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First Quarter as ATD Chairman

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May 22, 2012 by Minuteman Trucks

By: Dick Witcher, CEO of Minuteman Trucks & Chairman of ATD
Article Featured: Truck Corner of Massachusetts Auto Dealer

I am three months into my twenty-four months as chairman of the American Truck Dealers. Looking back it seems like a long time looking forward I don’t even see the light yet. The job occupies about 40 to 45 percent of my daily schedule; I imagine it would have been more than 100 percent a few years ago. When John McEleaney was chairman of the NADA he had to live in D.C.

Because its’ been quiet in the trades doesn’t mean there isn’t lots of action going across the country and in the nation’s capital. The following are some of the highlights of the first quarter.

  • The chairman of the ATD sits on the NADA Executive Committee and the NADA Board of Directors. So in fact Massachusetts has two directors on the NADA Board: Don Sudbury and me. An Executive Committee meeting was held just prior to the New York Auto Show and these two events were in conjunction with a worldwide Auto Industry gather known as the New York Auto Forum. The Forum was the first time I had been with such a group of high flyers.
  • The Executive Committee meeting was very intense and direction setting. For example, we set the next steps for the facilities study completed by Glenn Mercer and presented at the NADA Convention in Las Vegas; we discussed legislative priorities for 2012, we discussed the economic health of the Association (the Association’s finances are in good shape) and our own plans for the real estate the Association owns. I presented the results of the post 2012 ATD Convention survey.
    • The ATD convention plans for Tampa in 2013 have changed. The overwhelming response of dealers favored combining the NADA and ATD conventions. The cost of canceling the Tampa convention was entirely offset by the savings of combining the two conventions. For now it seems the two conventions will be combined going forward.
    • As of this writing, the schedule of events is set for the ATD. At the July Board meeting we will finalize the truck workshops. At the June NADA Board meeting we will finalize the workshops for the NADA.  As last year, any registrant can attend any workshop.
    • The Peabody Hotel is going to be the headquarters hotel for both the NADA and the ATD.
    • The ATD exhibitors are being pulled upfront in the convention center; giving them better access to the attendees.
    • There will be a separate lounge for truck dealers to meet and socialize.
    • There is a truck legislative roundtable scheduled for early June. The roundtable is a gathering created by the ATD. All of the truck interested legislative offices in D.C. gather twice a year to discuss legislative priorities and share viewpoints. This meeting from time to time has some tension – kinda fun – when two associations or legislative offices disagree on positions and some great debate ensues.
    • The ATD NextGen organization is making progress in getting organized and it consists of nearly 100 people. These folks largely communicate through social media channels. I am particularly excited about the next generation concept: we need – on both the truck and auto sides – for the next generation of dealers and managers to get involved.
    • From my perch, it doesn’t look like Congress is going to get anything accomplished before the lame duck session. Unfortunately there are some really big issues facing us like the expiration of many tax reliefs but in place during both Bush and Obama. Because big things like the highway bill, entitlements, sequestration and tax legislation are unlikely to get attention; I am turning to identify smaller issues that affect dealership operations.
      • Here is an example from my friend Kyle Treadway:  “Per your suggestion in this morning’s teleconference, I would strongly support the idea of a meeting with EPA during our July Board meeting.  I would like to describe the predicament we are facing with independent service providers (ISP) overriding emission control devices.    In our territory we are seeing very brazen marketing by ISP’s – billboards, websites, print ads, etc. touting modifications to 2007 and 2010 era engines to “improve” engine performance.  ……. this practice is commonplace, without repercussion, and a growing profit center.  As licensed, franchised dealers we are at an unfair disadvantage:  we are bound by the law but the ISP apparently and effectively is not – EPA district offices decline to enforce the regulations.”
      • If there is a federal regulation / requirement that is unnecessary, that is in conflict with another regulation or is burdensome of which you are aware please let me know. I will try to bring it to the attention of our representatives and our regulators in D.C. My hope is to eliminate some of the junk we deal with and impacts the profitability of our dealerships.
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