Attendance for the 16th Annual PHH Energy Conference reached a record-high this year, according to the company, with the majority of participating fleet managers based in Texas.


Tom Lauer, VP, PHH new business development, opened the conference and introduced Cesar Hernandez, regional VP, PHH business development. Hernandez presented the results of the company’s 2008 energy policy survey and benchmarking study. A reported 70 percent of fleets have green initiatives in place — a significant number, considering less than 70 percent were unsure of what initiatives to implement two years ago.

Safety practices implemented by participating fleets revealed the majority of fleets surveyed had dramatically increased mobile phone restrictions over the past year. Use of safety handbooks, side airbags, and safety awards also increased within that time.

Following Hernandez, Greg Stanford, senior consultant, PHH business analytics, provided a presentation on fuel trends, discussing cost-containment alternatives, greenhouse effect (GHE) regulations, and building a greener fleet.

"This has been a really difficult year for fleet budgets, driven primarily by fuel prices," said Stanford. A 14-percent increase in budget costs since 2007 were attributed to three fundamental problems: the double squeeze of costs rising at the same time revenues are falling for many companies, the speed of change, and a changing manufacturer landscape. "OEMs must meet consumer demands at a time when we’re not sure which technologies work," said Stanford. "The fundamental issue is Economics 101 — supply and demand."

Stanford suggested personal use chargeback as a "quick and relatively painless" way to ease budgets, noting more fleets are already heading in that direction. In addition, fleet managers must also factor in mileage — rather than just mpg — when determining the best solution to cut back fuel spend.

After the general session, attendees broke into smaller groups of 6-10 for roundtable discussions on fuel strategies, vehicle selections, green initiatives, in-vehicle device utilizations, medium- and heavy-duty truck management, and 2009-specific policy strategies. PHH representatives moderated the discussions.

Among experiences shared in breakout groups, OEM dissatisfaction was voiced loud and clear. "OEMs are not addressing fleet issues. They don’t think ahead and aren’t anticipating problems," said one fleet manager during the greening roundtable.

When participants reconvened for a general session, PHH unveiled a special surprise — the PHH Open Maintenance Network program. A client panel of fleet managers who had already used the network shared their ideas and success stories. Panel members included James Petrusas, Tesoro Companies; Mark Johnson, HighMount E&P; and Dale Luedtke, Williams Gas Pipeline.

Lauer wrapped up the program with an overview of the impact of the auto industry and economy on fleet. "Choosing the right vehicles has never been so difficult. Prices are going up fast, but your ability to adjust is not going to happen that fast." He advised rethinking the business model and looking at vehicle usage. "Do you really need as many vehicles?" Lauer asked.

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