I remember sitting in a meeting with Ed Bobit and a few other fleet industry luminaries a little over 20 years ago. The topic of discussion was the rapid decline in the number of fleet manager jobs, the growing influence of “total fleet management,” and the impending doom for all of us who were dedicated to the fleet management profession.
Despite the fact that I had lots of energy, a full head of hair, a great condo on the beach in Los Angeles, and a beautiful young bride, this was more than a little disconcerting to me. Nobody wants to hear that they are about to get disintermediated or relegated to the scrap heap in the race to modernization.
Now, 20 years later, a lot of the energy is gone, even more of the hair is gone, and the condo on the beach has been traded for a kid friendly house with a yard in an area where the beach is just a rumor. And, I’ve still got the same beautiful young bride and I’m still sitting in meetings where people are predicting the impending “doom of fleet management.”
Back in those good old days, Ed Bobit was always quick to point out that the smart and savvy companies were never going to completely outsource such a key function as fleet. Even those who embraced the concept of total fleet management still had key executive and management personnel dedicated to making sure the service providers were hitting the promised benchmarks. And, he also correctly pointed out that no purchasing or sourcing executive with any self-respect would allow a vendor to make all the key decisions over their fleet.
Those sourcing and purchasing executives need to stay on top of the fleet market today even more than they did 20 years ago. Back then, choices were a bit more limited. You had to pick which of the “Big 3” sedans you wanted, then you had to decide if your drivers would revolt if you took that V-8 off the selector and stuck them with the V-6. If you were really progressive, you might have been exploring a maintenance management program or a fuel management program too.
Granted, there was a lot of work involved in managing those relationships, but the year-over-year or month-to-month leaps in technology were much more limited. Today’s fleet professional, whether he or she is a full-time fleet manager or a sourcing and purchasing executive who does fleet “part-time,” needs to invest a lot of time and attention into managing supplier relationships as well as staying on top of technology, legislation, and macro-economic trends that impact the market.
The need for fleet information is greater than ever, even after 20 years.
Even though the sky is still falling and traditional fleet manager jobs are being eliminated, there will always be a need for fleet professionals to make sure the right drivers have the right vehicles with the right powertrains and right cargo capacities and right safety features. We’re dedicated to providing you with that information just as much now as we were 20 years ago. And, we don’t care if your title is fleet manager or director of sourcing, or junior assistant sourcing manager.
It’s time more of our industry associations and suppliers embraced this concept as well. Fleet management will always be a critical role in any business or public entity that relies on vehicles regardless of the title of the person making the decisions.