For the last seven years, Automotive Fleet has recognized excellence with its Professional Fleet Manager of the Year award. Mance, of Bristol Myers Squibb, is the first woman in the field to achieve this honor.

Out of the field of 18 distinguished fleet management professionals, Patsy Mance of Bristol Myers Squibb Co. in New York, NY, emerged to win this year’s Professional Fleet Manager of the Year award. The award was presented in April at the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association’s annual convention in Atlanta, GA.

Mance, manager of corporate fleet services for Bristol Myers Squibb, was selected 1991’s winner by a panel of industry judges and Automotive Fleet magazine. As part of the award, a $2,000 scholarship will be given in Mance’s name to an accredited university business school of her choice, and her name will be inscribed on a perpetual trophy displayed at the magazine’s headquarters in Redondo Beach, CA.

Mance’s career in the fleet industry started with PHH FleetAmerica, where she spent 18 years. She credits the Hunt Valley, MD based fleet leasing and management company for teaching her the basics of the fleet business. Mance’s last position with PHH FleetAmerica was in the capacity of account executive in New York, NY. In 1976, she left PHH FleetAmerica and became a sales manager for Hertz Leasing in New York, prior to the lessor’s acquisition by U.S. Leasing International.

After spending two years with Hertz Leasing, Mance moved over to the fleet management side of the industry by taking a position with Clairol, a subsidiary of what was then Bristol Myers Co. as fleet manager for Clairol; Mance handled a sales fleet of about 500 vehicles.

Five years ago, Mance was appointed to the newly-created position of manager of corporate fleet services for Bristol Myers. Her responsibilities in the new position included managing executive cars, monitoring the company’s fleet contracts for different divisions, participating in manufacturer negotiations, devising vehicle selectors, and other duties. In October, 1089, Bristol Myers merged with Squibb, increasing the executive fleet to approximately 1,000 vehicles.

Scope of Duties

Besides managing Bristol Myers Squibb’s executive fleet, Mance is responsible for developing corporate-wide fleet policy for all of the company’s divisions, as well as supplying the division’s individual fleets. These divisions include USP&G in Evansville, IN, Squibb in Lawrenceville, NJ, and Clairol in New York, NY, Drackett in Cincinnati, OH, Products in New York, NY, Zimmer in Warsaw, IN, Surgitek in Racine, WI, and Westwood in Buffalo, NY. Mance is in charge of developing policy for all fleet-related contract negotiations, as well as motor company and industry relations.

Every year in May, fleet personnel from all divisions meet to discuss policy and issues for the company’s fleet of 6,600 vehicles. Other departments are included in the meeting, such as insurance, tax, and financial, as well as representatives from auto manufacturers and lessors. During the meeting, participants discuss the upcoming year’s automotive products, internal fleet strategies, and review any problems that an individual division might be having, with an emphasis on resolving these problems.

Part of Mance’s job is to facilitate working relationships with the company’s lessors, PHH FleetAmerica and Wheels. Bristol Myers Squibb’s entire fleet is leased through these two leasing companies. Each division of Bristol Myers Squibb is free to choose whatever fleet management services they need from each of the lessors.

Mange fully utilizes the lessor’s reporting systems. She finds PHH FleetAmerica’s Fleetline system and expense control reports quite useful. Fleet performance reports are issued once a month, allowing Mance the opportunity to spot potential problems. “A daily expense report would be of no value to you because you control expenses based on patterns. Patterns over a period of time eliminate the problem areas that cause your costs to fluctuate so dramatically,” Mance says.

Vehicle procurement is one of Mance’s larger responsibilities. Before making new vehicle models available on selector lists, a variety of factors are considered: safety, resale value, “track record,” and other determining variables. Mance is enthusiastic about recent changes in the automotive industry, and the new car options, such as safety features, that these changes have made available. “I think the fleet manager of today lives in an exciting time,” she says.

Proper Cycling Cuts Costs

Mance’s philosophy on proper vehicle turnover can be summed up as “picking the right car at the right time and selling it at the right time.” This is the most important way to control the depreciation factor, which is the largest area of vehicle expense.

For Mance, disposing the right car at the right time translates into replacing vehicles when the reach between 45,000 and 50,000 miles. “That’s proven very successful for us,” says Mance. “Your car has retained a certain degree of value. Plus the fact that you’ve avoided the high maintenance cost associated with higher-mileage cars.”

Most of the Bristol Myers Squibb fleet cars are disposed of through its lessors. Mance works with individual wholesalers to remarket executive cars. She focuses on areas of the country where she can get the most money for specific models. “There are areas of the country where you can get more value out of a Mercedes than you would in another area of the country,” she says.

Implementing a corporate-wide fleet safety policy has also helped the company reduce expenses by reducing the number of accidents. Fleet administrators check all employee driving records before issuing a vehicle to a company driver. “I can’t imagine giving somebody a car without seeing if they can drive that car,” Mance says.

Advice to Other Fleet Managers

During a period of such great technological change in the automotive industry, Mance advises that fleet managers stay on top of industry changes by reading making contacts with people in the field. “I don’t think you can manage a fleet effectively based on the way things used to be,” she says. “This is where today’s fleet manager gets into a lot of problems. They’re still trying to relate it to the way it used to be. It isn’t that way anymore. There are many more nameplates today; there are many more services available today.”

When discussing positive changes in the automotive industry, Mance points to safety features such as ABS, air bags, and passive restraints. “I think cars have gotten better,” Mance says. “I think the term ‘good old days’ is deceptive because the cars were not that good years ago. They’ve come a long way.”

Mance emphasizes the importance of acquiring the appropriate information to find an answer to each specific company need. For example, some the Bristol Myers Squibb’s divisions require larger vehicles, because their drivers are transporting heavier products. “There’s not one answer for everything,” she says. “The truly successful fleet person will take all of his or her wealth of knowledge and information, learn it, and apply it to his or her own specific requirements.”


Opportunities for Women in Fleet

Mance is the first woman ever to win the Professional Fleet Manager award. She believes that the doors of opportunity are wide open for women in the fleet industry. “I think there’s a tremendous opportunity in this profession for anyone who is willing to learn and be a professional, male or female,” she says.

She believes she has not faced any real bias or discrimination while building her career in the fleet industry. “I think there’s a little more openness today for a female in the industry, but in my career I have not has a problem with that,” Mance says. “I guess you create your own problem if you want to. It’s how you look at it. I don’t see this as a special profession for a specific gender.”

Extracurricular activities can help a fleet manager stay on top of the field and excel, Mance believes. Mance is a member of the National Association of Fleet Administrators and the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association. For the last three years she has served as the NAFA New York chapter chairperson, and is also a member of the NAFA Task Force on Clean Air Legislation.

She also serves as a member of the Ford Fleet Advisory Panel. She is impressed with Ford’s willingness to seek the input of the fleet market, and has received insight into the workings of the auto industry, which has assisted her in fleet operations.