police market and if there would continue to be support by the Detroit 3 for future police vehicles. As I write this article, General Motors filed for bankruptcy, and Chrysler filed a month ago. Ford seems be very viable and standing on its own during this somewhat uncertain time. Bruce would be shaking his head.

Hopefully, GM and Chrysler will rebound and be stronger than ever and Ford will continue to remain strong and independent. But, this isn’t going to happen over a matter of weeks or even months.
However, I can reassure you after speaking with each of the managers of the police vehicle programs, they are committed to continuing the strong heritage of offering a police vehicle.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Each manager will be at the Expo talking about important issues pertaining to the police market, including Mitch Mitchell from Chrysler, Tony Gratson from Ford and Dana Hammer from General Motors.

But what’s done is done. Now is the time to concentrate on the future. It is not just about the police market, but it’s about re-establishing the American car manufacturers to be bigger and better than ever. This isn’t doom and gloom but a matter of defining police vehicle needs and helping the manufacturers understand these needs.

This brings us to Milwaukee from Aug. 19-22 for the sixth annual Police Fleet Expo. After being an outstanding host last year, we’re excited to be back and working closely with the Milwaukee Police Department as the host agency. There are many people working behind the scenes to make this year’s show a bigger success than last year’s.

To be honest, the 2009 show provided more challenges than most, considering the volatile economic conditions this past year affecting attendees and exhibitors. But as some exhibitors declined sponsorships, new exhibitors picked up the slack, and others that have been there over the years continue to provide opportunities for thanking their customers. Believe me, there will be plenty for you to do in Milwaukee!

Once again, we have brought together top-notch speakers covering topical important subject areas you, as requested by you. The Expo is designed around your input and as a resource in tandem with Police Fleet Manager magazine. We did a little redesign this year, again, listening to your suggestions.

PFE brings together more than 17 hours of educational classes and an exhibit hall filling almost 96,000 sq. ft. of vendors that will offer you a vast selection of products and services to meet your short- and long-term needs. You’ll have 8.5 hours to roam the hall’s aisles where you’ll be greeted by old friends and new prospects to help you to find solutions and discover new products for your agency.

In addition to the vendors, you’ll have multiple speakers providing a great deal of expertise and information. As always, you will also look around at your colleagues in attendance for answers. Networking is by far a primary element and advantage of the Expo, so seek out colleagues who manage a fleet similar to yours or completely different than yours.

Fleet managers deal with many of the same problems regardless of agency size. This is great opportunity to exchange information during sessions and outside sessions where one-on-one time is valuable. Contacts you make at the Expo are resources you’ll take home to communicate with when you are back in your office.

Milwaukee is a beautiful and exciting city on the shores of Lake Michigan and home to Harley-Davidson Motors, Miller Park, Miller Brewing Co. and the Milwaukee Mile Racetrack, to name a few. Fly direct to Milwaukee or choose Chicago and drive the short 60 miles north.

Since the host hotel is the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, located downtown, it is within easy walking distance or a short cab ride to experience a wide variety of dining and entertainment options including great German, Irish, Italian, American brewpubs and just about anything else you could want. Take some time and stretch your legs along the newly renovated lakefront to catch the sites, and I guarantee you’ll want to come back.

Expo Sessions

The city of Milwaukee will entice you to the Expo, but it’s the content that’ll get you to the show. Why do more than 400 of your professional colleagues attend the Expo? Let’s start with the classes. There are classes on all four days of the Expo. Probably, the most anticipated sessions will be by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors who have 90 minutes each in a general session titled “Vehicle Manufacturer Dialogues” to discuss new model specifications, service information, alternative energy vehicles and new technologies.

The always popular “Agency Networking Dialogues” provide attendees 90 minutes to meet with similar size agencies to discuss mechanical problems, service issues, purchase options, fuel use, marketing strategies and other important topics. Vehicle manufacturer representatives are once again invited to sit in on these sessions to participate in the discussion. This is a great way to network with your colleagues to learn of similar problems, successful solutions and solutions that may not have worked.

