I admit I was hoping that when it came to my report in 2020, I would have something different to talk about, something other than a new President of the United States or Brexit dominating the year of my Presidency.
Well it just goes to show, wishing for something different is not always the best course of action. As I write this, a new President of the United States has just been inaugurated, and a Brexit deal has been done. However, I did in a way get my wish for something different, as for the majority of this year Brexit, incredibly, has taken a back seat to a world-wide pandemic COVID 19. A pandemic that has led to the tragic loss of life for so many people around the globe, to major changes in the way people have to lead their lives and the cancellation of events here and abroad.
Our members from all sectors of the association have seen all major shows cancelled. Demonstrations, sales calls, show rooms and normal day to day business has changed beyond all recognition. We are, as I write this piece, in another “lockdown” and likely to see more over the course of the spring. There is hope thankfully on the horizon with two vaccines approved and more to follow, so maybe over the next six months or so, some sort of normality or a “new normality” will start to resume. I am sure, however, this topic will be continued in next year’s report by my successor.
Through all of this the AEA staff have continued to work on behalf of their members. Like many businesses most have been working from home and all have become adept at holding virtual meetings over various different platforms. Those of the slightly older generation are learning new skills, such as where is the mute button and how do I turn this thing off, but it has allowed us to continue working together and possibly in a weird way, become more efficient in our activities.
Training for Business, like many services the AEA offers has met its restrictions and challenges throughout the year, but it is still very much in the focus of the Board and Councils. Technical meetings have continued virtually, and travel restrictions have probably meant some of our colleagues both from the AEA and member companies have spent much more needed time at home.
Work on the vehicle registration scheme has continued and members are able to benefit from tailored reports, and the updated “Look Behind You” report on tractor/trailer braking has also been published.
Back to the Brexit topic briefly, the programme of “End of Transition Webinars” run by Stephen Howarth has been a key factor in helping members negotiate the many areas of change to come in the wake of Brexit finishing on the 31st December. I have welcomed these informative briefings and they have in turn helped my staff both here and in Europe.
Further afield, the government has announced the end of diesel and petrol vehicle sales in 2030, allowing ten years for the vehicle industry to change not only what they produce but also to be in line with energy suppliers on what they can do to secure the infrastructure and make this a reality. How this is going to affect the Agriculture and Outdoor Power sectors is a question the AEA will be keeping very close to and I am sure we will find out soon. Battery technology is advancing faster than expected by many, and the Outdoor Power members in particular are gearing up for this new way of working within the small tools sector. We are now seeing autonomous tractors start to be developed, alongside lower horse-power electric tractors. And behind the scenes I am sure many manufacturers are gearing up for what is likely to be the biggest change to farming and outdoor power products in my lifetime, but with an end date much sooner than expected.
Our conference in April 2020 like many events was cancelled and I took up office via a virtual meeting a few weeks later. It is disappointing but our face to face AGM and Conference 2021 look to have met the same fate, and will take place on virtual platforms this year. I will most likely be the first President of the AEA to be voted in by a virtual meeting, to spend the whole year holding virtual meetings and exit via a virtual meeting. I wish it could have been different, but I am happy in the knowledge that our friends, families and colleagues have been kept safe during these difficult times.
And finally, I would like to say thank you to the whole team working for and on behalf of all the AEA members, both the AEA staff themselves and also to the member companies who provide staff for council meetings, technical workshops and standards committees. Without you all, the AEA would not have had such a long and illustrious history, nor would it have been able to adapt to this year so capably and to continue to be able to work for the future benefit of all to come.
Here’s to a healthy future.