SAN ANTONIO – Battling federal regulations that could harm the industry has been the rallying cry at recent UMA Motorcoach Expos.
Not this year.
With UMA coming off a successful year of fighting off such regulations as increased insurance minimums and onerous leasing requirements, there was a more positive vibe and a focus on taking the offensive with regulators instead of always playing defense.
The tone was set during the Sunday morning Expo opening session when Ken Presley, UMA’s vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs and industry relations/COO, made the following statement while discussing the current regulatory atmosphere in Washington:
“I have no new regulations to talk to you about.”
Presley’s comment drew a round of applause and started Expo off on a positive note that continued for the remainder of the motorcoach industry’s premier annual event, which included some changes in programming and a lively awards ceremony featuring an emcee who kept the audience in stitches.
“I am very pleased with the outcome,” said Stacy Tetschner, UMA’s “new guy” president and CEO, who joined the association last year and was experiencing his first Expo.
“We had strong attendance from both our operators and industry partners and all I spoke with left the meeting invigorated and pleased with their experience,” Tetschner said.
Many of this year’s 183 exhibitors seemed to agree, whether they were multi-year veterans of the event or were attending their first Expo.
At the Executive Coach Builders Inc. exhibit, Tom Fielding, general manager and sales manager for the Springfield, Mo., company, said turnout was good for his second year at Expo.
“It looks like the right crowd and the kind of customers we’re after,” Fielding said on the second day of the event.
“Trade shows are more about networking and talking and meeting your customers and getting to know them more than they are buying events these days, but we feel like we’re getting the word out,” Fielding said of the 40-year-old company, which has long focused on limousine building but has broadened its lineup to include the 52-seat Ecoach45 that is built on a Freightliner M2 chassis.
Jeffrey Farrington of ELD Solutions in Brentwood, Tenn., a first-time Expo exhibitor, said that with the new ELD mandate taking effect, “we thought it was probably a good time to get in front of a lot of different markets.”
While the company has primarily worked with the trucking and government sectors, Farrington said it has several operators that are running motorcoaches and he wanted to spread the word about the company at Expo.
“So far, so good,” he said on his second day exhibiting. “I’ve had really good conversations. It’s interesting to me that while the majority of them are on something already, they’re actually looking to potentially get on something else. (They’re) not happy with the current provider.
“So I think it is a benefit for us to be here for that perspective because even though the majority of them have it already, they’re still kind of testing the waters and trying to find a solution that fits their needs.”
Jim McCann, a consultant at Spader Business Management in Sioux Falls, S.D., who has been attending Expo for 12 years, said one of the benefits of the event is that it gives business operators the chance to work on their business instead of in their business.
“It’s a refreshing, invigorating sort of experience,” McCann said.
He said his booth was busy during the show and that there was “a good mood in the crowd, so I think it’s going really well for us.”
AmeriFuel of Richland, Wash., another first-time Expo exhibitor, decided to attend this year because “we heard great things about this show,” said Ivy Gamboa, a consultant for the company, which offers a fuel-management program.
“We have been doing a couple other shows around the country and everybody kept on telling us, ‘You have to go to UMA – that is one of the best shows there is,’ so that’s why we booked it,” Gamboa said.
She said the show was going well, with AmeriFuel seeing many of its existing customers as well as new ones who might not know about the services available to them at the pump.
“We’ll definitely be here next year,” she said. “We’re excited to be part of the association.”
UMA officials already are working on next year’s Expo, scheduled for Jan. 6-10 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Tetschner said future Expos will reflect the pace of change that is affecting all industries, including the motorcoach industry.
“As we look forward, I am excited to help UMA keep pace with the changes we are seeing every day,” he said. “As we move forward, we will see various components of Expo reach outside the single in-person experience, such as by extending education and connection opportunities throughout the year that will culminate annually with Expo.
“UMA has an incredible team of staff and volunteers that are dedicated to bringing a consistent and relevant experience to our attendees. I am very proud of the work they have done,” Tetschner said. “And I’m even more excited to see that they are already looking to next year to see how we can improve on our program even more.”
UMA already has opened registration for Expo 2019. UMA members who register by February 15 will receive the lowest Expo rate of $295. To register, go to www.motorcoachexpo.com.