The Highway Trust Fund: Implementing a Short-term Fix…Again!

Highway2The more things change, the more they stay the same. When it comes to funding the Highway Trust Fund, that old adage is unfortunately only too true.

Nero may have fiddled while Rome burned, so I’m not sure what Congress is doing while our highways, bridges, and entire transportation infrastructure continue to crumble. Our industry has been pushing for a long-term fix to the Highway Trust Fund for years, yet once again, we have to settle for a short-term solution.  Bill Graves, President and CEO of ATA, said, “The trucking industry moves nearly 70% of our nation’s freight tonnage and pays for nearly half of the Highway Trust Fund, so we have a lot of skin in this game.”

So once again, at the 11th hour, the House passed another short-term, two-month fix to the Highway Trust Fund, which was due to run out of money by the end of this month. Without the passage of this extension, road construction projects would have been put on hold and close to 700,000 jobs would have been lost. But the short-term fixes don’t really solve the problem, since states are reluctant to work on the largest infrastructure jobs, which take years in planning, without a long-term funding bill.

Although the extension passed with a strong 387 to 35 vote, July 31 will be here before you know it. Will we be further along in approving a long-term bill or back to another extension? There are ways of funding that involves additional taxes; however, Graves pointed out that trucking is “willing to pay more at the pump to help Congress get a long-term solution for our infrastructure across the finish line in 2015.” Trucking already pays $16.5 billion in federal highway user fees, notes an article in Truckinginfo.com; yet the industry has made it clear that raising the primary user fee – the fuel tax – is fine as long as the funds are used for projects that reduce congestion, improve capacity and efficiency, and of course, create jobs.

So a short-term extension is better than nothing…and if it gives the Congress the time necessary to sign a long-term funding bill, then fine. Graves says it much better than I can, “Congress has kicked the can down the road – a congested road marked with potholes, mind you – so often the can is dented beyond recognition. This must end.”

Read more about the vote.

Fall 2015: Will It Be “Regulation Aggravation” for the Transportation Industry?

TruckImage2For fleet owners, the rules waiting to take effect can be confusing and costly. Here are a few of the most notable.

The first of the federal changes will be the electronic on board recorder requirement that is due to take effect in September of this year. In the beginning of the year, it was projected that the publication date would be November 2015, but in March, the FMCSA confirmed that the mandate would take effect two months earlier. This mandate will require all commercial drivers currently utilizing paper logs to begin using electronic on board recorders by September of 2017. This mandate is going to require owner-operators and carriers alike to purchase upgraded logging equipment to track the driver’s time, not only when the driver is behind the wheel, but also working time, rests, and restarts. The measurements and entries behind electronic logs are similar to paper ones, but unlike paper logs, most electronic recorders are connected to the telematics of the tractor, making “fudging” logs nearly impossible. This rule will not only cause the fleet to incur equipment; it will also require training for the driver to use the electronic logs, and that could mean time off the road.

The second mandate that has been in effect since 2011 has been the FSMA, Federal Safety Modernization Act, which will become enforceable in September of this year. In a nutshell, this mandate is based on prevention versus reaction to food industry contamination issues that may occur in food manufacturing facilities, central kitchens, distribution centers, food imports, and even transportation. The mandate for transportation providers will require carriers to have standard operating procedures in place when handling food products that fall under the ruling.  These SOPs would need to include truck washing procedures, shipment transparency, and shipment telematics, as well as driver unloading practices.

In March of 2015, the Grow America Highway Bill was resubmitted to Congress. This bill is a six-year, $478 billion transportation reauthorization package. The bill primarily funds infrastructure but rolled into this bill is a measure of driver pay reform (Sec. 5507) that would mandate drivers are compensated for all on-duty hours spent not driving. Congress has until May 31 to pass the bill or come up with another way to support the Highway Trust fund. Should this legislation pass, this will be a game-changer when it comes to driver pay based on miles.

Another hot topic is the hours of service – restart rule reversal. The original hours of service mandate in 2013 had a portion of the ruling reversed after it was found that the driver restart rule had a negative impact on safety. At this time, the rule is on hold pending the results of another study.  But it’s worth keeping an eye on in the next six months, just in case it is decided to implement the rule as written in 2013.  And soon to come will be legislation on driver health and carrier insurance limits.

