Training for the Fleet Manager Role
The fleet management profession is unique in that experts of the field need to manage and maintain often sizable vehicle fleets but are also expected to stay abreast on a broad range of topics in the ever-evolving automotive industry in order to maintain success.
But how do people successfully transition into this very complex industry – which expects its fleet manager professionals to simultaneously be reactive and proactive to business needs – and how do they get to a point in their career where they can efficiently juggle the many elements within it?
The Demands of the Fleet Manager Role
The average fleet manager position, according to Indeed.com, includes “creating work schedules and transportation routes for drivers to pick up and deliver goods to the correct location, managing a budget for vehicle repairs and replacements and ensuring driver candidates receive proper training to uphold safe driving standards.” 1
But this description just scratches the surface of what is expected of those who adopt this role.
Fleet managers also need to deeply understand the workings of the vehicle supply chain, vehicle pricing and resale value trends, and the current state of gasoline and diesel prices, just to name a few focal points from a broad range of other topics.
Dealing with Constant Changes in Fleet Management
Many areas of the business fleet managers should be attentive to are often in a state of flux. The aforementioned vehicle supply chain, for example, in recent years has consistently suffered from railcar constraints, which have slowed vehicle order-to-delivery times for fleets. 2 These delays were further exacerbated through 2020 into 2021 due to the impacts of the pandemic and, more recently, the shortage of automotive semiconductors.
In an instance like this, a fleet that is expecting to receive a certain type – or amount – of vehicles at a specific time may find the delays have thrown a wrench into their plans. This could result in extending the life cycle of current vehicles in the fleet beyond what the company desired.
Indeed, this is just one example of the many challenging nuances of fleet management. Knowing how to overcome obstacles like these and make changes on the fly is critical.
Following are some critical skills fleet managers should possess, according to Indeed.com;
Examples of Other Fleet Manager Challenges
Let’s take a look at some other critical areas of the industry that fleet managers should be privy to and how these elements function with each other, as well as why proper education on each of them is so important.
For example, if fuel prices are high or are on the rise a fleet may consider acquiring or leasing more vehicles that have a higher fuel economy, especially if this fleet is in the process of cycling out older vehicles and looking to bring in newer assets.
From this, they would want to have a good sense of what the current landscape of suitable vehicles for fleet operations looks like, which would mean the fleet manager should regularly be up-to-date on what is available and suitable for their operations, or what may become available to them in the near future.
They would also want to consider what the resale values of these newer vehicles might be, if they choose to purchase their vehicles.
Lets say this fleet has a corporate greening initiative and it wants to acquire a certain number of electric vehicles to achieve an internal sustainability goal. This fleet may want to consider focusing on acquiring a blend of regular gasoline-powered vehicles with higher MPG along with some electric vehicles, since EVs tend to lose their value more quickly than comparable gas-powered vehicles.
Ongoing Fleet Manager Education
Indeed, fleets who are privy to the latest news and developments from auto manufacturers; telematics and other important fleet technologies; as well as other fleet management and leasing companies will have a much better chance of success in their operations.
Add to all of this the importance of knowing the goings-on in their own corporate or governmental culture. Fleet managers are expected to take all this information and leverage it in unique ways that will be beneficial to the success of their operation.
In order to succeed here, fleet professionals must wear many hats and should get involved with the various departments of their workplace that have a direct bearing on the fleet, including the procurement, IT, and accounting departments, just to name a few key areas.
Fleet managers who have attuned themselves with some of the aforementioned critical elements of the fleet business will be better equipped to engage in meaningful conversations with key players in other departments.
For example, if a fleet manager can effectively communicate with the procurement team on issues involving vehicle supply chain hiccups and acquisition costs, this will increase their chances of getting leverage to address issues from a purchasing perspective.
Getting into Fleet Management
But how do fleet managers get to this point in their careers, and how do they learn to succeed early on?
While there are courses available today designed to better educate those seeking the skills needed to be successful as a fleet manager, many professionals in the industry landed their roles by happenstance – not previously anticipating an entry into the industry – but have thrived ever since.
For example, Lee Pierce, sr. director of fleet for DBi Services, got her start in fleet through a different company much earlier in her career when she was transferred out from its procurement department; her interest in vehicles helped her make the decision to move into an open fleet management role. She has remained in the industry for more than 20 years. 3</sup>
This is not an anomaly. Many other professionals in the industry entered into fleet management by happenstance, and have maintained successful careers since then; gaining respect and recognition from within the corporation and subsequently finding an opportunity or interest in fleet management at their job.
Yogi Shivdasani, VP, North America supply chain, LKQ Corporation, also entered into the world of fleet management several years ago when his company tasked him to overhaul its entire fleet operations, though he had no direct fleet experience prior to that. His superiors at LKQ recognized that he would have an ability to succeed in the role – given his earlier experiences of success during his long tenure with the company – which he did. 4
The level of education industry professionals have prior to their entry into fleet management is not indicative of whether or not they are suitable to work as a fleet manager.
According to a recent fleet manager salary survey, the highest level of education by fleet managers varies quite a bit, but a majority reported only having completed “some college.” Following that, the second most reported education level were those earning a technical degree or only completing a high school education. 5
Stay Involved in the Industry
There isn’t one direct path of entry into the world of fleet, just as there isn’t one way for managers to continue their educational journey as well.
As mentioned earlier, there are available university courses that provide an education supporting those who are interested in becoming fleet managers, including one from Ferris State University. 6 Meanwhile, the fleet industry association NAFA also has its own certification program, which is a self-study program that requires participants to successfully complete eight discipline courses within a three-year period. Those who successfully pass are bestowed the post-nominal accreditation of Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM).
Getting involved with associations like NAFA and also the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) are great ways to stay educated, and not just through available certification programs, but also from the personal connections made through them. Hundreds of fleet professionals attend the trade shows and member gatherings from associations such as these on a regular basis, events where educational panels are plentiful and new connections are established among peers.
If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.
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