I surveyed a number of commercial fleet managers in a variety of industries and asked them to reply anonymously to the following question: “What are the most pressing problems in commercial fleet management that need to be addressed? If you could wave a ‘magic wand,’ what problem would you fix?”
Here’s what they told me.
Fleet is Not a Necessary Evil
“ In most companies fleet is regarded as a necessary evil. No matter how much we save, it is never enough to satisfy management. There is always the pressure of “what else can you do for me?”
- A Company Vehicle is Not an Entitlement
“My life would be much easier if entitlement wasn’t such an issue with drivers. I attribute this entirely to the younger generation.”
- In-Cab Driver Distraction
“There are so many distractions in the vehicle – some part of the vehicle, some brought in by the driver – that driver attention is severely lacking. This is an issue not only with our drivers, but other drivers on the road as well, both of which cause significant problems.”
- Increase Availability of Safety Options
“While I understand that OEMs have to make money – and that technology costs money, I think the overall safety of the driver should be at the top of everyone’s list. Many OEMs offer various types of new safety options – lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, back-up monitors (not the small ones in the rear-view mirror), haptic seating (where seat vibrates) – but each of these options is a standalone ‘cost option.’ Safety should be everyone’s concern and putting drivers in safe vehicles is a priority, even while trying to maintain cost. In my opinion, OEMs should automatically include all of these safety options on every vehicle they make (not just the top-end models) even if they have to raise the base cost of the car by $2,000. By doing this, the OEM would build a name for itself for safety and, in the long run, this would help everyone.”
- Management Buy-in for Fleet Safety
“Too often we see executive involvement be reactive and only when a claim is above liability coverage. Driver safety is the single most pressing problem in commercial fleet management, period. Employees who operate a vehicle should have a percentage of their bonus and raises linked to their driving performance, including accidents, MVRs, and violations. We need better training made available than just online training modules that are ineffective. We also need specific and enforced no-cell-phone use when driving policies and stricter MVR standardization of fleet drivers.”
- Improved Data Integrity is Needed
“Quality, timely, and reliable data integrity is needed. It’s confusing, conflicting, and becoming more and more unreliable to fleet managers to utilize for accurate and timely reporting. We need easier ad hoc/custom reporting from fleet management systems, big data analysis, and dashboard reporting. It’s all about the data – everything hinges on accuracy, availability, and easier analysis.”
- Mobile Capabilities are Lagging
“I think mobile app capabilities for drivers and fleet managers should be further along. Drivers should be able to do anything that they can do on a computer on an app and, likewise, for fleet managers. I also like the idea of social media components on driver apps so they can weigh in on topics they care about. Gone are the days of newsletters and e-mail surveys. The apps should be a networking forum for drivers in which fleet managers can glean important information and take action.”
- Impact of Procurement Departments
“First, procurement seems to be deeply entrenching in most, or at least many, fleet organizations and though in some instances this can be okay, in most cases, where a penny saved trumps the quality of service and a short-term gain is more important than a long-term partnership, the effectiveness of running that fleet will be seriously jeopardized. Secondly, CAFE standards and federal mandates have changed the landscape of fleet management, and vehicle costs are increasing by an average of $1,000 a year. And, with procurement looking for year-over-year savings, all too often acquisition costs become more important than TCO, which is a major problem. Why? Because eventually, when all low-hanging fruit is gone, when personal-use deductions have been increased to their max, and demand management has exhausted its effectiveness, the only place procurement can turn is to eligibility and, ultimately, reimbursement.”
- Loss of Control Due to Outsourcing
“There has been a shift toward outsourcing fleet functions to FMCs at the expense of the fleet department. This works well for transactional work, and for some analysis, but, the fleet manager loses control of the priorities and it leads to the fleet manager taking on every role from fleet coordinator to fleet analyst to fleet manager.”
- Maintaining Driver Satisfaction
“The most pressing problem is vehicle costs and maintaining driver satisfaction with vehicle selection. There would need to be a magic wand to fix this problem – drivers want vehicles with higher TCO without recognizing that the company has a responsibility to provide a tool to meet their business requirements while keeping safety in mind. I don’t think there would ever be a happy medium.”
“There is so much data, and everyone knows it is there. Reporting it, analyzing it, and coming up with useful, timely communications that do not overburden the end user is where I would waive the magic wand. Our field does not want to be overburdened with e-mails, reports, etc. But, when someone has a ‘thought’ they want it immediately. There has to be a happy ground for all that is useful, but without costing the fleet more money than it will save with knowing all the facts.”
