Photo by Stephane Babcock.

Photo by Stephane Babcock.

First held in 1993, the PHH Arval Energy Conference has spent more than 20 years educating and informing its energy industry clients on how to make the most of their fleets.

"We started this when gasoline prices averaged $1.16 a gallon, new vehicles averaged $12,000, and Beanie Babies were all the rage," joked Peter Knott, vice president of business development for PHH Arval. "According to our most recent survey, respondents wanted to hear more from each other rather than just us."

The comment highlighted past attendees' desire to focus on networking and brainstorming, which transitioned into the morning's interactive workshops on starting an alternative-fuels program, using data analytics to effectively manage fleet operations, establishing and implementing policies to create a "world class" fleet, and how to successfully upfit vehicles.

Before stepping into the handful of smaller, breakout workshops, PHH Arval President Jim Halliday also addressed the group, touching on the current state of the global fleet management services provider and its parent company, the upcoming release of its client portal PHH Clarus, and the always timely issues of alternative-fuel acceptance and telematics usage in the fleet industry.

"Telematics is not about data, it's about results. You need someone to take in the data, analyze it, and give you at least three things they can change as a result," Halliday said.

In terms of alternative fuels, Halliday spoke about PHH Arval's recent partnership with VNG, a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling infrastructure provider, and how this will improve CNG access for the company's clients.

"We look at an entire region and see how many companies we can 'bring to the party' so we can approach VNG and say 'let's put a pump here,' " Halliday said.

Beginning by gauging the interest of the small group of attendees on alternative fuels, PHH Arval Senior Analyst Armon Emdad presented the group with a series of five steps to help them transition to alt-fuel vehicles in the first of four separate workshops.

As noted by several attendees, the issue of fueling infrastructure was one of the main topics discussed, with Emdad calling this the "chicken or the egg" question when deciding on which alt fuel to choose.

"You have to begin by setting smart goals. But, a goal without a plan is just a dream," Emdad explained, adding that, when bringing alt-fuel options to the table, there needs to be an educational component included at every stage of the process.

In the next session, Don Scare, manager, truck excellence for PHH Arval, shared questions fleet managers should consider when spec'ing  for upfit vehicles, including payload, maximizing space and weight distribution, and items that maximize resale. One attendee encouraged using seat covers, which increased the resale value since the covers left the original seats looking like new.

"Pull people from every department to help make upfit and spec'ing decisions," Scare said. "Remember, if you don't need it, why buy it?"

After the morning sessions, attendees once again assembled for a closing session on U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) safety regulation compliance, facilitated by Knott and led by Rob Kooken, PHH Arval's director of truck excellence. 

"Your first line of defense is that driver inspecting the truck and complying with the regulations when he goes out there," Kooken said, adding that PHH Arval's truck excellence team can help clients with these issues. "We will come out to you, go over everything and then make recommendations to you to assure you are in compliance from a driver and vehicle standpoint."