-- Gayle Pratt, director of fleet and indirect purchasing, Global Operations, for Ecolab Inc., with a fleet of more than 12,000 vehicles, was named president of the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) during the association’s conference in Houston.
A NAFA member since 1991, her fleet career spans more than 28 years in the private and public sectors. Pratt held her first national committee chair position in 1995 and first served on the Board of Trustees as treasurer in 1997. She brings a well-rounded perspective of the profession to the office of president.
In a speech to the membership, Pratt said it was “with excitement and anticipation” that she begins her two-year-term at the helm of an organization undergoing change and modernization to better support members now and into the future.
She spoke about diversity within the association, making sure members have a stake in the organization, creating a greater visibility for NAFA and working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We need to build a place that accepts and embraces diversity, a place that ensures all are welcome, regardless of where you work or the types of vehicles in your fleet,” Pratt said.
She said she was speaking from experience as the first woman to manage union truck drivers at a company where she managed a private truck fleet early in her career. She said she was often the only woman at industry meetings and conferences.
Pratt said she went on to manage and direct a national fleet of light-duty vehicles and their distribution operation, and then she directed the State of Michigan’s fleet operations.
Today she directs Ecolab’s $80 million U.S. fleet operations and oversees the global fleet activities.
Pratt credited NAFA with helping her learn more about specific aspects of fleet management throughout her career.
“I was able to call on experts in this association, regardless of what type of vehicles we were operating or where my paycheck came from,” she said. “That’s why this association can’t pigeon-hole itself or allow itself have tunnel vision. We can’t be an association for, say, just public service fleet managers, or just corporate fleet managers. That’s too narrow, too restricting, and, frankly, won’t serve anyone’s needs well.”
Pratt said there has been more of a separation in the past few years in the way fleets are identified, such as private sector, public sector, law enforcement, pharmaceutical, university sectors and more. She said one of her goals during her presidency is to “break down the silos that exist as fleet segments and create a harmonized, unified fleet community.”
Another goal is to create a personal and emotional connection between NAFA and each of its members, on the local chapter or national association level, so they know they have a stake in the organization.
Pratt said she plans to create stronger strategic alliances, greater visibility and increased involvement with the global marketplace for NAFA and to continue to look for ways to leverage the association’s strength through associations with other organizations.
“NAFA also needs to do a better job of marketing itself and creating a buzz about itself,” she said. “There are so many resources within NAFA but very few really know about them.”
Among those resources are certifications, and one strategy is to get the CAFM program recognized for college credit. Not only would that increase recognition of the program, but it also would increase the number of enrollments and help to build a continual source of new members and new leaders for the industry, she said.
Pratt said she also believes there is an opportunity for NAFA to increase its visibility and prominence in the global marketplace and to help fleet managers understand the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment.
“We’ve already established friendly relations with fleet organizations in Europe and Australia, but we need to make the next move and coordinate efforts on common topics,” she said. “For instance, China is a potential huge player in our industry and will likely have a major impact on automotive manufacturing in the future. It will likely change the vehicles we select for our operations, and may even change the way we do our jobs.”
Pratt said she would like to see NAFA collaborate more with the OEMs and articulate to fleet managers the total cost of ownership and the impact the global automotive industry will have on fleets in the U.S. and around the world.
“Collaborating with the fleet leasing companies, OEMs and climate leaders, NAFA can better help fleet managers understand the environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions – which are a global concern,” Pratt said. “Just by understanding the impact, establishing a baseline for the vehicles we operate in our fleets, we can then create and write a business plan to reduce emissions. Together we can make an impact a change that will resonate worldwide.”