The 'Greatest Generation' of Fleet Managers
Fleet wouldn’t be what — or where — it is today without the pioneers who had the persistence to see it through.
Once upon a time, sales and service representatives were driving many miles to visit prospects for the product or service they had to offer. The cars they drove were varied, and, in many cases, their own or provided by their employer. There was little rhyme or reason as to how such transportation was reimbursed, provided, purchased, or maintained until one day a group of dedicated, visionary individuals in the Northeast decided there had to be a better way.
They concluded they needed to share their experiences and methods to fine tune the handling of this transportation. The Round Table Group was formed, with each member taking turns hosting monthly meetings where they freely exchanged vehicle management methods and experiences.
Then, one day they were so pleased with their group’s results they decided to go national to get more people involved to develop their profession. The National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) was born, with a $10 loan to establish a treasury.
Three-quarters of a century after these fleet pioneers first gathered, we recognize and honor the following trailblazers for their knowledge and efforts. Were it not for them, the profession of fleet management would not have become recognized worldwide as the premier source of vehicle management expertise.
These are just some of the individuals who worked tirelessly, on their own time, behind the scenes, with the vision to develop the profession of fleet management and the association now called The NAFA Fleet Management Association. In the course of their efforts, they developed the basic programs and approach to fleet management, which, while methods may differ, remains the bedrock of our profession today, attributing to the genius and vision of this “Greatest Generation” of fleet management.
Emil Ames began his automotive industry career as service manager for a Packard dealership in New York City. He was manager of the car control department for Universal CIT (UCIT) Credit Corporation, starting in the early 1940s until he retired in 1963. He managed a fleet of more than 2,000 company-owned vehicles as well as the disposition of UCIT’s repossessed vehicles nationwide, at one time through seven used-car outlets across the country. He designed a vehicle expense report, used to develop operating cost-per-mile figures and set replacement schedules at two years or 40,000 miles. He was also the first to set up a national account billing program for tires, tubes, batteries, and antifreeze with Firestone, through the use of a “charge card,” later evolving into a repair and maintenance program (RAMP) providing broader coverage.
Ames “loaned” the newly formed NAFA $10 in 1957 to start the treasury, and, to anyone’s recollection was never repaid. He served as NAFA president from 1960 to 1961 and was NAFA’s first “service consultant,” the forerunner of its executive director position. He was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2008. He passed away in the late 1960s.
Warren Begas was the long-time fleet manager and assistant treasurer for the General Adjustment Bureau (GAB), overseeing a fleet of some 3,000 company-owned vehicles nationwide. Begas was also a part of The Round Table Group. He was appointed chairman of the editorial committee and proved to be a persuasive and effective salesman, when, during the 1965 annual meeting, he reported that his first round of solicitation brought in advertising contracts worth $10,000 (more than $70,000 in today’s money). This continuing income rapidly increased the treasury, permitting NAFA to undertake many projects. In addition, he was the driving force in organizing a three-day “Advanced Seminar - Profession of Fleet Administration” in New York City with attendees from throughout the country, which was a resounding success.
Ray Breault began his fleet career in 1959 at Hoffmann La Roche, in Nutley, N.J. A Round Table Group member, Breault joined NAFA in 1960 and remains active today. He served at all New York chapter levels and on the National Governing Board, where he held all positions except treasurer, including president from 1977 to 1979. An Affiliate member of four Eastern Region chapters, Breault received the Outstanding Chapter Service award in 2004.
In 1977, Breault joined Revlon Cosmetics Inc. as national director of fleet operations. After retiring from Revlon in 1990, he joined Rental Concepts Inc. (now Fleet Response) as regional sales manager. He provided an innovative car rental program to corporate fleets in the Northeast territory. Officially retiring in 1998, he returned to Fleet Response as a part-time Northeast sales service representative, a position he still holds.
EDITOR’S ADDENDUM: Too modest to nominate himself, but without a doubt one of the great fleet managers in the history of fleet, Al Cavalli began his fleet industry career in 1948 at Universal CIT Credit Corp. (UCIT) working with mentor, Emil Ames. He joined American Home Products in 1972 as director, personnel transportation, leaving in 1977 to return to CIT Service Leasing, spending several years there as VP client relations and director, retiring in 1981. He joined Avis Car Leasing as manager of sales and service, retiring in 1989. Cavalli was also a past president of NAFA from 1969 to 1971, received the NAFA Distinguished Service Award, NAFA & NY Chapter Honorary membership and was elected to the Automotive Fleet Hall of Fame in 2008. — Editor
During the NAFA presidency of R.A. (Dick) Beltz from 1975 to 1977, the NAFCAR/NAFVAN project was initiated. It had a telling impact on the manufacturers’ forthcoming vehicle designs, which closely resembled the project’s recommendations.
In addition, the NAFA Foundation was established and dedicated to the advancement of professional fleet management, providing funding for academic research and educational programs, in conjunction with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, to develop a certificate program for fleet managers, leading to the CFM (now CAFM) program.
Warren Feirer was fleet manager for Nabisco, and held the position of NAFA president from 1979 to 1981. He also served as president of the NAFA Foundation and was a recipient of NAFA’s Distinguished Service Award. During his term of office, NAFA pledged support for a nationwide “Energy Efficiency” campaign and, in recognition, received the President’s Award from President Jimmy Carter for Energy Efficiency. During his term as NAFA president, the first Fleet Manager’s Manual, a complete manual on automotive fleet management, was published.