Running a fleet demands that you be in the know when it comes to upcoming legislation within the trucking industry. Transport Topics has a fantastic Website for keeping up to date. Another favorite of mine is Overdrive magazine’s Website.  The articles are short, but they do provide links that give further information about legislation.

What is evident is that all of this will require more management and admin support, along with additional internal audits to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations. Discover how outsourcing your transportation through dedicated contract can help alleviate the burden.

Maintenance Managers Experience Sun, Sand, & Service at this Year’s Meeting!

Techs2015The 2015 Maintenance Managers Meeting started on Tuesday, May 12 with the hands-on competition of the 5th Annual NationaLease Tech Challenge. Nine technicians qualified for this competition on the merit of their scores from a written exam held in March. The group of techs, along with judges and spectators, converged on Bentley Truck Services, Inc., a NationaLease Member, Miami facility for the nine station competition. The nine technicians who competed were:

Region 1: Trevor Shaw, VEL NationaLease
Region 2: Robert Mrzyglod, Aim NationaLease
Region 3: Nick Ottlinghaus, Miller NationaLease
Region 4: Brian Peters, Salem NationaLease
Region 5: Kory Stoudt, Aim NationaLease
Region 6: Neal Bixby, Hogan Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member
Region 7: Wade Murphy-Price, Airoldi Brothers NationaLease
Region 8: Jeff Weaks, ATC Truck Rental and Leasing, a NationaLease Member
Region 9: Joseph Pearo, Miramar NationaLease

Tuesday’s evening activities included a dinner for the techs and judges, as well as a First-Timer’s Reception for the over 50 first-time attendees to this year’s meeting. First timers had the opportunity to meet NationaLease staff, Premier Partners, Leadership Group members, as well as each other prior to Wednesday’s kickoff.

MMMRecap2Jane Clark started the meeting on Wednesday by welcoming everyone to Fort Lauderdale, and then introduced Jim Ryan, Vice President of Operations for Kris-Way Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member, and this year’s Maintenance Managers Meeting Committee Chair. Jim welcomed the group and recognized the folks in the room with the most years of experience in the industry. He then introduced Dean Vicha, President of NationaLease, who updated the group on the exciting year NationaLease had in 2014, and some of the plans for the months ahead. Dean then introduced the keynote speaker, Jerry Markbreit, former NFL referee.

IdeaSessionJerry got the group’s attention with stories and anecdotes from his years refereeing in the NFL and college ranks, and also shared a powerful message about the importance of giving your all in any worthwhile endeavor. After Jerry’s presentation, Jane moderated a panel on Technician Training, and heard best practices from a few of our members: Kevin Fleming, Vice President & COO, Fleming NationaLease; Howard Ketel, Vice President of Operations, Lawrence NationaLease; Craig Porter, Operations Manager, McCoy NationaLease; and Troy Simmons, Branch Manager, TEC Leasing, a NationaLease Member. The panel heard some great questions and feedback from other members. That was followed by one of the favorite segments of the Maintenance Manager’s Meeting, the Idea Session, moderated by Ronny Brown, Maintenance Director with Catawba Rental Company, Inc., a NationaLease Member. Several members shared ideas that they have utilized in their company to create savings in money, time, productivity, improved morale, and/or increased customer satisfaction. In fact, we had more ideas shared than we have in quite a number of years. Members voted on the best ideas to receive the cash prizes. Jane then wrapped up the morning session with an update on some of the things happening at NationaLease Home Office, including the new Emergency Services and Fuel Directory app, updates on technician recruiting, and the Leadership Groups.

MMMRecapAfter lunch, the group moved to the Product and Technology Luau. This year’s trade show had over 40 vendors on hand to show the latest enhancements and technologies available, and of course, give out lots of prizes! We also announced the winners of the Idea Session. Third place went to Mitchell Blaine of Hub Truck NationaLease, second place to A.J. Stachowiak of Airoldi Brothers NationaLease, and the winner was Ronny Brown, of Catawba Rental Company, Inc., a NationaLease Member. The luau theme extended to the evening’s entertainment, as attendees were encouraged to wear their best Hawaiian shirt. Taking full advantage of the location, we made our way outside for beach volleyball, horseshoes, and coconut bowling, as well as a luau-themed meal and entertainment.

