Putting a business approach into fleet management

Published in the June 2019 issue of Fleet Affiliation

Vocational vehicle replacement schedules can be daunting. Specialized vehicles represent a variety of moving parts from truck design to unique upfitting. If done incorrectly, this can lead to out-of-control costs.  Stepping up and championing a business approach can ensure acquisition and operational costs stay in line. Every sound business plan needs a concrete foundation. Business management balances art and science with four segments — plan, organize, direct and monitor.

Successful management starts with a good plan. Commence your planning with an understanding of the organization’s goals. Mold these goals into your department’s operations. Creating this plan becomes a necessity. Taking time to examine current operations allows you to solidify your plan. It is also important to look past instant cost savings such as surplus vehicle reductions, parts inventory, deferred maintenance and extended service levels. These topics may be important indicators pointing to issues to address; however, it is important to look at the big picture.

With a plan in place, take time to organize. Have you positioned yourself to mobilize? Communicate with your team, and make sure colleagues understand his or her role. A harmonious team makes the fleet manager’s job easier and more efficient.

Direction — this is where communication becomes important. Regularly scheduled meetings with stakeholders (upper-management and end users) are important. When these organizational segments understand the fleet operation’s position, you as fleet manager are able to efficiently direct. This leads to increased productivity and lower direct and indirect costs.

Continually monitoring all operations allows you to be in control and take corrective action. This is probably the most important segment of a business plan, requiring hands-on time. Corrective action is not an indicator of a poorly executed plan. It is a tool you can use to improve operations. Based on your experience, you already know, not all plans unfold as expected. Business plans are living entities. Environments and climates in any organization can be constantly changing.

Tools you can use
While having a business plan is important, you’ll need the tools to formulate it. When it comes to vehicle replacement and vehicle design, data is one of the most valuable tools available. If you have accurate data culled from your operation, you can make specific data-driven decisions. However, outside data should not be ignored. Taking time to benchmark your operation with others is valuable. This provides third party opinions that can break the cycle regarding how operations have always been handled.

If you would like to discuss this, or other fleet issues with NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations.