A fleet of vehicles does not manage itself, so if you see a well-run fleet, you should know that there is a very effective fleet manager doing the work behind the scenes. A fleet manager’s contribution to the company should never be underestimated, because a good fleet manager can easily save you millions and millions of dollars. Fleet management should not be seen as an expense component of the budget but rather as a revenue center.
Seeing just how important the fleet manager is to your operation, how do you make sure that you hire a great and effective fleet manager? Or what are the traits to look for in a fleet manager?
1. The fleet manager is also a good strategic planner.
To get the full benefits of fleet management, there has to be strategic planning involved. In fact, with a good strategy in place, a fleet manager can greatly reduce your fleet’s costs and increase productivity. There are many areas wherein the fleet manager must make strategic decisions and planning, and these include:
- Vehicle acquisition
- Vehicle replacement
- Driver training
- Driver recruitment
- Supplier selection
But in turn, what makes a good strategic planner? A good strategic planner is proactive in creating new services and areas of improvement and savings and present it to the executives and other stakeholders instead of the other way around. He or she comes up with a plan that can drive down costs, make the fleet safer and is able to manage drivers and vehicles optimally.
He or she can make use of the tools and software available to the team and create specific goals that are strategic in nature. For instance, a good strategic planner would not be aiming to reduce costs, but rather to reduce fuel costs by planning efficient trips and reducing engine idle time.
A good strategic planner would also need to be decisive and confident. There are times when a fleet manager must make an assessment, and he or she should be able to make sound and efficient decisions on the fly with the data on hand.
A good fleet manager would be able to come up with a strategic plan that is well constructed and see it to implementation and execution.
2. A good fleet manager is an innovator.
A fleet of vehicles could easily cost a business millions of dollars. A fleet manager would be working with these high-value assets and would need to be very innovative and creative in coming up with better processes, procedures and systems. He or she should not be satisfied with the current systems and how things are being done. A good fleet manager would always be on the look out for better suppliers and new technology that could help the company drive down costs. They would be constantly checking to see if the vehicles are still up to par.
Then the effective fleet manager would also be at the forefront of looking for solutions to the same questions he or she asked.
3. A good fleet manager is a multi-tasker.
On any given day, a fleet manager would need to juggle a lot of tasks at hand. Just imagine handling hundreds of vehicles out on the field, and dealing with hundreds of drivers as well. There are also regulations and rules to comply with, suppliers to attend to and routes to determine. Plus, you also have to check vehicle maintenance, as well as dealing with executives, managers and other internal customers.
To be able to juggle different tasks, a fleet manager must:
- Practice multitasking: Multitasking is learned and you need to practice it and learn the ropes.
- Know when to stop: Always remember that there are tasks and matters that require your undivided attention. Know when to drop all other tasks that you are doing to focus on these.
- Use the tools that you have to multitask: There are tools that you can use to help you become more productive. It could be as simple as a searchable list of contact information for drivers to mobile apps that can help you remember things.
- Take a break: It is not recommended to multitask the whole day. Instead, shift from multitasking to single tasking throughout the day. In short, give yourself a break from all that juggling.
4. A good fleet manager is comfortable dealing with senior management.
Managers are expected to deal with and manage their subordinates effectively, and a fleet manager is no exception. But a great fleet manager would also be able to deal with the higher ups, particularly in informing them about what’s going on with the company’s fleet. This includes overall fleet performance, new laws and regulations, new products, new technology and budgetary requirements.
5. An effective fleet manager is an effective communicator.
Great leadership and management are built on being able to communicate effectively and well. This is especially true with fleet management. A fleet manager needs to make sure that every stockholder, drivers, executives and suppliers are on the same page when it comes to goals and current situations. And to become a good communicator, a fleet manager needs to build relationships with every stockholder, know what they are talking about, and of course to listen and understand what people are saying. The effective fleet manager must be able to present the facts in specific manners and not be afraid to ask questions and clarifications.
6. The best fleet managers are team players.
You know that you need your team’s help to ensure the smooth operations of your fleet. In fact, the best fleet managers are those who know how to work well with drivers, suppliers, and yes even the executive management. Every stakeholder is a team member that a fleet manager must have a good working relationship with in order to improve the fleet’s performance.
And for you to become a good team player, you would need to be flexible and reliable. You would also need to be a good communicator, an active participant who shares willingly and openly. A good team player also helps and cooperates with others, doing things *WITH* the team and *FOR* the team. You should also show commitment and help solve problems for the team.
Lastly, a great team player puts respect and supportiveness at the very core of their dealings with the team and its members.
7. The good fleet manager is a tireless networker.
Fleet management is a diverse area and it is going to be difficult to be able to get on top of every technology, issue, trend, regulation and happening that goes down in the field. And for this reason, the effective fleet manager would need to be an effective networker as well. He or she needs to know the industry by socializing with other fleet managers, attending industry events, developing relationships with suppliers and peers, as well as going to fleet meetings and conferences.
You need to realize that there are four different networking groups. These are
- Casual contacts: Those you meet at fleet management events or mixers
- Knowledge networks: Professional associations that you can join
- Strong contacts: Groups that meet regularly in a professional setting
- Online contacts: Social media services, online discussions groups and other online professional groups. This includes being active on LinkedIn.
You should be able to become more active in most of these groups.
The best networkers out there know that it is all about the relationships. You do not go to a networking event to leech information or get suppliers. Rather, you are there to build relationships with peers and suppliers.
8. The effective fleet manager is metric-driven and goal-oriented.
If you are uncomfortable with numbers, then you can never be a good fleet manager. Fleet managers who excel at their work rely on numbers. Not only does he or she always refer to the metrics but tries to see how to improve these numbers. For instance, the effective fleet manager is always looking for ways to drive down costs. He or she looks at fuel consumption numbers and figures out ways to make sure that fuel efficiency is up, and routes are designed to save on gas costs.
The effective fleet manager knows how to set measurable and clear goals and how to work at these goals using the data, information and numbers that he or she has. Then you should be able to point out the key variables that are related to each goal. Then collect the data you need to know and monitor. At this point, you already have the variables and the metrics that you need to improve, and achieving your goal means working to improve these numbers.
9. The effective fleet manager is an astute policymaker.
Another important characteristic of a great fleet manager is that he or she is able formulate, create and implement sound policies for the fleet.
Once the fleet manager identifies a need for the policy, he or she would need to make sure that the goal of the policy or policies to be created are clear and well articulated. You cannot possibly cover all the potential scenarios that could happen, but you should make it clear what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it and what the company’s position is.
For instance, formulating a policy against talking on a mobile phone while driving. You should make sure that you communicate that the goal for such a policy is for your drivers’ safety and avoiding accidents. Then gather all the relevant information, such as what is happening, how many of your drivers are driving distractedly while talking to somebody on a mobile phone, and what other companies are doing or if they have similar policies.
Then you need to sit down and develop the policy. Use simple words so that misinterpretation does not happen. Speak to your audience directly, and these include the people who will be affected and those who will be enforcing the policy. Then have the drafted policy read by a select few and ask them for feedback to see what needs to be changed, added or deleted. You should also get support from higher management and see if there are any legal liabilities arising from the policy.
Implement the policy by having a meeting with your members and other members of your team. Distribute the new policy and allow them to review and ask questions. Ask each employee to sign a sheet of paper that indicates that they have read and understood the new policy.
More than just creating a policy, implementing it is the more important part.
10. The effective fleet manager is a forward thinker with an open mind.
Being a good manager does not end with having great interpersonal skills and being able to create policies and enforcing them. You would also need to be able to plan for the long term. And no, we do not mean just being able to come up with your fleet’s budget. Instead, you need to come up with long term plans that touch on cutting down costs, improving your fleet and having better processes in place.
Plus, you would need to be open to new technologies and alternative solutions that could help you do your work. You should not be satisfied that your current systems work even if it could be improved. This will lead you to try out new technologies, new methods and new ways of doing things.
In everything that we have mentioned here, a fleet telematics system can help. It saves a considerable amount of time allowing you to do more. It gives you all the data you need to make an informed and sound decision, as well as providing you with insights that you would have difficulty getting otherwise.
A fleet telematics system therefore gives you a comprehensive view of what is happening to your fleet, making it far easier to manage. In short, if you want to become a more effective fleet manager, you can get help from fleet telematics.
Photo courtesy of TruckPR.