The second day of the Maintenance Managers Meeting was packed with great information. It started off with the ever-popular Shop Talk. Jim Ryan moderated the discussion as members spoke freely about issues, concerns, and best practices that they shared with one another. An update from the Supply Management group followed, as Rob Garcia, Vice President of Supply Management; Jess Boss, Director of Products & Services; and Scott Marzec, Manager of Member Programs, shared information on the supply management and capital equipment programs, and also introduced the new and enhanced Buyer’s Guide, which will be released in the next few weeks. The technical representatives from Freightliner and Volvo followed as John Martin and Ray LeStrange shared details on new technology as well as solutions for known issues with their equipment.

The afternoon sessions began with a very interactive discussion on Reciprocal Service and ways that we can continue to improve the network for all members. Fred Bentley, President of Bentley Truck Services, Inc., a NationaLease Member, and Ryan Fisher, Bentley’s Warranty Manager, shared some best practices on how they manage warranty long before a truck ever hits the shop floor. The afternoon concluded with breakout sessions from eight of our suppliers: Cummins, Eaton, Imperial, Shell, Enrich, Michelin, Bridgestone, and NationaLease Road Rescue. Attendees chose four of these suppliers to learn about the latest in technology and service that they are offering.

The evening continued as the winners of the much-anticipated awards were announced. Please read here for the winners of the 2015 Exceptional Service Awards.

Then finally, the Top Techs were announced. The top 3 finalists, who will be representing NationaLease at the TMC SuperTech competition in the fall, can be found here.

A big thank you to all the judges, as well as Rich Bingham from Hogan Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member; Ken Anderson from DeCarolis Truck Rental, Inc., a NationaLease Member; Chris Disantis from Aim NationaLease; Kenny Watts from Carco NationaLease; and Murray Dickinson from VEL NationaLease for their support in setting up the this year’s competition. An extra special thank you to the folks at Bentley Truck Services, Inc., a NationaLease Member, for hosting this year’s Tech Challenge.

On our final day of the meeting, the learning didn’t stop. The morning began with an update from Joe Puff, Vice President of Truck Technology & Maintenance for NationaLease, on the Repair Advocacy Program that he began based on some feedback from last year’s Maintenance Managers Meeting. He shared the new process, as well as some early successes, and a number of tips and items to watch out for that the group had identified. We continued as Jane gave a step-by-step refresher on how to apply for Component Rebates, as well as a few best practices for maximizing your rebate dollars. Last, but certainly not least, Tom Boyer, VP of Maintenance with Hogan Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member, gave a presentation on a very timely topic, Electronic Logging Devices. Tom shared what Hogan has learned utilizing ELDs in three different applications: lease, rental, and owned units.

Thank you to everyone who participated in and attended this year’s meeting. Special thanks to the meeting committee: Chuck Miller from Parrish Leasing, a NationaLease Member; Kenny Watts from Carco NationaLease; Murray Dickinson from VEL NationaLease; and especially, Jim Ryan of Kris-Way Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member, for putting in his time and effort as the Chairman of this year’s meeting.

Please mark your calendars for next year’s Maintenance Managers Meeting, which will be held on May 24-26 at the Renaissance in Schaumburg, IL. We look forward to seeing all of you there!

NationaLease Congratulates our 2015 Top Tech Winners!

TopTech2015Awards were presented to the winners of our Top Tech competition at the 2015 Maintenance Managers Meeting.

The 5th Annual NationaLease Tech Challenge was held last week on May 12, one day before the 2015 NationaLease Maintenance Managers Meeting, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. This year’s hands-on competition was hosted by the Bentley Truck Services, Inc., a a NationaLease Member, Miami facility. Nine regional winners participated and the three Top Techs were announced at this year’s Maintenance Managers Meeting Awards Dinner. The winners, who will represent NationaLease at the TMC’s Annual SuperTech Competition to be held in the fall, are:

  • TopTechs2015Top Tech: Robert Mrzyglod, Aim NationaLease (Fourth straight year!)
  • 1st runner up: Kory Stoudt, Aim NationaLease
  • 2nd runner up: Wade Murphy-Price, Airoldi Brothers NationaLease

