Wheels Inc. continues to focus on the importance of fleet managers. However, with dramatic changes occurring in the fleet industry, the company realizes it’s time for fleet managers to be more proactive and innovative than ever.

“Changes in our environment are driving a sea change in the role of fleet management,” said Jim Frank, Wheels Inc., president and CEO. “The last time our industry was similarly impacted was in the 1980s.”

At that time, fleets moved toward outsourcing transactional fleet functions.

“The role of fleet management and the fleet office was revolutionized as our clients focused on core competencies and higher-level fleet functions,” Frank said.

Changes Reshape Industry

The forces driving change in the industry today are somewhat different than in the past, but no less profound, according to Frank. These changes include:

  • Destabilization and reinvention of the financial markets.
  • The reinvention of Detroit.
  • The soaring cost of fuel and the emergence of sustainability (being green) as a corporate priority.
  • The growing power of lessor-implemented technologies.

“The challenges facing today’s financial markets are of a magnitude that could not have been imagined in the past, with just the write-offs in the subprime mortgage sector ultimately amounting to between $500 billion and $800 billion and probably not being resolved for another two to three years,” Frank said.

He added that sophisticated financial management and the careful selection of stable financial partners will be critical to deal with the inevitable changes in this new environment.

As fuel costs skyrocket and environmental concerns grow, fleets are increasingly turning to fuel management programs and alternative-fuel vehicles.

According to Frank, the major fleet leasing and management companies have developed both the intellectual resources and powerful technologies that enable the industry to develop solutions to these issues.

“We are challenged to open our minds and be creative with respect to capitalizing on the power of the technological tools,” Frank said.

Fleet Managers a Crucial Link

Effectively addressing today’s new environment will require the involvement of senior management, according to Frank.

“The best and most impactful solutions will cross functional boundaries, require difficult value decisions, break the rules of traditional fleet management, and result in behavioral changes on the part of vehicle operators,” he said.

Effectively overcoming these challenges will also require that the fleet manager become the crucial link in enabling change.

“These are clearly challenging times, but the payback from being effective can be dramatic,” Frank said. “I believe it is indeed not only possible, but necessary, to break the mold and take fleet management to the next level or beyond.”