The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

How We Can Solve Our No. 1 Problem

May 2002, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

I never knew whether to pity or congratulate a man on coming to his senses. -William Makepeace Thackeray

 

I have always said that if I were a rich man I would employ a professional praiser. -Sir Osbert Sitwell

 

If you call a thing bad you do little, if you call a thing good you do much.-Goethe

 

Praises for our past triumphs are as feathers to a dead bird.-Paul Eldridge

 

Pity the uninitiated. Empathy for the inexperienced. Praise for the "pros." Kudos for the fortunate "survivors."

The real problem today is the widening disparity between the limited group of veteran fleet managers and the ever-increasing band of novice fleet administrators.

Not everyone admits it; few discuss it; no one is doing much about it. In society there are always the pundits who chide the gap between classes. In the fleet market, we simply accept it.

Three or four decades ago, those that remember will tell you that fleet managers were mostly male, experienced and professional in their "good old boy" network.

With the advent of outsourcing, leasing and total fleet management from outside, the internal function began losing stature. Couple with the downsizing of corporate America, the fleet job lost much more of its innate character, leaving only a modicum of credibility.

What are the factors leading to the problem?

1. Too often, it's a dead-end job. The original selection of personnel by HR and management (who rarely fully understand the significance of the investment involved) assumes the function to be an administrative position.

2. Unless a vacant fleet job is filled from the outside with a  veteran (rare), it is filled with someone who is dependent with on-the-job training. There are no graduate courses in colleges for fleet management. Only the NAFA CAFM program and various industry seminars can assist beyond networking.

3. Senior company managers (where major outsourcing exists) are prone to treat "fleet" as they do Photostat or fax machines. This is particularly true when outsourcers reach and influence top execs with the mantra that "we have all the experts." The question arises, can any outsourcer guarantee an unbiased counsel answer; or can there be a conflict of interests?

4. Fortunately the auto makers still deal directly with and pay the incentives directly to the accounts. With the fleet administrator normally answering to finance or accounting or a purchasing committee, the result is pure numbers in the buy with little regard for lifecycle costing answers. The "check-in-hand" wins.

 

So, knowing our demographics and the challenges for those that may otherwise be relegated to a less than "manager" status, what can or should we do?

1. Inform, educate and influence senior company management. In a perfect world we could visualize a joint effort by the respective associations and the media to create an effective campaign to identify the strategic role of an effective fleet manager. Instead of surveying something like service satisfaction, a unit like the NAFA Foundation, with continued support from factories, lessors and media, could develop and execute a program for executive management.

2. There is a desperate need to re-focus the mindset of fleet managers and administrators alike. "Buying" isn't everything. The greatest single expense is encompassed in remarketing. In an AF reader study just completed that lists 36 different topics of interest, fleet managers ranked: Lifecycle costing - 10th; Depreciation -12th, Residuals - 20th, and Remarketing -36th.

3. All of us who have a stake in the fleet market need to unify in a concerted effort to raise the dignity and worth of the fleet managers; make fleet administrators into managers; communicate and expose each to the multitude of "best practices" that the pros have created; and convince corporate management in the value of that key position.

How about that for a challenge worth tackling.

 

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