The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Learning from Yesterday's Fleet Managers

It’s important today’s fleet management understand fleet managers in days past were, in fact, managers and not merely administrators as the acronym NAFA may have suggested. Much of their experience is relevant and instructive today.

September 2009, by Al Cavalli

First and foremost, today's fleet managers must remember Robert Anson Heinlein's quote, "A generation that ignores history has no past and no future." Not knowing and understanding what history teaches not only results in wasted effort, but also increases the probability of error.

Fleet management requires many talents from the perspective of our profession's establishment. While the methods available to today's fleet manager have improved with the advent of electronics and computerization, the job itself hasn't changed, despite today's common wisdom. The responsibility of fleet management today - as it was 50-plus years ago - is to provide company vehicles in the most cost-efficient, safe, and dependable manner possible.

A word, too, about the prevailing canard that fleet management today is somehow more difficult or complex than back then. We faced many of the same problems: management recognition and recessions, and the scarcity of new vehicles after World War II when delivery took as long as six months, quota restrictions, lack of advanced, timely new-vehicle and pricing information, the fuel shortages of the '70s, and the beginning of outsourcing. We had to make annual pilgrimages to Detroit, at our own expense, to cajole manufacturers into giving us the information needed to plan replacement programs and budgets, which we did the hard way, with tools primitive compared to today's automation and technology.

Yesterday's fleet manager also  invariably had a technical  background gained in the automotive field - at a dealership or repair shop, in used-car sales, etc. - and blended that experience with business acumen to create the profession we have today. Early-day fleet managers most often first served lengthy apprenticeships, under the guidance of experienced managers, enabling them to  hit the ground running when given the responsibility.

Know Your Management & Product

Get to know your organization's management team intimately, from the top down, and how each is impacted by the fleet effort and how fleet affects their responsibilities. Maintain close contact with each segment, keeping them informed without overburdening them with voluminous reports. Ask for their input.

It's vital, too, that you become totally familiar with your organization's product - service or merchandise - and how it is delivered, since it greatly impacts vehicle assignment, specification, and usage. An aside here, always select the vehicle to do the job in the safest and most cost-effective manner, for your company and for no other reason!

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