Keeping with the theme of Readiness & Flexibility, the question was posed last year at the wrap-up, “What happens if police cars go away?” Hopefully that won’t happen, but I think there’s more pressure on fleet managers to examine police vehicle alternatives for efficiencies and cost savings. This doesn’t mean a retail vehicle can replace a “certified police vehicle,” but it can mean other vehicles may be more appropriate for non-patrol functions.

The Upfitters’ Roundtable provides upfitters the opportunity to convey what they have learned about upfitting non-traditional police vehicles in order for you to make your own determination of what could be viable alternatives for you. The discussion will include conventional vehicles in addition to hybrids and will cover types of equipment used to equip these cars. This session also ties into the Upfitters’ Challenge at TrackTech. More on that later.

Another class based on alternatives is a Roundtable of Alternative Vehicles, presented by fleet managers discussing the role of alternative vehicles in their fleets and their experiences with them.
Find out how some fleet managers are thinking outside the box in an attempt to save money and look to the future.

Using GSA contracts presented by John McDonald for the Center for Automotive Acquisition at GSA explores how the U.S. General Services Administration can be your friend. This session identifies GSA contracts and services your agency can tap into. You may be surprised to find out how you can purchase law enforcement equipment, including vehicles, just like other federal agencies at great savings to your agency. You’ll find a world of resources within GSA, and this session will guide through some of the most basic and important resources of this very encompassing agency. You may find your long lost best friend in the GSA.

“Brakes…What Makes Them Work? Selecting the Right Pad!” This session provides police and public service fleet managers an understanding of the unique aspect of the police and public service vehicle (PPSV) brake systems and the need for a universal method of testing and selecting replacement parts with the focus on safety, performance, and cost effectiveness. This is presented by Bob Milliman, training supervisor with the Affinia Group.

An annual favorite, Bill DeRousse, fleet superintendent for the City of Everett and Everett Transit, Everett, WA, joins us to discuss shop operations, “What Do I Do and Who Do I Call for Help?” The reality is that just about every fleet is going through tough times. Shops are losing maintenance technicians and trying to paste together a fleet maintenance program requiring fewer technicians. Fleet managers need to understand the fleet services being provided and know what services can be extended or even eliminated to enhance the efficiency of the fleet section.

DeRousse will share the tools of his shop, including the use an extensive automated check list program that includes what services and intervals are used with each class of equipment owned. The presenter will share with attendees what his average time per service by equipment class is and explain why the time is high or low.
The second class by Bill DeRousse includes a special co-presenter: Sergeant John DeRousse, administrative services sergeant and police fleet coordinator, Everett, WA Police Department. The speakers will address “Keys to Success: Police Equipment Management, Teaming Up with Your Motor Vehicle Department.” Bill’s son had no idea what he was in for when he was given the job to manage the usage and assignments of the vehicles owned by Everett PD, but he learned early, and his experiences gained in this position have been more than expected. The challenges in dealing with so many interests have been at times overwhelming. On the other hand, DeRousse must deal with the city’s fleet manager, who might have other goals and objectives when dealing with the city’s fleet. As fleet managers, we need to know what our boss needs to know and how to keep customers informed as to what we do and why it’s important.

Everyone wants to know what we are doing and how much it will cost. Bill and John are prepared to answer these and other questions. This should be an interesting class with the Everett PD representative sharing with us the lessons he has learned and from Everett’s Fleet’s superintendent on what issues we need to concentrate on.

Deborah Spence, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, presents “The ‘COPS’ Office and Fleet Managers: Potential Partners in the Quest to Save Fuel.” In May 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) published a short article on applying the principles of community policing to the problem of rapidly rising fuel costs. The story generated an unprecedented response, leading to subsequent work to document how police departments were using community policing to try to save fuel and to share those ideas with other agencies.

While fuel costs have declined since their height in the summer of 2008, the economic downturn and its impact on local budgets means the quest for greater fuel efficiency has not gone away. This session will introduce attendees to the COPS Office, its grant programs, and its wide array of resource products. It will present the summary findings on what the COPS Office has learned about fuel-saving techniques and a discussion on the potential of community policing to help agencies move beyond a dependence on widespread deployment of traditional patrol cars.

