The 1989 winner of the Professional Fleet Manager Award is Ron Pink, who heads Xerox Corp.’s vehicle fleet business. Pink manages a fleet of 11,000-plus vehicles and is the industry’s fifth recipient of the award.

A panel of industry judges and Automotive Fleet magazine have awarded the 1989 Professional Fleet Manager Award to Ron Pink, business manager, vehicle fleet business for Xerox Corp. in Rochester, NY.

Last April, Pink was awarded a personal trophy at the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association’s annual convention which was held in New York City. As part of his award, Pink also was presented with a $2,000 scholarship that will be given in his name to any accredited university business school of his choice. Pink is the fifth recipient of the award and will have his name inscribed on a permanent trophy displayed at the magazine’s headquarters.

To learn more about his approach to his fleet management at Xerox Corp., Pink was recently interviewed by AF’s Mike Antich.

AF: How did you get involved in the field of fleet management?

Pink: I joined Xerox Corp in June 1963 and I entered the area of fleet management in January 1964. It happened by circumstance, I was in a staff meeting with my manager at the time. During the meeting, the executive vice president of marketing telephoned to say he had made the decision to put our 700 service technicians into leased company cars. My manager asked, “Who would like to take this on as a part-time responsibility in addition to their current duties.” I said I would, and ultimately this responsibility grew from 700 vehicles to its current level of 11,000-plus.

AF: Getting back to your present responsibilities, how do you procure vehicles for Xerox?

Pink: We have a very complex process that I developed in the early 1970s. Basically, we work with our internal customer, Xerox’s customer service organization. First, I have to completely understand what their business objectives and strategies are throughout the projected life of the vehicle. Once I know that, I work very closely with the motor companies to determine what products they have to support our business needs. Then we negotiate with the motor companies the best program for Xerox Corp. once we make the decision as to the product we will use, we get our leasing company (LMV Leasing) involved to fulfill the order responsibility with the motor companies.

AF: Do you have a vehicle policy committee at Xerox?

Pink: Yes, we do. The committee consists of the vehicle fleet business and our internal customer – the customer service organization. There are four or five people involved in everything that we do regarding the product and so forth.

AF: How are your vehicle budgets established and reviewed?

Pink: I have full responsibility for preparation of the field operating plan budget and the headquarters budget. The budgets are reviewed with the financial staff of my internal customer and are approved by my manager.

AF: What sort of fleet policies have you established that have resulted in significant cost savings for your company?

Pink: The preventive a maintenance coupon program that we created in the late 1960s has been extremely beneficial and cost effective for Xerox. In addition, a lot of emphasis has been put on vehicle safety. For example, Xerox vehicles are all equipped with a safety barrier provided by General Cage Corp. We have been able to reduce our accident incidents from 38 percent to a 20 percent average. This has made significant financial contributions to the bottom line. Other examples include the implementation of our new vehicle expense report which we run through an optical scanner. The restructuring of our field organization down to 10 people where in the past we had 100 people involved in fleet management. We have established very specific performance criteria with all of our vendors of choice and we meet on a quarterly basis to make sure that any previous commitments are being supported. The implementation of our vehicle asset tracking system using a Xerox computer system to control assets and automate expense management has resulted in very good credibility with senior management. In addition, when we ordered the 1981 Chrysler K cars we were able to drive down our monthly expense per vehicle by approximately $100. The van conversion process which we implemented in 1983 has been enhanced every year and has given us a tremendous return on our investment and improved employee morale. I think that we got lucky with our van conversion program because in my personal opinion. There will be more and more migration toward minivans as station wagons disappear from the marketplace. The van program has been extremely beneficial to us.

AF: You have been credited with developing the preventive maintenance coupon process. Can you tell us how that concept originated?

Pink: It began when I took my personal car to a Goodyear facility located across the street from the building where I work. At that time, the store manager had his own program where you could buy 10 pieces of paper for $48 with each sheet representing a maintenance item such as an oil change, tire rotation, front end alignment, or a tune up. So I wrote him a check for one and put the pieces of paper on my desk. It was a constant reminder to me when something in the area of preventive maintenance was needed to be done on my car. That triggered in my mind the thought that this would be a positive program for the fleet business. At that time, Xerox was doing business with a company called Mileage Consultants, which was part of the Leaseway System. I asked Dick Krantz, their president, if he could help me put together a booklet of coupons or tickets that our drivers could use as a reminder to take their vehicles in for preventive maintenance. He said, “Absolutely.” Thus the first coupon program was put together by Mileage Consultants, Goodyear, and Xerox. After the program was in existence for a year, other suppliers such as Firestone, Uniroyal, and so forth jumped on the bandwagon.

AF: How do you presently dispose of your vehicles? What method do we use?

Pink: We use a variety of methods. One, of course, is to sell as many vehicles as possible internally, either to our drivers or to other Xerox employees, because it results in an immediate sale and has a positive cash flow back to the company. Also, if drivers are aware of the opportunity to buy their vehicles when they are initially purchased they have a tendency to take better care of them during their service life. For those vehicles that are not purchased internally by employees, we turn them over to our lessor, LMV Leasing, who has the responsibility to dispose of them through auctions, wholesalers, or brokers.

AF: Have there been any procedures or programs that you have implemented internally that have resulted in increased efficiencies in the management of your fleet? You mentioned that you restructured your head count from 100 to 10.

Pink: We were able to do that through the creation of a new expense reporting document that is run by an optical scanner that is fed directly into our computer system. In the past, it was a manual operation. Additionally, we implemented a mandatory gasoline credit card program along with the LMV Cost Master Plus Maintenance Program. In effect, what we have done is eliminate the two major out-of-pocket expenses for our drivers and converted our company vehicle expense report into nothing more than a mileage report. We are now working with a company where we think we found a way to get mileage input into the computer system using a paperless transaction. We are about a year away from implementing this program.

AF: Is there any other topic that you would like to address?

Pink: I’d like to address the future. I feel that the fleet leasing industry is a continually changing business. There are always challenges and opportunities. In my opinion, the 1990s and beyond are going to be the best years. There are so many exciting things going on within the motor companies. The migration to minivans makes van conversion possibilities endless. I think there are some opportunities in proposed legislation dealing with odometer disclosure for vehicles. Today, so many companies are involved in the quality process that it is going to force everybody to e better business managers and it is going to open up tremendous opportunities and challenges. I have a couple of ideas on that. one of them is that I am currently assisting our lessor, LMV Leasing, in the creations of a program designed to support the fleet business (especially to lessees) in the1990s and the 21st Century. The program will be referred to as a “High Quality Product With Extraordinary Delivery.” I am a firm believer that fleet managers should be willing to share with the industry any findings that benefit their company.