Conventional wisdom says fleet manager responsibilities will evolve into a higher-level corporate position. I, too, believe this is true because fleet management requires someone who can work with cross-functional groups, manage millions of dollars of corporate assets, collaborate in complex technology initiatives, and be a key influencer of employee productivity. These activities will be the catalysts to elevate the role of the in-house fleet manager.
I always have been a strong proponent of the in-house fleet manager position, but, even more so today. I believe the integration of fleet technology into day-to-day fleet operations will require a new skillset. As a result, candidates will be recruited from non-traditional departments to manage the fleet. In the future, it is not inconceivable that someone may be recruited into fleet with an information systems or IT background.
In addition to technological acumen, the fleet position will be occupied by someone experienced in working with cross-functional groups. At almost every corporation, the internal fleet manager position touches all cross-functional groups, such as legal, HR, risk management, operational groups, and sales. As a consequence, fleet will be very attractive to young managers because of the exposure these cross-functional groups provide and the opportunity for advancement.
Data Will be King
In the future, making fleet decisions based on data will be critical. The fleet manager position will involve much more analytics than today, requiring someone who can analyze this data to make data-driven decisions. Core competencies in analytics and data analysis will grow in importance. A new type of individual who likes working with data will gravitate to this work environment.
Similarly, as younger drivers enter the work force, finding ways to appeal to this group through the use of mobile apps and other technology will grow in importance. In the future, a manager’s ability to use technology to make data-driven fleet decisions, and implement other technologies will be vital to improve the driver experience and policy compliance.
The naysayers believe fleet management will devolve into a part-time responsibility, but I disagree and instead believe it will continue to demand being a full-time position. First, fleet management requires a level of subject-matter expertise that can’t be attained by managing the fleet on a part-time basis. At a minimum, senior management at a corporation needs a full-time internal liaison dedicated to fleet to be its eyes and ears.
Second, the ever-increasing expense of fleet assets demands the subject-matter expertise of an in-house manager (not administrator) to work with cross-functional user groups, to keep senior management informed, and be the liaison for external fleet suppliers. Fleet is one of the top corporate spend categories at many corporations and these managers will have the ultimate responsibility to reduce the fleet spend per mobile customer served. Without a liaison between purchasing, operations, legal, and risk management you create a recipe for an inefficient fleet operation.
At the most fundamental level, fleet is a business tool and good management practices require it to be operated at the lowest possible cost. Fleet must provide value to the organization by either generating revenue or providing cost avoidance. Fleet is a business tool used to mobilize employees who perform crucial work for a company, and to keep them safe doing so. At many companies, fleet is a core competency requiring a high-level of subject-matter expertise to manage these assets. This will grow in the future as fleet will play an even larger role in the corporate P&L.
Fleet is at the Crossroads of Corporate America
At one level, the fleet manager position is very strategic, while at another level, it is focused on day-to-day activities absolutely necessary for a company to conduct its business. At many organizations, the fleet vehicle is the face of the company, requiring hands-on management. As a result, fleet’s responsibilities are multifaceted, ranging from managing fuel costs, minimizing maintenance expenses, to remarketing vehicles for the highest dollar. At a higher level, fleet managers must strategically analyze each and every asset from a total lifecycle-cost perspective.
In the final analysis, tomorrow’s fleet manager position will increase in complexity with the pervasive use of technology and the increased emphasis on data analytics. This increased complexity will attract new employees with different skillsets to work in fleet. The next generation of fleet managers will be business savvy, out-of-the-box thinkers, excelling in cross-functional management and strategic thinking. They will have a finance background, and can work well with both internal and external customers and partners. They will also have the ability to effectively communicate with various departments touched by fleet, and have a strong desire to provide superior customer service to their customers – the drivers.
Despite what cynics may say, now is the best time to get into fleet management. Fleet is at the corporate crossroads of technology, sustainability, supply chain management, and safety.
Let me know what you think.