The Changing World of Fleet
Dan Frank, president of Wheels Inc., and Brenda Davis, fleet commodity manager for Baker Hughes and 2015 Professional Fleet Manager of the Year, celebrate this year’s recognition.
We once again have a terrific field of candidates for Automotive Fleet’s Professional Fleet Manager of the Year award. While this has always been a very prestigious award, it seems like, with each passing year, the level of effort, dedication, and skill required to truly establish oneself as an outstanding fleet manager continues to increase.
The Challenges of Tech
Indeed, the standard “job description” for a typical fleet manager today involves a much more complex set of responsibilities than it traditionally did. Fleet managers are often tasked not only with overseeing the day-to-day fleet operations, but also with managing procurement initiatives, conducting manufacturer negotiations, evaluating the supply chain, overseeing safety and risk mitigation, keeping track of regulatory changes, and understanding a marketplace that continues to evolve at an extremely rapid pace.
To make matters even more interesting, many vehicles today have 40 or more microprocessors and more than 100 million lines of code, in addition to a plethora of sensors, cameras, and communications devices.
This type of technology provides a host of useful new features that are boosting vehicle safety, efficiency, and usability in ways that seemed impossible only a few years ago.
On the other hand, it brings a number of new challenges that can be difficult for fleet managers to address, including hacking, system quality and upgrades, driver distraction, and hardware compatibility. Many drivers took an educational course before these features existed and don’t know how to properly use newer technology such as adaptive cruise control, not to mention those of us who still pump our ABS brakes.
But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Volatile oil prices have made it difficult to project fuel costs. A greater focus on quality and safety by the manufacturers and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has led to a record number of recalls. And, an improved retail market for new vehicles has meant vehicle production and delivery schedules that, at times, are more protracted for fleets.
Evolution of Fleet Management
As we look forward, we will continue to face more challenges and opportunities to enhance the safety and productivity of our drivers. Fleet managers will be faced with accounting changes, rising fuel economy standards, new-vehicle technologies, and evolving transportation models from ride-sharing to autonomous vehicles.
Suffice to say, this year’s Professional Fleet Manager of the Year nominees are raising the bar in terms of performance, versatility, and resourcefulness. They’ve managed to turn today’s challenges into opportunities to drive efficiency, safety, and cost savings for their fleets.
We commend them on all the success they’ve already achieved and look forward to the leadership roles they’ll take in the industry going forward.
Dan Frank is the president of Wheels Inc., and leads virtually all of Wheels’ business units. He is also president of Wheels Leasing Canada, Ltd., and chairman of Ixe Fleet, Wheels’ joint venture in Mexico.