When you spec truck assets today, many of these vehicles will be in service for 10 to 15 years or longer. While these assets are adequate for today’s business, will this still be true 10 to 15 years from now?
This is an important question because some fleet managers tend to focus on today’s needs and neglect the long-term considerations as to how job requirements may evolve in the future. This mindset may result in assets that are not conducive to tomorrow’s needs, negatively impacting efficiency and productivity. While a fleet manager can’t control external factors, you do have the ability to react appropriately once clarity emerges as to on how impending changes will impact your company’s future business direction.
As a fleet manager, you need to think long-term. These are expensive mobile assets you are putting into service. You need to give careful thought when spec’ing today’s products to ensure they will be able to fulfill the fleet mission during their entire service life. Consequently, it is important to understand company goals, especially future direction. You must not only be an expert in fleet management, but you must also have deep insights into your company’s business.
As a result, you need to manage the fleet at a level that is "company impactful" rather than simply "fleet impactful." It is imperative that you learn as much as possible about each department that utilizes company vehicles to ensure the fleet meets the real business needs and demands of the company. You must develop the ability to link your company’s strategic business objectives to the management of the fleet.
Consequently, vehicle specifications should be defined by the fleet application and mission requirements. It is important to design a truck that will accommodate operational requirements rather than trying to make your operation conform to the truck. The best way to optimize truck productivity is to spec the right vehicle for the fleet application. Without fully understanding today’s application requirements and operating parameters, along with future needs, it is impossible to spec the best chassis, powertrain, body, and auxiliary equipment necessary to optimize productivity.
One of the most important aspects of a fleet manager’s job is to be customer focused. When spec’ing vehicles, it is critical that you develop an in-depth institutional knowledge to effectively connect the dots between your company’s business strategy, user department objectives, and individual field needs.
Your primary goal is to foster a cooperative, working relationship with all internal departments associated with fleet operations and be proactive to their needs. In the final analysis, the most insightful way to correctly spec a replacement truck for tomorrow’s needs is to meet and talk with the employees who will be using the truck and their management. It can’t be stressed enough that vehicle specifications must be defined by the fleet application and the best way to understand this is by talking with the actual users of the asset. Solicit input from field personnel to ensure that local issues affecting the vehicle’s operation are taken into account.
If possible, schedule site visits to see firsthand how a truck is being used in specific work environments. This will also give you the opportunity to confirm firsthand what is really needed as opposed to what a user may want. By understanding the day-to-day application, you will be able to build a truck that meets their needs and get an idea of tomorrow’s needs. The key objective of your discussions is to match the truck with the fleet application.
When meeting with end-users, ask questions about possible issues with their current vehicles. For example, is the powertrain right for their application? Similarly, investigate whether the gross vehicle weight is adequate for the payload carried. Or, is gross combination weight rating high enough if the vehicle will tow a trailer? Other questions to ask are: What are common maintenance problems? Do your trucks have sufficient tool storage? Are drivers having a hard time getting in and out of the truck or accessing the bed? By knowing more about job requirements, it will give you a better perspective on how to spec replacement units that best match the application need.
Fleet managers must be forward thinkers analyzing how fleet decisions will impact future company business. Vehicle specifications must successfully provide linkage across the entire business spectrum that fulfill the needs of macro corporate objectives down to actual field applications. To develop this broad understanding of business strategy, fleet managers must talk with employees, at every level, and actively solicit feedback and suggestions from key suppliers to map out a fleet strategy that will meet today’s and tomorrow’s vehicle specification requirements. You must continuously fine-tune fleet strategy so it conforms to corporate goals, keeps pace with industry trends, and provides properly spec’ed assets capable of taking advantage of future business opportunities.
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