As we approach the end of another fleet preview season, I am, again, struck by the incredible pace of change, and the corresponding avalanche of information fleet managers must absorb to be able to stay ahead of the game.
There are whole new categories of vehicles, alternative-fuel issues to deal with, and don’t get me started on available safety technologies. These events are now like being a little kid and getting to spend a day at Toys “R” Us — except the kid won’t get fired if he or she chooses the wrong toy.
I overheard an interesting conversation between a highly respected fleet manager and his supervisor, who he had brought along for one of the recent domestic OEM fleet previews. The supervisor had just finished listening to the opening presentations during the meeting and commented that OEM No. 1 seemed to be way ahead of the pack in just about every category mentioned. The fleet manager quickly responded that “everyone is the best at something.”
And, that really is the case today. With the incredible variety of vehicles and technologies available, there is no clear leader in every category.
When I look at our Top 500 list of fleets, it becomes readily apparent that variety is not only the spice of life, but also probably the key to running an effective fleet operation. The largest fleets are rarely sole-sourced (with the exception of a few that buy only one or two classes of vehicles). The mega-fleets, often run by our former “professional fleet manager of the year” types, in almost every case, have diverse fleets with many different classes of vehicles produced by a wide variety of OEMs.
It would probably be easier for these guys and gals to just pick one manufacturer, grind them for the biggest discount possible, and live with the results.
The top fleets today are relentlessly pursuing efficiency and safety. They are doing that by not being afraid to test out new technologies, new vehicle lines, and whole new vehicle categories.
Somewhere Lee Iacocca is smiling as he sees his minivans being reborn as ground-breaking work trucks, saving fleets millions in fuel costs every year.
The beauty of this relentless pursuit of efficiency is that every fleet can take advantage of benefits. You don’t need to run a million-dollar test to see if vehicle “X” is capable of doing what your favorite factory rep is telling you it can do. You can look at UPS, FedEx, PG&E, U-Haul, or any one of a handful of other well-run fleets and come to your own conclusions.
You can’t afford to make mistakes when you have a fleet of 10,000-20,000 vehicles. If they are having success with a new vehicle or a new technology, you can bet it has been tested to death, and it came out pretty well.
Information overload is a serious concern in the fleet market today. We’re changing at light speed, with huge fluctuations in fuel prices, taxes, and vehicle launches coming at us on a weekly basis.
If you want to stay ahead of the game, keep your eyes open and never stop looking for ways to improve your operation. And, remember, everybody is the best at something.