My October road trip started before dawn, as I left Chicago on the first flight of the morning to Oakland. Flying west across time zones is like being in a time warp. I can leave Chicago first thing in the morning, and arrive on the west coast when it is still pretty much first thing in the morning. From the Oakland airport, it is just a short drive over to Pacific Rental & Leasing, a NationaLease Member, so despite the hours I had just spent in the air, I met with Ralph Logan and his team not long after the start of their day. We had a great discussion on everything from technician training to insurance, and how NationaLease can assist them with these and other programs they can use to run their business.
As I got on the road toward Fresno, it was almost lunchtime, and I was on the lookout for one thing: the red and yellow arrow pointing me to In-N-Out Burger. It doesn’t take too long to find one of those on a California highway, so I pulled off and enjoyed every bite of the Double-Double Animal Style that I absolutely must have every time I’m in California. It’s the thing I look forward to most when I travel west, except, of course, meeting with our members. The next morning, I met with Charlie Davis of Kenworth of Central California NationaLease. Charlie and I discussed their business and the numerous divisions and locations they have throughout central California. Kenworth of Central California NationaLease is part of the Papé Group, which started in 1938 with an Allis-Chalmers dealership. Since then, the company has expanded to offer heavy duty trucks and equipment, along with material handling equipment, Ditch Witch equipment, agricultural and forestry equipment, and engineered warehouse products throughout the Pacific Northwest. We also discussed the upcoming events NationaLease is planning in 2019 to celebrate our 75th anniversary.
To get from Fresno to Los Angeles, you can take two routes. The more famous and picturesque road is the Pacific Coast Highway. Otherwise known as California State Route 1, this iconic drive along the coast takes you through places like Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara. The much shorter route is Highway 99 to the 5, which takes you through the Central Valley, and towns like Visalia, McFarland, and Bakersfield. For the purposes of expediency, I took the latter, and while by all accounts it is a far less scenic drive, there is still plenty to look at. The Central Valley covers 18,000 square miles between the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada. It is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, providing more than half of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the United States. The acres of plants, many of which I couldn’t easily identify, the variety of trucks transporting the crops, and the processing plants for every manner of produce made for an interesting drive. As I approached L.A., the crops of the Central Valley gave way to the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest. The highway winds over, around, and through the mountains, until it opens up on the other side, to reveal the urban sprawl of greater Los Angeles. Although it didn’t have the breathtaking ocean views of the PCH, this drive was far from boring.
My first stop in the L.A. area was Suppose-U-Drive Truck Rental Service, a NationaLease Member where I met with Justin Johnston. Justin and his brother Cameron are the third generation of Johnstons to run this business, which was started in 1936. Their proximity to some of the major Hollywood studios has contributed to the success of a unique business segment—renting and leasing studio trucks. We met in their Glendale shop, which is surrounded by every glamorous thing that we associate with L.A.: the Rose Bowl to the east, Dodger Stadium to the south, and the Hollywood sign just five miles west, along with the Griffith Observatory and both Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Studios. Justin and I discussed some of the challenges and opportunities that face our members. Yes, there are challenges, even here in Tinseltown.
Leaving Glendale, I drove through the infamous L.A. traffic and reached my hotel. It turned out to be adjacent to an outdoor mall called The Citadel. Better yet, the hotel happened to be having some kind of party in the courtyard for all the hotel guests. Food, drinks, and shopping, all under the swaying palm trees–only in L.A.! The next morning, I met with Andrew and Gerry Flynn of TCI Leasing/Rentals, a NationaLease Member. We discussed our purchasing programs, and I was able to share some reporting tools to help them analyze and ensure that all of their many locations are taking full advantage of the discounts and rebates available from our supplier partners. We also talked about the emerging truck technologies, like the Tesla electric trucks they ordered earlier this year. With technology moving faster than ever, it will be fascinating to see what’s next for transportation. NationaLease members like TCI are looking ahead to find ways to use these emerging technologies to help their customers.
I left TCI and headed west to Velocity Truck Rental and Leasing, a NationaLease Member, where I had the opportunity to see their new headquarters building. I met with David Deon, Omar Besiso, Jennifer Seaver, and Elicia Torres, got a tour of their new facility, and talked about a wide variety of topics, from our recent Compensation Survey that we conducted to assist members in setting competitive wages and benefits for their employees, to the NationaLease Financial Officers and Sales Meetings. When David heard me say that I was scheduled to take the red-eye home that night, he graciously invited me to join him, his wife Sandie, and Jennifer and Elicia for dinner. The steak was delicious, but the real treat was being part of what was clearly a family dinner, as everyone got caught up on each other’s kids, spouses, and exercise plans. I did catch the red-eye, and fortunately, I am a great sleeper on planes, because time definitely does not stand still on the west-to-east journey. Quite the opposite, in fact, as I left one day and arrived home the next.
Time is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems to come to a stop, while at other times, it flies by. The days, weeks, months, and years seem to pass in the blink of an eye, but an hour spent waiting can feel like an eternity. Technology advances at a breakneck speed, while mountains and oceans remain relatively unchanged over thousands of years. Our NationaLease members continue to change and adapt their businesses to the needs of their customers ever more quickly, while maintaining the same values that have made us successful since 1944. I wonder what those 17 founding members would think of NationaLease today. The day-to-day processes, procedures, and equipment have changed so much, they would be nearly unrecognizable. But I bet they would recognize the same commitment to customers and to the other members that motivated them 75 years ago. Those principles are truly timeless.