Bert Grayson, a longtime friend who has experienced both sides of the fleet desk, commented some months ago on the role of the fleet manager today. In addition to the many specific tasks on all agendas is one often overlooked.

Bert observed: "Only someone inside the company can match and marry the right vehicle for the work required . . . Too often fuel economy or some discount gets in the way and the need to fulfill a specific function is lost."

Perspective! Yes, we all must have perspective. And, to have a productive perspective, each of us must have a wide breadth of knowledge. With the information highway now as crowded as a Los Angeles freeway, it helps if you can select the kind of knowledge that supports your goals (with the help of an excellent memory/file system).

There are some items of note that may be helpful:

Through Sept. 30, total new-vehicle fleet sales were running slightly ahead of 2012. Overall, truck/SUV sales captured half (49.5%) of passenger car sales. Truck/SUV sales from GM, Ford, and Chrysler accounted for more than 60% of those sold. So far this year, Ford leads with a more than 50% market share in the commercial fleet sales area.

The Detroit "Big Three" are holding their own in market share of the smaller, fuel-efficient, more affordable cars of recent years; however, and, according to Edmunds' reporting, the 25- to 34-year-old buying crowd has more than doubled their preference for South Korean brands.

Make sure that you not only learn about resale values, but you should be getting a free (customary for dealers and fleets) lunch at your favorite auction. Maybe your FMC is taking it for you. It's a new penetration level for the fleet and finance segment in use and penetration at auctions — now at 34.5% (dealers only run 58.4%) — so you are an important and valued account. And, it's more fun viewing the participants than going to Walmart.

When it comes to the department you may fall into at your company, there's a wide variation of performance-based compensation incentives. Hint: choose HR. Our salary survey shows that HR fleet managers lead the median income pack with $97,500 per year. Stick with finance-treasury and purchasing for the next best. By all means, give distance to sales where the average is about $60,000.

Sometimes we are not exactly smug about what we know, but more like "comfortable" with the status quo.

Some fleet managers don't prioritize attending applicable trade conferences where they may learn how to match their own salary in savings.

Here are some examples that point to the contrary:

  • Steve Nell, president of Service Sector Consulting, said this: "The Green Fleet Conference was the greatest experience I've ever had at a conference."
  • Jared Hanis from Joy Global had similar thoughts on our Global Fleet Management Conference: "It was the strongest fleet conference I ever attended . . . much more hands on and a lot of helpful information."
  • David Renschler, CPFP, City of Fairfield, Calif., is quoted: "GFX (Government Fleet Expo) provides the best value in training, networking and keeping up with the best practices pursued by the top government fleets in the country. Each year for the last six years I have come away with at least one thing that can save us thousands of dollars annually."
  • "I attended the Fleet Safety Conference specifically to learn about 'negligent entrustment,' and when I was there, I realized that there was so much more for me to learn. It was one of the best conferences I've been to, what a rewarding experience," said Ron Hall, safety director, Cogburn Bros. Inc.

My point for you is to shoot higher in 2014. Make a strong case for more travel to key conferences where you need the most help. At a minimum, make certain that you are able to establish at least a few networking friends with similar fleets where you can regularly exchange challenges and data. Sure, the large leading fleets develop best practices but so often you'll find that veteran in a small fleet may have the best answers to share.

Start now to make 2014 a banner year of broadening experiences for you. Prioritize! We can help you (just let us know).

About the author
Ed Bobit

Ed Bobit

Former Editor & Publisher

With more than 50 years in the fleet industry, Ed Bobit, former Automotive Fleet editor and publisher, reflected on issues affecting today’s fleets in his blog. He drew insight from his own experiences in the field and offered a perspective similar to that of a sports coach guiding his players.

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