The nine regional winners who participated in this year’s challenge, and offered exceptional competition, were:

Region 1: Trevor Shaw, VEL NationaLease
Region 2: Robert Mrzyglod, Aim NationaLease
Region 3: Nick Ottlinghaus, Miller NationaLease
Techs2015Region 4: Brian Peters, Salem NationaLease
Region 5: Kory Stoudt, Aim NationaLease
Region 6: Neal Bixby, Hogan Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member
Region 7: Wade Murphy-Price, Airoldi Brothers NationaLease
Region 8: Jeff Weaks, ATC Truck Rental and Leasing, a NationaLease Member
Region 9: Joseph Pearo, Miramar NationaLease

Thank you to all of this year’s judges, as well as Rich Bingham from Hogan Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member; Ken Anderson from DeCarolis Truck Rental, Inc., a NationaLease Member; Chris Disantis from Aim NationaLease; Kenny Watts from Carco NationaLease; and Murray Dickinson from VEL NationaLease for their support in setting up the this year’s competition, and to all the folks at Bentley Truck Services, Inc., a NationaLease Member, for hosting this year’s Tech Challenge.

Congratulations to all of our winners. We look forward to some great competition this fall at TMC’s SuperTech. Go NationaLease!

The Winners of the 2015 Exceptional Service Awards are…

ExceptionalServiceAward03NationaLease congratulates this year’s winners of the Exceptional Service Award during the 2015 Maintenance Managers Meeting.

Each year, NationaLease recognizes those members who have received the most votes from their peers for providing exceptional Reciprocal Service. We know we’re all in this together, and we want to thank our members for providing excellent service when called on. This year’s winners were announced during the Awards Dinner at the 2015 Maintenance Managers Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

The winners are:

Platinum Level:

Coffman NationaLease
Kirk NationaLease
Airoldi Brothers NationaLease

Gold Level:

York NationaLease
Conway Beam NationaLease
Parrish Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member
Hogan Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member
Salem NationaLease

Silver Level:

Grane NationaLease
Keystone National Truck, a NationaLease Member
Fox & James NationaLease
Aim NationaLease
Brown NationaLease

Congratulations to our 13 winners. You make us proud!

Is Your Fleet Ready for the 2015 CVSA International Roadcheck?

CVSASummer is almost here. That means beaches, barbecues, and a blitz…the CVSA roadside inspection blitz, to be exact.

Each year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) runs their annual International Roadcheck on commercial vehicles. This year, the “blitz” will take place June 2-4, when approximately 10,000 CVSA-certified local, state, provincial, and federal inspectors will perform inspections on trucks and buses across North America.

An article on Truckinginfo.com reveals that cargo securement is going to be a main emphasis of the inspection. Each year, the CVSA focuses on a specific category of violations; last year, it was hazmat; this year, it’s securement, so the article suggests that drivers should take extra time to make sure the load is secure and to check it regularly throughout the trip, if possible. Drivers should anticipate North American Standard Level 1 inspections. The Truckinginfo.com article offers specific details on how to prepare your drivers for this event, along with a list of vehicle features and functions that will be checked.

Since its inception in 1988, the Roadcheck is estimated to have performed more than 1.4 million inspections, according to the CVSA.

Make sure your vehicles and your drivers are ready by reading the article or going directly to the CVSA Website.

What’s Taking the Focus Off Alternative Fuel?

GasSqueezeAlternative fuel was all anyone was talking about…now things have quieted down significantly. And we know why.

Earlier this year, Work Truck magazine published an article explaining why they decided to rename their Green Fleet Conference, the Fleet Technology Expo. It wasn’t a matter of distancing themselves from environmental and sustainability concerns. It was an honest evaluation of what made the Green Fleet Conference so successful in the years since it launched, and what has happened to change that vision…and it all boils down to the eternal pairing of supply and demand.

The days of $4-plus diesel are not that long gone. Businesses were worried, not only about the price of fuel, but also its availability. In a world that grows increasingly destabilized, fuel shortages and energy efficiency became huge concerns. Every bump up in price impacts the bottom line, so fleets would do everything they could to combat a potential shortage and increasingly higher prices. Hybrids, CNG, LNG, biodiesel…alternative fuels were looked at for their ability to keep the trucks running efficiently. New emissions standards and government regulations also added to the push to find a fuel that was affordable and available.

