There is a growing number of traditional, high-caliber in-house corporate fleet managers joining fleet management companies (FMCs) to manage client companies that have outsourced their fleet management services. A few recent examples of prominent fleet managers who have made this transition are:
- Nancy Barlage, CAFM, former fleet manager for Universal Hospital Services and Regis Corp., is now a member of fleet management solutions for GE Capital Fleet Services.
- Jann Panzer, CAFM, former fleet manager for Safeway, is now a fleet manager for Element Fleet Management.
- Alicia Hammond, CAFM, former fleet administrator for Ambius, is client consultant for LeasePlan USA.
- Chris Syed, former fleet & facilities administrator for Mission Foods, is now a fleet management services specialist for GE Capital Fleet Services.
- Kristen (Connealy) Collins, former category manager for Genentech, is now fleet manager/category manager, corporate vehicles for Element Fleet Management and Genentech.
- Rob Parham, long-time fleet manager for Wrigley, now works in fleet management at LeasePlan USA.
For the past several decades, FMCs have employed in-house fleet managers in their fleet administration departments to manage client fleets, but were promoted from within the FMC. Now, we are starting to witness FMCs hiring traditional fleet managers. Does this make a trend? It is still too early to tell, but, what I can say is that it has caught our attention. My prediction is that this is indeed the start of a bona fide, long-term, industry trend that will accelerate in future years.
A Little Bit of History to Understand the Future
The total outsourcing of corporate in-house fleet functions to FMCs first occurred in the 1980s. The earliest manifestation of total fleet management occurred with the placement of fleet managers employed by the FMC at several client fleets. This first occurred in 1982 when Pierce Walsh (a Fleet Hall of Famer) was hired by GELCO (a lessor subsequently acquired by GE) to staff a newly created fleet manager position at IC Industries, one of its clients.
GELCO convinced IC Industries that it needed a director of fleet management to gain control over the company’s fragmented fleet, which was divided between six divisions. Walsh, who was a GELCO employee, was given this responsibility and embedded to work at IC Industries. GELCO started a formal fleet administration program in 1985, implementing a request to do so by Avon and later Mallinckrodt, which at the time was a wholly owned subsidiary of Avon.
A year later, PHH (now Element Fleet Management) entered the total fleet management market in 1986 by implementing a new service agreement with Eastman Kodak to establish a separate dedicated resource team to manage fits fleet. Eastman Kodak had been a PHH client since the 1950s, but, in 1986, it decided unilaterally to convert its relationship to outsourcing all of its day-to-day fleet functions. At this time, Kodak was a company-owned fleet, only using PHH for purchase & disposal, fuel management, vehicle expense report, and national accounts.
Likewise, other national fleets in the late 1980s and early 1990s embraced the complete outsourcing of fleet services, such as Westinghouse, Proctor & Gamble, and Nestle, to name a few. Ultimately, these total fleet management programs rapidly grew to manage a quarter of a million vehicles by 1994. By that time, all of the major fleet management companies were offering some form of total fleet management or fleet administration program, with each going to market under their own unique brand names.
Critics of total fleet management programs said that, as the programs grew, the in-house FMC expertise did not keep pace or personnel were over-extended by having to manage multiple client fleets. Some corporate fleet managers complained that they had to “train” the very people to whom their services were outsourced.
Compounding this concern was a frequent “churn” of FMC staff leaving or joining the fleet administration department. The frustration was that, as one person was adequately trained, they were promoted or transferred to another area, forcing the corporate fleet manager to start all over again with a new liaison. Similarly, OEMs and other fleet suppliers complain that, when a fleet is completely outsourced to an FMC, it is difficult to gain access to the fleet administrators at the FMC who are managing the client’s fleet program.
Ove the years, FMCs have successfully elevated the caliber of employees managing fleets under total fleet management, with a growing number of them now hiring professional fleet managers. I believe this will be part of a long-term trend of FMCs emerging as the predominant entities hiring fleet managers, especially as client companies outsource much of their in-house fleet management services and, in some cases, marginalize the corporate in-house function.
Recognition of this New Fleet Manager Category
Historically, fleet managers were traditionally employed by a corporation, utility, or political subdivision that operate the fleet. However, a new category of fleet manager has now emerged who works for FMCs.
Let me what you think.