Editor's note: This editorial was the final submission from Automotive Fleet founder Ed Bobit before he passed away on June 29.
Reading through this month's cover story on the future of fleet management, it got me thinking about how fleet managers see their future, and how, in many ways, it confirms what I've been saying about the fleet managers of the future over the years.
I've said it before: There will always be a fleet manager (my prediction) because there's no substitute for someone who's intimate with the firm's culture, the complaints of the drivers, the rulings out of HR, the nuances of the VP of sales on the field force, or from the CFO's particular budget cut suggested.
John Dmochowsky of Mondelēz comment about fleet management requiring a certain level of subject-matter expertise that can't be found if you manage the fleet on a part-time basis is spot on, as was Erin Gilchrist of Safelite AutoGlass, when she noted that, as a fleet grows, it becomes more critical to have a subject-matter expert on hand, handling the day-to-day activities. And, with dozens of differences between car and truck fleets, from different powertrains to upfit packages to fuel choices impacting overall lifecycle costs, resale costs, and more, it's just too important of a task for a part-timer.
The cover story notes the "newbies" of tomorrow will be savvy, out-of-the-box thinkers, but most likely have a finance background. The day of the "car guy" in fleet might finally be over. With genuine motivation and initiative, any newbie can become a growing professional in a relatively short time if they work at it (and have some encouragement from management), regardless of background, as Anthony Foster of Pioneer noted about "falling" into fleet.
Perhaps, in my empathy for the newbies, I love a description from veteran (and close friend), Jim McCarthy, vehicle management services director for Siemens. He said, "As a fleet manager, you wear many hats. On any given day you can be in sales, a psychologist, a juggler, a counselor, a marketing executive, a judge, a financier, or all of these — so the ability to communicate effectively on all levels and to all levels is extremely important."
Both Sheri Bonsall of Chubb and Steve Anderson of Sentry Insurance noted that the fleet manager of tomorrow must be able to communicate effectively with upper management and various departments within the company — we're already seeing that one happening right now!
Sure, we'll still have the occasional job loss (at least temporarily), but we will always have fleet managers. But, we all must be prepared to defend what's best for the company, which is clearly an in-house fleet subject-matter expert.