The Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference
It all began in 1953. The desire of utility fleet managers for a convention of their own, one that would address the specific needs of their operations, became the mission and vision of Joseph B. Baker, the founder of Baker Equipment Engineering Co., and Jean Y. Ray, the fleet manager at Virginia Electric Power Co. (now part of Dominion Power), who hosted the first Public Utility Fleet Managers Conference at the Tides Inn in Irvington, Va. While the conference did not officially change its name to the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference until 1964, EUFMC was born. ~ EUFMC History 1953-2013
In 1961, 28 fleet managers and about 25 suppliers attended the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference. Today, the nonprofit association hosts 100 fleet managers from about 60 investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and electric contractors from the U.S., Canada and South America, and more than 250 representatives of about 95 manufacturers and service providers.
In its early years, EUFMC was truly a public utility conference. Its membership included fleet managers from electric, telephone and gas utilities, among others. By the early 1960s, its founders had redefined the focus of the conference, centering more on electric utility issues. Since 1951, when the first meetings took place to plan the inaugural EUFMC in 1953, 32 fleet managers from operations across the U.S. have served as president of the conference.
“EUFMC has always been organized by a small group of utility fleet representatives for the benefit and education of the utility fleet professionals that attend the event each year,” said Gerald Owens, fleet manager at Oncor Electric Delivery and this year’s EUFMC president. “The board of directors consists mainly of utility fleet professionals, all volunteers who devote time to the conference with the support of their companies.”
Sixty Years of Service
Decade by decade, EUFMC has served the changing needs of utility fleets and addressed the continuing advent of new technologies.
“Some things never change and that’s a good thing about EUFMC,” said Ven Burwell, retired fleet manager from Duke Power who served as EUFMC president from 1991-1992. “At the conference, fleet managers were concerned about how to save maintenance costs, and we were very interested in new technologies such as electric, natural gas and light-duty diesel trucks. EUFMC has always been a great conference where we could learn about fleet ideas and make more effective decisions.”
Conference programs listing topics of discussions across the years tell the story. In the early 1960s, EUFMC attendees were discussing derrick and digger combinations and aerial devices as well as all types of trucks and bodies. Over the years, topics have included legislative and regulatory issues and a range of fleet management subjects such as vehicle utilization and acquisition, benchmarking, fleet management software, life cycle cost models and best practices in preventive maintenance. In recent years, the conference program has covered the latest vehicle, equipment and shop technologies as well as alternative fuels and managing environmental compliance.
Bringing People Together
EUFMC promotes cooperation between fleet professionals and suppliers who come to the annual conference prepared to discuss technical issues and operational needs, address challenges, share best practices and find solutions. Activities include a drive-through utility equipment demonstration and an exhibition of the latest equipment and services for utility fleets, the site today of more than 60 displays.
“While some of the original manufacturers at EUFMC are no longer in business, there has always been an effort by suppliers to bring engineers to the show, people who can talk to fleets, listen to their suggestions and solve problems,” said Dick Rosenmeier, retired fleet manager at Public Service Electric and Gas Co., who was EUFMC president from 1982-1985. “That’s one reason it was always desirable to be invited. It’s an original concept that still stands because it’s a good one.”
“I have been attending EUFMC for 58 years,” related Lenny Fernandez, recently retired utility sales manager at Reading Truck Body. “The conference has always been about attaining knowledge from fellow attendees that you could not get anywhere else. Vendors and utility representatives come here with knowledge of products and what works in their operations.”
For many attendees, EUFMC has continued to be successful because it has not lost sight of its original mission – to bring together decision-makers from both sides of the partnership between fleets and manufacturers.
“It’s hard to imagine that any group can stick to its founding principles after so long,” said Skip Baker, president of Baker Equipment and grandson of conference founder Joseph B. Baker. “Yes, it has grown significantly, and the topics of conference discussions have changed with evolving technology and work practices, but the group’s fundamental reason for assembling year after year hasn’t. Fleet managers come to Williamsburg to learn and share.”
About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 27 years of truck- and automotive-related publication experience. In his career, he has held editorial roles at numerous national business-to-business publications focusing on fleet and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.