Creating an environment where moving cars and people on foot can co-exist in the lanes without mishap is only part of the safety story at physical auctions, according to Laura Taylor.
The general manager of Charleston Auto Auction in Moncks Corner, S.C., knows chapter and verse the importance of keeping auction employees, customers and visitors safe from potential dangers such as slips, trips and falls and workplace violence, including active shooter situations.
Training, education and being vigilant can help minimize the risk of being hurt at auctions, said Taylor, who is also president-elect of the National Auto Auction Association.
She plans to share and reinforce safe workplace practices with auction owners, managers and customers, when she takes over as the group’s president at its annual convention in Indianapolis.
Current NAAA president, Chad Bailey, who is also president of Akron Auto Auction, in Akron, Ohio, is to become the association’s chairman during the ceremony on Thursday.
“You can’t take all these auctions that we have and stop running cars,” said Taylor, 53, during an August interview in Detroit.
“If that happens, you’ve taken the whole essence of what a bid and what an auction is all about.
“You can bid online all day long, but until you’ve got two or more people standing around in a lane with bells and whistles going off and the excitement going on, you’re not getting all your money.”
Taylor said she has “been selling cars or working around auctions for 25 years.”
Charleston Auto Auction was part of the Carolina Auto Auction Group when Taylor joined it in 2004 as its office manager/controller. She became its general manager in 2009. The auction changed hands over the years and was acquired by XLerate Group in 2014.
XLerate owns 12 physical auction sites and five mobile auctions.
Taylor earned Certified Automotive Remarketer designation from the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance and in 2013 was among the group of industry leaders honored as a member of the Women in Remarketing program by Auto Remarketing. She is also a founding member of NAAA’s Political Action Committee.
As of early August, Taylor said auction prices were a “little soft” and had been for the previous two months, which was generally typical for the time of year. But in the last couple of years, during those months, prices had been “pretty steady,” she added.
If auction volume continues to level off compared to last year as a result of slowing new-car sales, it will be even more incumbent on auctions to watch expenses and develop new ancillary services to generate revenue, she said.
Some auction companies are already doing just that.
For example, some auctions are expanding their offerings to include servicing and managing mobility fleets in anticipation that autonomous cars and car-sharing/ride-sharing will change how vehicles are bought, sold and serviced.
But XLerate isn’t one of those companies.
“That’s not our market,” she said. “We’re going to stick to what we know and what we do best, which are dealer trades, repos and serving independent dealers and wholesalers. We’re going to make sure we have the best resources possible to keep those guys happy.”
Taylor was to spend Sept. 23 on Capitol Hill with members of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association and the Carolina Independent Automobile Dealers Association visiting legislators to educate them about how tariffs “will affect the car industry,” she said.
Safety has always been a top-of-mind issue at auctions, but it came under more scrutiny in recent years as result of a fatal vehicle crash at a Massachusetts auction in 2017.
Taylor said her safety platform will provide continuity and expand the work of previous NAAA presidents.
For example, NAAA will continue using Safe T. Sam, a superhero-type mascot, to help drive home to members the benefits of making sure all employees, full- and part-time and temporary, undergo safety training and are certified as a result of being tested on what they learned.
The Safe T. Sam program, created by ADESA and utilized by NAAA, came on the scene in 2014 under the presidency of Ellie Johnson, who is the general manager of Manheim Statesville in North Carolina.
280 auctions, 100% safety certified
The staffs at 280 of NAAA’s 340-member auctions, including XLerate, are 100% certified, according to the association.
“Each president brings on new ideas, but one year is not enough on some of the issues,” she said. “We need to continue and expand on them.”
NAAA held its most recent safety summit in February, Taylor said.
That’s when auction owners, general managers, leaders from Manheim, ADESA, XLerate and Auction Insurance Agency and liability lawyers, gathered to craft safety strategies based on auction’s current and future safety needs and requirements.
“If you came out of there with only one or two things, you weren’t paying attention,” said Taylor who implemented changes at Charleston Auto Auction based on things she learned. Those practices have been adopted throughout XLerate Group auctions, she said.
For example, lane barriers were installed to prevent pedestrians from walking in front of moving vehicles at lane exits, signs in English and Spanish, reminding people not to walk and text, were installed, and employees working in lanes now wear yellow, safety vests.
Helping NAAA create a program to teach auctions how to stay safe during an active shooter situation is on Taylor’s to-do list this year. Though her presidency was still weeks away during her Detroit visit, Taylor said reminding people to be aware of their surroundings and to pay attention to what others say and write on social media, are good starts.
Though Taylor has added new safety practices in recent months, creating a safer work environment has been on her radar for years.
Designated, trained, first responders
Around 2005, she initiated a program at Charleston Auto Auction under which designated employees took on the roles of first responders. They have been taught to administer CPR, first aid and how to use a defibrillator. They are also taught by fire department officials how to handle engine fires and other fires.
To help identify potential first responders, Taylor is planning to hold a mock emergency situation at her auction to see how trainees, react under the pressure.
“I had two people trained at one point, and they were smart, loyal and gung-ho, and the first incident we had with someone having a heart attack, they were not able to react,” she said, explaining her reasoning. .
Before settling into the wholesale auto industry, Taylor owned a restaurant and a sign business. She got serious about the auction business when she sold cars at Upstate Auto Auction in Spartanburg, S.C., while at the same time managing its office.
A drag racing aficionado who also sky-dived “seven or eight times,” Taylor enjoys traveling and playing golf. Her two granddaughters, age 11 and 6, are the loves of her life.
“They call me granny from the beach, because I live in Charleston near the beach,” she said.
Taylor said she is particularly proud that Charleston Auto Auction was named NAAA’s 2017 Auction of the Year for Excellence in Community Service.
The auction raised over $50,00 to help Project H.O.M.E.’s (Helping Others Mirror Excellence) fund a residence for homeless teenage boys, who are under the guidance of live-in adults called “house parents” she said.
The residence receives no government funding and operates by donations only, said Taylor, who sits on Project H.O.M.E.’s board of directors.