Continuing the focus of high fuel prices and alternative fuels, Les Rucker, the president of Fleet Management Consulting, addresses these issues in the session “The Volatile Fuel Picture.” Les is one of our more popular and unique speakers who brings his vast knowledge in the private sector as a fleet manager to his consulting experience working with federal, state and local government agencies.

This session includes a wide-ranging discussion of which fuels are working and which are not. The class will reflect on the wild gyrations of fuel prices over the past 18 months. (No one knows what they are likely to do in the next 6 months.) He will discuss the challenges this has created for police departments everywhere. One of the questions addressed will be the role the fleet manager can, and should, be playing regarding fuel prices.

Included will be a discussion of alternatives such as E85, a darling eight months ago and now where plants are going bankrupt, being left unfinished or are still on the drawing boards. Why has E85 fallen from grace? If E85 is not the answer for the future, what other fuels might fill this role? Les will engage the participants in some of the conversation to hear what their experiences have been.

The second class lead by Rucker is “Fleet Management 101—New and Revised!” This course is a survey of all of the major functional areas of fleet management. It is fast paced and intended for those looking for a comprehensive overview of fleet management. It is recommended for both veteran fleet managers looking to move their fleets forward and for those new to fleet who are seeking a general understanding of what fleet management is all about.

Exhibit Hall

Sitting in sessions provides a lot of information, but what if you want to see the newest products, kick some tires, ask questions, renew acquaintances and seek new vendors? Then you won’t have to travel far to the Exhibit Hall located at the Midwest Airlines Center for that opportunity. You’ll have 8.5 hours to walk the many aisles of the estimated 100 exhibitors occupying up to 300 vendor booths.

You will see the newest and most innovative products, services and communicate directly with these exhibitors. Why do so many exhibitors attend this show? Because they believe this the most important conference they attend because they can speak directly to knowledgeable police fleet professionals who make buying decisions.

The exhibit hall not only saves you hours of sales calls, of reading and Web searches, but it provides the exhibitor the ability to address the 400 attendees without the cost of fuel and the many travel hours. So walk the aisles, take your time, fill your tote bag with useful information to address current and future needs. Express your appreciation to the vendors for supporting the Expo and for continuing to develop products and services to enhance the efficiency and productivity of your agency.

Special Events

Our appreciation goes out to many of our loyal supporters and vendors who sponsor the following special events. We have a great variety of events planned this year that will surely please the attendees.

The first event is Tuesday evening, Aug. 18 at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Sponsored by Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Whelen Engineering, Pro-gard Products and Raybestos, you’ll be treated to dinner and be able to roam the amazing museum to view all the great exhibits and then stop by the gift shop to buy a souvenir. The museum has been barely open a year and has received praise from bikers and non-bikers alike.

Wednesday night is the return of the very popular Dinner With a Stranger event initiated last year. This is a great networking opportunity for attendees to meet new colleagues in order to discuss fleet opportunities and issues while enjoying dinner at some of Milwaukee’s best restaurants.

This year, five restaurants will participate, giving 50 attendees the opportunity to enjoy dinner while participating in a discussion targeted to one topic for each restaurant led by a moderator. These topics are a starting point and the discussions grow from there. Besides the networking opportunity, vendors sponsor each restaurant to defray the cost of dinner and beverages. The topics for this year are “Fleet Management as a Profession,” “Aftermarket Equipment and Upfitting,” “Alternative Police Vehicles,” “Alternative Fuels and Cost-Saving Fuel Measures” and “Fleet Management Software.”

Get ready to spend a rewarding and busy morning at the Milwaukee Mile Race Track on Thursday for TrackTech! Hosted by Raybestos, this event provides product demonstrations, the Upfitters’ Challenge and a place to have a little fun. New this year is the “Raybestos Proving Grounds.” If you’re one of the lucky 200 attendees selected at random, you’ll be driven around the race track by a professional driver in a NASCAR-type vehicle. Raybestos reps will also have other test vehicles for you to drive around the road course and at other areas to put their brakes to the test!