Fast forward a couple of years and now the U.S. is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas. Fracking has contributed greatly to this, and supply easily satisfies demand. Prices per barrel tumbled, and suddenly, green (as in environment) is taking a back seat to green (as in saving money). Fleets aren’t necessarily looking for a replacement fuel; they are looking for greater efficiencies and cost savings. Alternative fuels still need an infrastructure that will allow trucks to refuel wherever they ship. So fleets, although not abandoning the notion of alternative fuel, are looking to find other ways to achieve their goals. As the Work Truck article notes, “fuel is the second biggest expense right behind depreciation,” so fleets are turning to technology to help them in their pursuit of greater efficiency.

Telematics can help decrease fuel consumption by allowing companies to monitor driver behavior, from sharp turns to excessive speed to excessive braking. These tools also improve efficiency by helping fleets plan and schedule better routes. Engine diagnostic functions enable fleet managers to measure the wear and tear on the vehicle. Proper vehicle selection also helps companies realize efficiencies by making sure they have the right truck for the right job. Last, but certainly not least, fleets are making sure that their trucks are properly maintained by scheduling preventive maintenance service at intervals dictated by the truck utilization. This will allow vehicles to operate at their optimal lifecycle and greatest efficiency.

What is clear is that successful companies are being proactive when it comes to making their fleets more efficient and cost-effective. As alternative fuels become more readily available and emissions standards possible get tighter, these fuels will find greater acceptance. But fleets aren’t waiting for that day. They’re doing everything they can to realize greater efficiencies now… As the Work Truck article states, “being green isn’t easy, but in almost every case, it’s worth the effort.”

Image source: www.worktruckonline.com

What’s Holding Up the Production of DME-Powered Trucks?

AlternativeFuelAlternative fuel, dimethyl ether, seems like the answer we’ve been looking for, in so many ways. So what’s the holdup?

We’re always searching for the “Holy Grail” of alternative fuels, one that produces less GHG emissions, is easy to produce, is plentiful, and thus, is less costly. There have been a number of contenders, each with their own initial promise and great potential. Then reality kicks in, and the downsides emerge. One of the very promising alternative fuels has been dimethyl ether, or DME, a clean-burning methane-based fuel that can be made from a number of sources, including natural gas and agricultural waste products (biogas).  What also makes DME such an appealing fuel alternative is that it has the same performance and efficiency of diesel.

So what’s the holdup? According to an article in TruckingInfo.com,” When Will We See DME-Powered Trucks?”, Volvo Trucks North America which has been working with Oberon Fuels to develop DME for commercial use in the U.S., will not project a date when the DME-fueled trucks would be available commercially in the U.S. market. An issue that alternative fuels always face is the up-and-down nature of pricing for diesel. When the price skyrockets, everyone is searching for that new fuel that will cut costs and be compliant with environmental regulations. When the price falls, the talk turns to cost of alternative fuel production and lack of infrastructure.

However, one of the biggest boosts for DME, according to the TruckingInfo article is that “late last summer, the EPA approved Oberon Fuel’s biogas-based dimethyl ether as meeting the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, helping clear the way for it to be an alternative fuel for trucking.” The article goes on to state that the agency determined that the biogas-based fuel tested “resulted in an approximate 68% reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to baseline diesel fuel.”  Then, in February, California, that toughest of environmentally-focused states, officially approved DME for vehicle use. So once the pendulum swings again, DME-fueled vehicles may once more take center stage.

Learn a great deal more about this fuel…and what might be getting in the way of producing DME-powered trucks in the TruckingInfo article.

You Can’t Afford to Wait: Variety of Factors Push New Truck Deliveries Out

Cascadia“Except for the driver shortage, 2015 is shaping up to be a strong year for truck sales overall,” said Robert Woodall, Assistant General Manager at Peterbilt Motors Co., speaking at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show. The company is forecasting Class 8 North America truck sales at between 250,000 and 280,000.

And Peterbilt is not alone in its optimism. Daimler Trucks North America is anticipating 2015 sales to grow 10% over 2014. According to Martin Daum, President and CEO, DTNA sees Class 6-8 trucks sales in North America at 411,000 to 453,000, with most of the growth coming from the heavy-duty sector.

