By Mike Antich
Show me a well-run fleet and I will show you a top-notch fleet manager. Although each fleet is unique, there are common traits found among successful commercial fleet managers. These management traits ensure a fleet is operating at the optimum level.
Here are my observations as to the 10 traits they have in common.
1. Goal-Oriented Fleet Management
These fleet managers are goal-setters. They are goal-oriented in all aspects of fleet management, including driver productivity, safety, accident management, and so forth. They strive to reduce not only hard costs, but also soft costs. They link fleet to the corporation's overall mission and then keep management informed as to how fleet is helping improve the corporate mission.
2. Focus on the Internal Customer
These fleet managers have established a cooperative, working relationship with all internal corporate functions associated with fleet operations. They keep senior management informed on fleet performance, budget requirements, new products, and programs. These fleet managers keep the company's interests foremost in all fleet management decisions.
3. Develops Partnerships with Suppliers
These fleet managers work with suppliers and other partners to optimize performance. Some employ supply-chain management techniques, such as bringing suppliers together as a team to facilitate communication with each other to provide efficient, low-cost service to the fleet. Just as important, these fleet managers never stop learning and confer with suppliers to be on top of the latest products and services in the market.
4. Practices Strategic Fleet Management
Strategic fleet management stresses the importance of achieving objectives and the use of metrics to benchmark progress. It recognizes the strategic aspect to fleet management and views vehicle acquisition, replacement planning, funding alternatives, and sourcing alliances with manufacturers and suppliers as high-level strategic corporate decisions.
5. Ability to Implement Effective Fleet Policies
These fleet managers use a strategic perspective to control costs by implementing the right fleet policies and selecting the right vehicles and suppliers. A fleet manager who reduces annual fleet expenses by $100,000 generates the equivalent of $1 million in sales, if a company operates at a 10-percent net profit margin.
6. Expertise in Cost Containment
A successful fleet manager uses a strategic and proactive management style to run the corporate fleet. These fleet managers proactively seek to maximize the productivity and revenue-generating capacity of each company driver at the lowest possible cost to make their fleet operations more efficient.
7. Management's Encouragement to be Innovators
These fleet managers have autonomy to implement innovative initiatives to drive cost out of their fleet operations. Senior management recognizes the fleet manager as the in-house expert on all matters dealing with fleet management. These fleet managers have the full backing and support of senior management when decisions are implemented. These fleet managers are valuable members of the company's management team, managing a multi-million dollar asset. Fleet is viewed as a critical revenue-generation component of a company's business plan.
8. Knowledge Transcends Fleet Management
These fleet managers rise above the level of simply managing day-to-day fleet work. Their understanding of the company's business must transcend fleet management. Besides having fleet management expertise, these fleet managers are intimately aware of their company's product line and services, marketing objectives, corporate culture, and user group needs. They are proactive and anticipate changes in their corporate environment. These fleet managers implement fleet programs that contribute to the achievement of overall company goals.
9. Manages Fleet with a Long-Term Perspective
It is impossible to run a fleet without long-term planning. In addition to producing both fleet and departmental budgets each year, these fleet managers develop strategies for cost containment and reductions. They employ the critical skill of turning strategies into tactics. They set strategic goals and develop the tactics to implement them.
10. Excellent Communicator with Sound Judgment
Fleet managers interact with more people in more areas of the company than just about any other department head, and good judgment is the foundation for such interactions. These fleet managers have excellent communication skills and sound business judgment. Their credibility with management is due to demonstrated fleet management expertise, which allows them to work within the organization to implement new programs.
A commercial fleet manager validates his or her importance day-in and day-out by cost-effectively managing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars of corporate assets and controlling the expenses associated with operating these assets. Each year, commercial fleet managers save their companies hundreds of millions of dollars.
To all fleet managers, I salute you for a job well done.
Let me know what you think.