Fleet managers occupy a powerful position within a company since their job responsibilities intersect with HR, sales, procurement, risk management, legal, finance, administrative services, and environmental, health & safety. In addition, fleet is a key component dealing with vehicle connectivity technology, telematics, sustainability, logistics, employee productivity, and safety initiatives.
Nowadays, fleet management requires working with cross-functional groups, managing millions of dollars of corporate assets, collaborating in complex technology initiatives, and being a key influencer of employee productivity. It is the fleet manager’s responsibility to present to the cross-functional team the fleet viewpoints ranging from asset acquisition to supplier selection.
I envision these changes in the fleet manager role attracting a younger employee demographics to work in fleet to advance their long-term career goals. Younger employees who are aware of the core competencies required of the fleet manager position will gravitate to fleet as a stepping stone opportunity because of the exposure to cross-functional groups that are increasingly high profile in many corporate cultures. Typically, cross-functional teams include influential employees from across the business with whom these fast-track employees would like to develop a closer working relationship. Increasingly, fleet management will evolve to where the demographics will skew younger.
Fleet to Become More Data-Centric
Traditionally, fleet management involved understanding asset funding and the operational economics of fleet. However, a new and transformative component – namely vehicle connectivity – will become increasingly integral to optimizing fleet management. Tomorrow promises even more technology to be embedded in company vehicles, generating increased fleet data, and data analytics opportunities. By 2022, more than half of all vehicles on the road in the U.S. will be connected, allowing them to exchange data with external sources.
The increased emphasis on data management and data analytics will cause certain groups of employees to gravitate toward a fleet career. New fleet technology will require a different skillset, resulting in non-traditional people to be recruited from other departments to manage the fleet. In the future, it is not inconceivable to have someone transfer into fleet with an information systems or IT background. Increasingly fleet management is becoming a melding of asset management and data management.
The fleet manager position is evolving to perform greater data analytics, which will require someone who can make decisions based on the data and who is able to effectively communicate these assessments to upper management. Because the fleet manager job combines data and analytics, it will provide additional value to the organization with the potential of even greater revenue generation, cost avoidance, and hard-dollar savings. The fleet manager is the person who provides the actionable data to management to enable them to make the best decision. Fleet will continue to be valued by management because it is the corporate tool used to mobilize employees who perform critical work for a company. At many organizations, the fleet vehicle is the face of the company. Fleet management is a skillset that allows a business to operate its vehicle assets at the lowest possible cost, while keeping drivers safe.
Effective Fleet Management is Not a Part-Time Job
Fleet managers play a multifaceted role within a corporation. Fleet is an unusual job in that it has customers internally and it is also itself an external customer to suppliers. As a result, fleet management requires a level of subject-matter expertise that can’t be developed by managing a fleet on a part-time basis. An internal liaison is needed with other business departments, who is dedicated to fleet.
Historically, the external volatility that fleet has been perennially exposed to over the years in areas such as fuel prices, resale markets, gyrating operating costs, regulatory changes, and fluctuating interest rates requires a fleet manager who can make insightful recommendations to minimize financial exposure, or seize on opportunities to capitalize on evolving market developments.
In addition, it is important to recognize that fleet must be viewed as a two-tiered responsibility: First, there are everyday responsibilities involving drivers – the people who are burning the fuel and wearing out the tires. Next, fleet managers are the in-house experts responsible to upper management to answer all questions involving fleet, functioning as management’s sounding board. Many fleet managers view themselves as an internal consultant working within their businesses. It is in this position that a fleet manager adds value to the organization.
Generally, fleet managers are in charge of maximizing efficiency, productivity, and safety for company vehicles and drivers. As a result, they have unique insights into fuel use, vehicle maintenance, driver safety, federal and state regulations, and fleet expenses. If managed correctly, fleet provides substantial cost avoidance for a company.
At one level, the fleet manager position is very strategic, while, at another level is very tactical since the day-to-day operations are absolutely necessary for a company to cost-effectively conduct its business.
In-house fleet management is needed because it requires a unique set of skills, but more importantly, the fleet manager is not just reporting numbers, he or she is driving those numbers. A fleet manager manages fuel costs, minimizes maintenance expenses, and remarkets vehicles for the highest possible resale value. As a corollary, the fleet manager needs to be a responsible and logical businessperson who works well with both internal and external customers and partners. As technology shifts, the multifaceted skills of the fleet manager role will allow them to navigate these changes as they draw on their diverse experience in areas of operations, sales, HR, finance, facilities, and procurement.
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