In fact, ACT Research Co. believes the Class 8 market will reach a peak in 2015. ACT believes North American Class 8 production will reach 340,000 — the second highest year ever after 2006.

What’s causing the growth? It is not any one thing but rather a combination of better fuel economy on new tractors, efficiency gains from vertical integration by the OEMs, the current age of the nation’s fleet, and the slowly improving North American economy.

All of these factors have come together to spur an increase in new truck orders. Orders have been so strong that Daum, speaking at MATS, said DTNA is adding enough capacity to build an additional 27,000 trucks this year.

The growth in the trucking industry it not limited to new tractors; trailer orders have been strong as well. Trailer orders were up 7% in March over February, according to FTR.

What does this all mean? For one thing, both truck and trailer order boards are full. “OEMs are booking orders late into Q3 and Q4, and there are even some orders getting booked now for 2016,” said Don Ake, Vice President of Commercial Vehicles for FTR. He was referring specifically to trailers, but the same trend is true for tractors.

In fact, ACT Research predicts open build slots will reach a low of 20,000 at the end of May.

What should you be doing if you hope to purchase new Class 8 trucks this year? The first step is to increase your planning horizons and place your orders earlier than you normally would. If your circumstances change, you may be able to get your production dates moved out later, but if you don’t order soon you may be shut out for the year. Consider other engine or powertrain combinations that may have shorter order to delivery times. Work closely with your local dealer because they may know of other customers who want to cancel orders and that may give you a chance to place an order or move your order up. Work with your manufacturer’s representative to stay updated on what’s happening. The OEMs are looking for ways to increase production and add more capacity, and if they do, you want to be the first to take advantage of it.

But be aware that there is no sign that OEMs will add a great deal of capacity or that build slots will open up. If you fail to get your truck orders in soon, you might not be able to get your new trucks when you need them. In order to get a truck, you may have to switch to a different OEM, which carries the complication of needing additional parts inventory and technician training. Another option would be to purchase used trucks, but again, you may have trouble getting exactly what you want.

 

A variety of factors have come together to heat up the trucking industry. Don’t wait to order a truck until it’s too late and you find yourself taking delivery in 2016.

Jane Clark On the Road – April 2015

This month, my road trip was centered on attending the National Private Truck Council’s annual meeting in Cincinnati. The theme for this year’s meeting was “You Must Be Present to Win.” A clever title, I thought, as many of the exhibitors were probably going to be giving away various prizes throughout the tradeshow, as well as a good incentive to sign up for the meeting. The flight from Chicago to Cincinnati is a short one, and I was fortunate to have Victoria Kresge, our new Vice President of Dedicated Services and Logistics, waiting to pick me up when I arrived. We both had rooms at the main meeting hotel, the Hilton Netherland Plaza, so we headed to the hotel to check in.

OntheRoad03The Netherland Plaza Hotel was built in 1931. The financing for the buildings came from the Emery family, which had made its fortune in processing the by-products of Cincinnati’s stockyards. The Carew Tower and Netherland Plaza Hotel were designed to be a “city within a city,” an entirely new concept in 1931, with a combination of shops, department stores, offices, and hotel. As the construction on the hotel came to a close, the name St. Nicholas Plaza was selected. Just before the grand opening, another group filed an injunction against the new hotel’s name claiming that it had purchased the rights to the St. Nicholas name. Having invested heavily into the monogramming of linens, china, silverware, and stationery, the new hotel’s name was quickly changed to St. Netherland Plaza. Eventually, the “St.” was dropped and “Netherland Plaza” is the name that is now famous. The Netherland Plaza did suffer a period in the 1960s when, not unlike many properties of the period, much of the detail was covered in a modernization effort. But in 1981, the hotel closed for nearly two years of renovations. The carpets were removed, exposing the grand marble; the light fixtures were all cleaned; the murals in the Palm Court had 50 years of smoke and dirt removed to reveal their beauty once again and the paint that had covered the wood paneling was scraped off. The hotel’s breathtaking Art Deco was restored to its 1930s glory. In 1985, The Netherland Plaza earned National Historic Register and National Landmark status. Victoria and I had dinner in the spectacular Palm Court before turning in for the night to rest up for the days ahead.