In addition, Harley-Davidson will have motorcycles available for motorcycle endorsed or licensed drivers to check-out. The Milwaukee Police Department will have various specialty vehicles and equipment on display. The Milwaukee Mile Race Trailer will be on site to so you can participate in a tire- changing contest and/or the race video game set-up; plus other product demos will be on site.

If this isn’t enough, the 2nd Annual Upfitters’ Challenge will also take place at TrackTech. This year’s competition will be different from 2008 in that this there won’t be the “pit crew-style” equipment installation done during the event. Instead, the upfitted vehicle must be based on one of the retail alternatives to the current police package or special service vehicles. That means it cannot be based on any version of the Ford Crown Victoria, Ford Explorer, Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Tahoe or Dodge Charger.

Instead, think about what else is out there. From Ford, think Taurus sedan, Fusion sedan, Escape SUV, Edge crossover, Flex crossover and the new F-150 pickup. From Chevrolet, think Malibu sedan, new Traverse SUV, and Silverado pickup. From Dodge, think Avenger sedan, Journey crossover and new Ram pickup. And, think way, way out of the box…Ford Mustang, new Chevy Camaro, new Dodge Challenger, Pontiac G6, Pontiac Vibe, Jeep Wrangler or Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The vehicles will be upfitted before the event and will be on display at the track with the upfitters available to field questions from you. Trophies will be awarded for the Best Sedan, Best CUV/SUV, Best Pickup, Best Hybrid / Electric Vehicle, Best Center Console Solution, and Editor’s Choice. The “Best” awards will be People’s Choice voting, with ballots cast by anyone attending the TrackTech activities.

Finally, two classes will be provided inside in the Media Room. The first one is presented by Raybestos to give you an overview about the brake activities at the track and provide insight into what you’re testing and what to look for while driving the vehicles. The second class will present the results of the Police Tire Tests conducted by Police Fleet Manager magazine in coordination with Tire Rack. The classes start at 9:30 a.m., last 30 minutes and will alternate between topics until 11:30 a.m.

On Friday evening, Aug. 21, join your hosts Soundoff Signal and Setina Manufacturing for a fun-filled evening of dinner and the ComedySportz Show. The event takes place in the Turner Hall Ballroom of Turner Hall.

This historic building is the only building in Milwaukee that holds the following architectural and historical designations: a National Landmark, listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, and a local Historical Landmark. Constructed in 1882 and dedicated in 1883, it is one of several important Milwaukee buildings designed by architect and German immigrant Henry H. Koch. Fires in 1933 and 1941 closed Turner Hall for 66 years, but after extensive renovations, the ballroom came back to life on Oct. 26, 2007.

ComedySportz is a local all-improv group that bases its comedy show on audience suggestions. Two teams of “athletes” get suggestions from audience members who create scenes on stage and compete for your laughs. The audience decides what each scene is about, who is funnier and which team wins. The show promo states, “The most important part of the show is you!” If you want to laugh, this is the place!

Feel like taking a break and hanging out for a while, then join your colleagues in the Hospitality Room in the Hilton Hotel, Tuesday through Thursday nights. This event is sponsored by several exhibitors who want to show their appreciation to you by providing a place to make yourself feel at home in an easy-going environment where conversations and networking can continue long after the day’s sessions have concluded.

The Police Fleet Expo provides a great opportunity and venue where you get the class content, the special events, and the exhibit hall all planned for you…the police fleet professional! The early registration fee of $99 (until July 15th) is surely a bargain for the value you receive. So whether you come to learn, to network, to discover solutions or a little bit of each, you’re sure to leave Milwaukee a winner. Thanks to all those attendees who have attended in the past to make this event such a success!

Please visit www.policefleetexpo.com to learn more. If you have question or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me at dtucker@hendonpub.com. Hope to see you in Milwaukee, August 19-22, 2009!

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jul/Aug 2009

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