Each year, Automotive Fleet identifies the nation’s Top 300 commercial fleets. Typically, the focus is on the “hardware” – the total number of units managed. But the key to these successful fleets is the “software” – the fleet manager.

Being a fleet manager of a Top 300 fleet is not an easy job. Throughout corporate America, fleet managers are under constant and ever-greater pressure to reduce expenses, make their fleet operations more efficient, and maximize driver productivity at the lowest possible cost.

Managers of well-run fleets will tell you that it is getting harder and harder to significantly reduce costs without fundamentally altering the composition of their fleet. In addition, the emergence of strategic sourcing in the Top 300 commercial fleets is rapidly changing corporate purchasing and increasingly forcing change in fleet purchasing and the supplier selection process. Strategic sourcing initiatives are re-examining the way a corporation conducts business. Strategic sourcing groups are tasked to identify opportunities to consolidate purchasing volume to obtain reduced pricing from key supplier partners. The migration of large corporations to strategic sourcing has been a powerful change agent at the Top 300 commercial fleets.

During the past 20 years, I have had the privilege of meeting many of the fleet managers who manage the nation’s largest 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 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.

Show me a well-run fleet and I will show you a top-notch fleet manager. There is no better example of this than among the fleet managers who manage the nation’s Top 300 commercial fleets.

Too often, the achievements of these fleet managers are not recognized. With this in mind, I would like to offer a salute to all of the managers of the Top 300 fleets for a job well done.

Let me know if you agree. Mike.Antich@bobit.com

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet