Photo courtesy of GE Fleet Services. See caption below.

Photo courtesy of GE Fleet Services. See caption below.

For all the benefits and value-add services outsourced fleet management companies (FMCs) provide, a common critique of the client/vendor relationship centers on the gap in understanding that can sometimes lie between what fleets need to succeed and what FMCs can offer to serve those needs.

While, in some cases, this is understandable given the nature of the business and inherent differences in perspective FMCs and fleet managers can have, it's also frustrating — and never desirable. Thankfully, the path to establishing valuable collaboration, which leads to newer, better fleet management solutions can be navigated with relative ease.

By soliciting the feedback and input of fleet managers, FMCs can broker an advanced degree of understanding with fleets. The result is a migration from the aforementioned client/vendor relationship to a true partnership between equals, which yields increased collaboration and efficiency.

Such is the goal of GE Capital Fleet Service's Client Advisory Board (CAB). Made up of 15 fleet managers from companies operating fleets of all sizes across many different industries, GE's CAB meets six times per year to host a collaborative discussion and series of presentations among fleet managers, OEMs, GE Capital Fleet Services' resident experts, and other industry professionals. The meetings are more than just an opportunity to network — they result in the formation of real-world solutions.

At a CAB meeting in San Antonio in 2012, participants collaborated to build a "wish list" of desired maintenance-related fleet products and services. The brainstorming identified the need for fleet managers to pull real-time reports of open warranty recalls across their entire fleet — a service that wasn't yet offered in the industry. Following the meeting, GE Capital Fleet Services fast-tracked the idea and formed a first-of-its-kind partnership with CARFAX for the real-time reporting of vehicle safety recalls.

This agreement was formed as a result of the fleet managers' insight and the FMC's know-how, and it's just one example of how the two parties can collaborate to foster improved operational efficiency and cost savings.

Providing a forum through which customers can share best practices should also be a priority for FMCs.

At a recent CAB event in Scottsdale, Ariz., Ken Foster, director of North American Fleet Operations at Tyco, explained a fleet consolidation initiative that resulted in increased fuel and operational efficiency across the company's fleet. A large part of this focus relied on a customized interior redesign of the fleet's Ford Escape models; this was especially relevant as just the day before, Ford's General Manager for Commercial & Government Operations, John Ruppert, led a discussion on how fleets could maximize order-to-delivery programs.

Collaborative initiatives, such as GE's CAB serve as opportunities for thought leaders in the industry to collectively work with industry experts for the purpose of improving the customer's overall experience. Giving customers a seat at the table is incredibly important. While FMCs are uniquely positioned to manage many aspects of fleet management — from strategic planning to financing to remarketing — fleets should never feel as though they have to outsource innovation.


(Front row, l-r) Justin White, Danaher; Bret Watson, Sprint; Carol Mansmann, Amgen; Marilyn Mansell, Amgen; Paula Morisey, Xerox; Charlie Szymanski, PPG; John Hatchett, Amedisys; Ken Foster, Tyco; (Second row, l-r) Barb Mundahl, GE; Ken Johnson, GE; John Dmochowsky, Mondelez; Mark Smith, GE; Shelly Lofgren, Honeywell; Sheryl Grossman, GE Healthcare; Louise Davis-Lopez, Johnson & Johnson; and (Top row, l-r) Ed Faulstick, GE; Brad Hoffelt, GE; Mark Hayes, GE; Aditya Narain, GE; and Jon Parker, GE. Not pictured: Dean Dunton, NCR; Jeff Hurrell, HP; Jonathan Kamanns, Ingersoll Rand; and Abe Stephenson, DISH.