OntheRoad02The meeting started early the next morning, and between the flurry of educational sessions and meeting lots of people, we put the finishing touches on the NationaLease booth that Victoria had set up the day before. The tradeshow space was filled with great displays, including several trucks, as well as the booths of a couple of NationaLease members, Aim NationaLease and Transervice Leasing, a NationaLease member. Joe Gallick, Senior Vice President of Sales, joined us in time for a late lunch and the opening of the tradeshow. We had a great time talking to customers and vendors, catching up with old friends and making new ones. By the time the show closed for the day, the three of us were ready for a good meal (and some comfortable shoes!) Joe suggested a Cincinnati favorite—Montgomery Inn.

In 1951, “Ribs King” Ted Gregory and wife Matula opened this barbecue joint in the very undeveloped village of Montgomery, OH. They now have four locations specializing in—you guessed it—ribs! Now, I’m not typically a big fan of any food that requires you to gnaw on a bone, so ribs are not my usual order, but since it’s the thing to do, I gave it a try. I was not disappointed. There was no need to gnaw on any bones with these ribs. I actually didn’t even use my knife. The tender meat came right off the bone with a fork and the smoky, spicy barbeque sauce was the perfect compliment. The mac and cheese held its own, too! With full stomachs and rested feet, we decided to try to find the spot where we had heard a number of our colleagues would be meeting up later. True to its name, O’Malley’s in the Alley is a narrow pub tucked into a back alley about two blocks from the hotel. As we found out, it holds a remarkable number of people, who filled the bar and spilled out onto the back patio. Old friends retold old stories, and new friends got acquainted as more and more people continued to flow into the narrow space. Our aching feet eventually got the better of us, and we headed back to the hotel for the evening.

The next day started early again with more education sessions, and then one of my favorite parts of the meeting, the inductions to the Driver Hall of Fame. Hearing the stories of these four drivers, who have not only driven millions of miles without a single accident or moving violation, but also do so much for their families and communities was truly inspiring. The afternoon flew by, as we manned our booth and had the chance to chat with lots of people.

I rushed back to the hotel just in time for Shawn Watson and John Marshall from Truckway NationaLease to pick me up for the Cincinnati Reds game. Ron Horstman, Tim Shimrock, and several of their customers joined us for a great evening, and what turned out to be a great game, ending with a save by the lefty pitcher Aroldis Chapman, nicknamed the Cuban Missile for his 100+ mph fastballs.
OntheRoad01After just a couple remaining sessions on Tuesday morning, Victoria shuttled Joe and me to the airport, but we had to make one last stop. I had never tried the famous Cincinnati-style chili, so we found a Skyline Chili on the way. Skyline Chili is unique in that it is not chili con carne, the meat dish that originated in (and is the state dish of) Texas. Instead, Cincinnati-style chili is a sauce usually used over spaghetti or hot dogs, containing a unique spice blend that gives it a very distinct taste. Officially, the recipe for Skyline Chili is a well-kept family secret. However, many Skyline patrons believe that the unique taste of Skyline Chili comes from chocolate and cinnamon, spices common in Greek cuisine’s meat dishes. The only Cincinnati staple left to try was Graeter’s ice cream. I found one in the airport and sampled the Blackberry Chocolate Chip. OntheRoad04A little while later, I got a text from Victoria with a picture of the Graeter’s sundae she was enjoying. Mission accomplished!

“You Must Be Present to Win.” This theme began to take on a new meaning for me over the few days in Cincinnati. An article in Psychology Today, explains what it means to “be present.” “Try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly. Most of our time is spent in the past or the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment. That’s how life ends up passing us by – we do it to ourselves.” The concept of “being present” may seem out of place at a conference like NPTC, with sessions, tradeshows, speakers, and customers all vying for your attention. As I thought about it a little more though, I realized that it couldn’t be more fitting. Being present is essential in order to appreciate the stunning detail in a marble staircase, or the unexpected surprise of seeing an old friend for the first time in years. Being present is necessary in order to enjoy a good meal or have a meaningful connection with someone in a crowded place. Being present is required in order to appreciate the accomplishments of a million-mile driver or fastball pitcher. Most importantly, being present is mandatory in order to develop relationships, and in that most important game of all, you truly must be present to win.