- Upfitters & Body/Equipment Companies
“These companies are now flush with orders; however, none of them have brought back capacity and demand is booming. Getting the chassis is the easy part. While getting the upfitting/body or the equipment I need is next to impossible and takes a very long time.
The is the biggest secret in the industry, because I don’t see any publication writing about how much time, energy, and money is being wasted waiting on these companies. These companies are stuck in the 1970s and 1980s with their production management. Quality management (Six Sigma) is limited or nowhere to be found in most of their operations and, in this fleet manager’s opinion, these companies are given a complete free pass in the press.
“How do we (clients and FMCs) manage them? It’s incredibly difficult, and with the largest of them there is no leverage. Their engineering departments are completely understaffed and overwhelmed with quote requests. Their sales teams promise the world and can’t cash the checks they write; however, the economy is booming and every one of them is flush with business. Yet, quality is poor and the lead times are atrocious.
- FMC Maintenance Call Centers
“FMC maintenance call centers that take the phone calls from vendors and issue POs for maintenance repairs need to be addressed. We have formed an internal group to take approval calls from the FMC maintenance call centers if the repair is over a certain limit we have in place. I have created this because there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for maintenance vendors to upsell. Unfortunately, with system and personnel limitations within the fleet management call centers, the basic structure of the call centers, and sheer volume of calls coming in, approvals are rushed and costly decisions are made. I would wave my ‘magic wand’ and upgrade their system to make reviewing average component and repair costs instantaneous so the representative does not have to increase call time by researching that information. Separating the call center into dedicated reps handling specific customers so that they can build a better knowledge of the companies’ practices and vendors would help reduce our maintenance costs without having to develop our own sub-team.”
“Make my executive management ‘walk a day in my shoes.’ Why do I say this? They don’t listen. Streamline and simplify is the direction given by executive management, and they’ve thoroughly ignored their own directives, with no explanation (none at all) as to why this decision and directive has been made.”
- Bringing New Talent to the Industry
“Fleet managers are part of just a few company leaders that have the ability to influence internal organizations that, in some cases, might never cross paths. It is a position that consults groups such as legal, EHS, procurement, HR, operations, and finance and it can be that ‘bonding agent’ when aligning enterprise strategies. As an industry and profession, we need to focus on recruiting and educating future commercial fleet managers.”
“Driver compliance with the growing number of demands placed on driver employees is always a challenge. When senior management pushes a sales force to sell, sell, sell it sets us up for failure when considering other ‘less important’ tasks. But, when the engine seizes because our hero did not check or change the oil, it’s always fun to blame the fleet manager. Faces turn red when the fleet manager presents the oil change exception reports that were copied to multiple levels of management alerting them to the potential problem. In time, we get used to being the bad guy and continue doing our best to deliver service and savings. Also on my wish list is getting drivers to follow instructions, and read policies and memos they are sent, etc.”
- Increase Industry Knowledge
“It is sad to say, but I’m truly surprised by the lack of knowledge within the fleet industry by so many. In terms of the industry, I’m new to it with only about five years of experience, and I unfortunately feel I have much more knowledge on so many subjects than those with 20-plus years. I feel this industry has allowed people to succeed based on limited knowledge and being in the right place at the right time, and now things have drastically changed over just the past few years, including alternative-fuel technology, telematics, and other technologies, such as data mining and analysis – all of this, and more, is required to deal with a fleet and I just feel people either need to increase their knowledge and ability or maybe change career paths. Sorry to sound so tough on this; however, I feel like I deal with it constantly.”
“Commercial fleet management has found incredible ways to reduce fleet costs over the years and continues to pick opportunities as they present themselves. The problem is that these ideas are not always accepted by management and the opportunities are lost. Continued education and simplified examples need to support the foundation of the practice. This can relate to lease vs. buy, replacement parameters, centralized vs. decentralized management, OEM commitments, and even global feet coordination.”
- Better Information Flow from OEMs and FMCs
“When ordering many vehicles, both the FMC and the OEM need to provide better information. When seeking to improve the management of my fleet, good, solid information is required. There are more and more layers that need navigating to do anything – obtain pricing, data, tracking details, benchmarks – all the information that is basic to providing the best possible fleet service to my company and its drivers. In this age of information, that should be getting easier. But, it is only getting more and more difficult.”
What’s on your wish list?
Wave your magic wand and let me know.