Published in the June 2017 issue of Fleet Affiliation
Traditionally, there have been a couple paths to become a fleet manager. One of the more common trajectories is the path of default – e.g., an entry-level mechanic works up through the ranks and eventually becomes the fleet manager. An individual taking this route is usually extremely knowledgeable about their organization’s equipment and the internal workings within the fleet they are managing. They tend to excel at writing specifications tailored to the required tasks. Part what makes them efficient at this job is the amount of time and experience they already put in on the front lines. They have seen firsthand how equipment is being used and abused, and can have quality insight on designing equipment to the point of saving operators from themselves. They also design equipment for maintainability and serviceability. Coming from being a mechanic, they know how to look and listen, and they take the extra time to talk with users and mechanics who maintain the equipment.
It is also important to be aware of cost control. Upfront costs are easily identified and visible; however, some fleet managers who have come through this path may lose sight on labor costs when it comes to maintenance and repair. Often because of their background, they think that everything can be repaired in a cost-effective manner. This is often hidden, because labor dollars are not visible as an outside repair bill.
Fleet management via college
Today, increasing numbers of fleet managers enter the profession right out of college rather than coming up through the ranks. These fleet managers are often extremely business-oriented. They understand money and the cost of money. Additionally, they are forward-thinking and try to plan for the future. Although they are enriched with book knowledge, it is important to understand the importance of on-the-ground experience. Lacking the years of experience that others gain by working from the ground up, they have limited exposure on how equipment is actually used, what it is designed to do, and how the equipment is actually used. Although they may be very effective at controlling costs, it is imperative for them to learn and understand the difference between intended use and real-world use.
Although a fleet is often an internal service within an organization, it is often run like a business – with costs to control and services to deliver. Whether one grows into the profession through years of experience or enters the field right out of college, it is imperative for a fleet manager to master both specification writing and cost control.
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