Mike Cripps reports on the 38th National Association of Police Fleet Managers' Conference and "Blue Light Fleet Exhibition"

Thursday, 15 December, 2011

"Quality wins the day"

Quality certainly was the winner at this year's NAPFM Conference and Exhibition at Peterborough Exec Exhibition Centre on the 6th & 7th September 2011. The exhibition was rebranded as the "Blue Light Fleet Exhibition" to reflect the involvement of the National Strategic Ambulance Fleet Group. Fleet managers and their procurement officers from the UK Ambulance Service held their own seminar; some also attended the NAPFM Conference.

The collaboration between the fleet departments of the ambulance, fire and police has developed at some pace this year. All three recognise the value of sharing information, facilities and working closer on procurement. There have been a number of collaborative meetings during the year and this continued during the event with the fleet and procurement representatives of the ambulance and police services meeting to agree areas of shared fleet procurement.


The wide variety of subjects covered by the speakers at this the 38th annual conference reflected the diverse nature of the role of the Fleet Manager. Mick Trosh from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Group updated the delegates on the latest developments of the Single Vehicle Architecture One Box project; which by September 2012 will be the national standard for police vehicles. This project is attracting a lot of attention from overseas and from the other emergency services. The UK Police Service certainly appears to be leading the way in the standardisation within police vehicles and with mobile data.

Nick Wilton, the chairman of the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation highlighted the alternative opportunities for saving money by using independent aftermarket suppliers for some vehicle parts instead of automatically choosing manufacturer supplied parts.

The debate in the public sector on the fitting of winter tyres to front line vehicles was certainly fuelled by the excellent presentation from Dr James Brighton, Head of Centre for Automotive Technology at Cranfield University. Delegates should now be fully aware that choosing tyres will always involve compromise and that perhaps 4x4 vehicles offer a better option.

With lower emission vehicles becoming much more commonplace and the public sector needing to support the government's drive to reduce emissions, Rosie Snashall, the Head of the Consumer Incentive Team at the Office for Low Emission Vehicles provided a clear insight into what is and will be available in the near future.

Mike Waters from Arval returned to the conference platform for a second year, this time accompanied by his colleague John Pout. Mike's presentation on the influence of global affairs on fuel prices explained exactly why we find the current price of fuel so high and still rising. John Pout took the opportunity to explain how those members of the public sector using fuel cards can work to keep costs down and ensure that drivers are selecting the cheapest outlet when refuelling vehicles.

There is little doubt that some members of staff in the public sector are finding the current cutbacks extremely stressful. To help managers handle this stress in the workplace the delegates heard an excellent presentation from Professor Craig Jackson Head of Psychology at Birmingham City University. With such a difficult subject it was refreshing to find Professor Jackson both very informative and entertaining. As someone who is in great demand by the media and other organisations, the NAPFM Event Team were delighted to be able to secure such an influential speaker as Professor Jackson for this year's conference, emphasising once again the quality of this conference programme.

Blue Light Exhibition

The exhibition has always provided an opportunity for international and small companies to compete on an equal footing and this year was no exception. The event once again welcomed some new exhibitors offering such things as mobile variable message signs, dog equipment for vehicles, methods of dealing with workshop spillages and new IT developments. The quality of all the exhibitors at this year's Blue Light Fleet Exhibition was once again high, reflecting the importance of this event in the calendar for both the industry and the public sector.

Whilst the number of day visitors to the event was down this year, reflecting the difficult times in the public sector, the quality of those attending the event was certainly up. The presence of visitors from eight countries was encouraging, the largest number of which was a delegation from France. The French delegation, lead by Thierry Robin the Head of the Fleet Department from the National Gendarmerie, were keen to explore opportunities to source new vehicles and equipment. The French Gendarmerie apparently needs to replace around 20,000 vehicles. The Single Vehicle Architecture One Box Project being lead by the ACPO ITS Group has already been identified by the French delegation as the standard for future French police vehicles.

Hong Kong Police were once again represented at the conference, as they have been for many years. The event provides them with the opportunity to not only network with colleagues but see the latest vehicles and equipment. Hong Kong Police in the last year have taken delivery of a number of BMW cars and motorcycles and in the past few years they have also introduced Battenberg markings for their traffic cars.

In addition to the emergency services the list of those attending included government departments, local authorities, Highways Agency, military as well as those from the industry involved in supplying the emergency services.
This event is unique in that it is focused on fleet and transport requirements of the emergency Services; now in its 38th year delegates and visitors saw over 130 exhibitors displaying the latest equipment and vehicles. In total there were around 250 vehicles on display.

Alternative fuel vehicles attracted a lot attention at this year's event including the extended range electric Ampera from Vauxhall, the Peugeot 3008 Diesel Electric Hybrid, the Mercedes Benz Vito E-cell electric van, the new Honda Insight, and a hydrogen powered Mercedes Benz Ambulance.

The annual best stand awards this year went to two recipients who had not previously won the award. The Best Small Exhibition stand voted for by the conference delegates went to Pro-tect Safety Signs; whose managing director, David Lundy, has been one of the longest attending exhibitors at the event. Delegates voted vehicle converter Jack Hodson and Son, the Best Large Stand beating off the large car manufacturers; which is encouraging for such companies in these difficult times.

The event continues to provide an excellent networking opportunity for fleet managers, procurement officers and operational staff from all the emergency services. Many of the exhibitors use the event as an ideal opportunity to discuss new ideas and collaboration with fellow exhibitors at the event.

In 2012, due to the Paralympics, the 39th NAPFM Conference and Blue Light Fleet Exhibition will be held a few weeks later than usual on the 25th & 26th September; when once again we look forward to another quality event.

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