Today’s fleet manager is liberated to address much higher-level objectives as the use of outsourcing increases. And during times of limited resources and intense competitive pressure, fleet managers continue to contribute significantly to their organizations’ financial success by identifying high pay-off initiatives consistent with company objectives and taking responsibility for their implementation.

“NAFA’s recent name change is much more than symbolic and reflects the dramatic changes in fleet management that have developed over the past 10 years,” said Jim Frank, president of Wheels Inc., a fleet management company headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill. “Recognizing the importance of these changes and the fact that we all too frequently find ourselves engrossed in the details of everyday urgency, it is a good time to step back and review the mission of fleet management in terms of the critical value that only we can add.”

Frank says the most important contributions a fleet manager can make are:

Assessing opportunities in light of company values and priorities and making sure the focus stays on established priorities.

“Understanding your company’s current priorities and communicating them to a fleet management company and other vendors is a role for which the fleet manager is ideally positioned,” Frank said. “We all know where the big dollars are in fleet expenditures, but hard savings may not be the most important objective.”

Similarly, many large companies today are thinking about how to implement a global approach to their fleet spend. And Frank’s experience has shown that global success requires a strong buy-in and advocacy from senior executive management, a culture of crossborder cooperation, and a willingness to significantly limit choice and change current practices.

“Without these ingredients, it is unlikely that a broad-based global initiative will yield the expected return on investment,” Frank said. “Fleet management is a most appropriate place to make this evaluation.”

Driving implementation

Once priorities are established, fleet managers can be the critical catalyst in program and policy implementation, the most difficult, but most rewarding, part of the job. “Getting step one right is perhaps the most important part of implementation because excellent ideas with high ROI do fail in the implementation phase when those great ideas are not consistent with the current goals, culture, or values of the company,” Frank said.

Beyond that, achieving effective implementation varies by company depending on the role of the fleet manager and the company management philosophy, according to Frank.

“Under any circumstance, it is essential that implementation effectiveness be an elementary part of the initiative planning process, and that the fleet manager understands and accepts the responsibility for assuring that it occurs,” he said.