Over the course of my career covering the fleet management industry, I have had the privilege of...

Over the course of my career covering the fleet management industry, I have had the privilege of meeting many fleet managers, ranging from the nation’s largest fleets to small businesses operating vocational fleets. 

photo: ©istockphoto.com/JulieanneBirch

Over the course of my career covering the fleet management industry, I have had the privilege of meeting many fleet managers, ranging from the nation’s largest fleets to small businesses operating vocational fleets. Although each of these fleets is unique, there are common traits found among their fleet managers – attributes that ensure their fleets are operating at the optimum level. Here are three traits they have in common.

1. Goal-Oriented Fleet Management

These fleet managers are goal-setters. They set financial goals involving acquisition and remarketing or operational goals involving maintenance or fuel management. They strive to reduce not only hard costs, but also soft costs. They are goal-oriented in all aspects of fleet management, including driver productivity, safety, accident management, and so forth. They link fleet operations to the corporation’s overall mission and then keep management informed as to how fleet is helping to improve the corporate mission. These fleet managers are also intimately aware of the company’s product line and services, marketing objectives, corporate culture, and the needs of user groups.

2. Focus on the Internal Customer

They recognize that they ultimately serve the drivers, their primary internal customers. Furthermore, these fleet managers have established a cooperative, working relationship with all internal corporate functions associated with fleet operations. These fleet managers have excellent communication skills and have credibility with their management because of a strong knowledge base of the profession, which allows them to work within the organization in implementing new programs. They keep senior management informed on fleet performance, budget requirements, new products, and programs. They understand that most executives are not fleet management experts and only provide data critical to making a decision. In addition, they keep fleet reports jargon-free and formatted for quick review and comprehension.

These fleet managers also work with suppliers and other partners to optimize performance. Some employ supply-chain management techniques, such as bringing suppliers together as a team to facilitate communication with each other to provide efficient, low-cost service to the fleet. Just as important, these fleet managers never stop learning and confer with suppliers to be on top of the latest products and services in the market.

3. Transcending Day-to-Day Fleet Management

These fleet managers keep the company’s interest foremost in all fleet management decisions. They must present the “fleet” perspective to strategic sourcing since they are probably the most qualified persons in the organization to understand the consequences of decisions in a well-run fleet. These fleet managers persuasively articulate their thoughts to others. They have a broad perspective of how procurement and supplier selection decisions impact the corporation as a whole.

Fleet managers need to rise above the level of simply managing day-to-day work. Their understanding of the company’s business must transcend fleet management. Senior management must recognize the fleet manager as the in-house expert on all matters dealing with fleet management. In turn, the fleet manager must have the full backing and support of senior management when decisions are implemented. A competent fleet manager can easily save a company millions of dollars by implementing the right fleet policies and selecting the right fleet suppliers.         

Proactive vs. Reactive Fleet Management

In today’s fiscal environment, fleet management can be more aptly described as a form of “crisis management.” More often than not, fleet management decisions are driven by senior management’s knee-jerk reactions or by the never-ending need to put out fires. In this reality, it is easy to slip into a reactive fleet management style, managing the fleet from a tactical level, addressing day-to-day crises with a knee-jerk management approach.

However, in today’s environment, you can’t afford to be reactive. You need to employ a proactive fleet management style, focusing on specific long-term objectives and creating metrics to continually benchmark progress against past performance. It is crucial to track and demonstrate improvements in the fleet’s performance.

Today, more than ever, fleet managers must be goal-oriented in all aspects of fleet management. But, in an era of doing more with less, it is important to select your goals wisely.

Let me know what you think.

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About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Former Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award, presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

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