At times I would pompously think to myself; they haven’t got a clue. Hind-sight indicates I’m unfairly shooting the messenger by thinking this way. It’s the employer who didn’t have a clue, not the newly appointed rookie. Approximately 10-12 years ago, I attended a NAFA sponsored training class and sat next to a 20-something young lady whose education was in Accounting. While talking to her, my jaw dropped when she said she had been promoted to corporate fleet manager for a 3,000+ vehicle sales fleet. My face must have screamed OMG because she smiled and said: “that’s why I’m here – to learn.”
At another conference, what used to be NAFA’s Law Enforcement Group, I sat next to a sworn police officer whom had recently been “delegated the duty of fleet manager.” His description of his new responsibility was: “My captain made me fleet manager to punish me for [something that made him mad]…” Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently across our industry. Fleet Management is misconceived as something anyone with a driver’s license can do. After all, most middle-aged Americans already manage a fleet: a family car, a pickup truck, an SUV, a soccer van, an RV, a lawn mower, gardening equipment, etc. What could possibly be different with the company fleet?
Some of the time, these naive managers do make poor business decisions which cost their employers dearly but most of the time, these eager to succeed managers delve headlong into a fast-track self-education on managing mobile assets. One key point of interest is these eager young people are not locked into regimental fleet management thinking. They can easily get out-of-the-box and strategize new ideas.
In public fleet management, some of our best cost-cutting ideas come from the private fleets. From these young naïve fleet managers whom didn’t know a carburetor from a fuel injector a few years ago. They’ve stepped up to the challenges and ever-changing variables in our industry. They’re not locked into the “this is how you have to do it” paradigm. They focused on technology, processes and new ideas and aren’t afraid to experiment. They keep trying, failure after failure, until they find the right process which achieves their goal; cutting costs without cutting fleet performance. Private sector fleets is where GPS/AVL was first implemented. Then came competitive leasing; utilization management; collective buying power; and the list goes on-and-on.
I would like to admonish all my colleagues in the public sector to pay attention to these movers and shakers. Those that can’t meet the challenge fade away quickly but don’t make the same arrogant misjudgment I did; that they have to be technical experts to be good fleet managers – - – they don’t.
Let me know what you think?