Managing a fleet really shouldn’t be a part-time job. Maybe if you’ve got three landscaping trucks or a couple of septic tank pumpers, but for the average commercial or public sector fleet, taking care of 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 vehicles, there are a million good reasons to have a full-time person managing vehicles, suppliers, and your drivers.
I’m blessed with a lot of chances to interact with fleet professionals during the course of the year. Especially during the fleet preview season that annually runs from March through July. I never stop learning from these people and I am always impressed with the creative solutions, the innovative ideas, and the way they always seem to be able to do more with less.
We’re fortunate to be in a business with a lot of outsourcing opportunities. If there is a dirty job you don’t want to do, chances are pretty good that you can find a supplier to take care of it for you. But it’s hard to imagine any fleet decision maker would want to turn over all the significant decisions to a third party, or third parties.
We’re well beyond the old lease versus buy decisions. Now fleets have to make decisions about safety, accident management, maintenance management, telematics, integrating fleet data into daily company or government operations, and dealing with carbon output. Asking a supplier to understand every idiosyncrasy of your operation is just not realistic. Someone with their pulse on your business, your drivers, your customers, and your senior management has to be involved in those decisions on a regular basis.
It’s not uncommon for a fleet to have an operating budget in the millions or tens of millions of dollars. According to data from our latest salary survey, the average compensation for a fleet manager in the U.S. was between $85,000 and $100,000. That’s a pretty small investment to have someone keeping an eye on one of your biggest investments. Someone who knows why diesels don’t work for your applications, or someone who knows how big that trunk has to be to fit a ladder, or someone who knows how many cup holders, how many USB ports, or how many cubic feet of cargo space your drivers really need.
The fleet management companies, the telematics providers, the upfitters, and the general service providers in our market can offer you some wonderful advice. They can tell you what works best for most fleets. They can dazzle you with charts and graphs based on Big Data and hundreds of thousands of units in operation. Those insights and analyses can go a long way toward helping you make smart fleet decisions. But they can’t tell you what works best for your fleet because there are just too many quirks, too many unique challenges, and too many oddball executives involved in the process with most modern fleets. The only person who can really tie it all together is a fleet manager.
If you disagree, let me know.