Staying in the loop with your fleet

Published in the July 2018 issue of Fleet Affiliation

Your fleet most likely exists to support another activity (or other activities) within your organization. As a fleet manager, it’s important to stay in the loop on the internal workings of your team. Beyond this, it’s imperative to communicate, sharing your story with upper management. Frequently, upper management views fleet as an operation not directly related to core functions. Many times, on the surface, they may be correct, but vocational vehicles are the underlining power behind many of these organizations; and efficient maintenance of these vehicles contributes to core operations. It is up to you, as a fleet manager, to educate upper management and remove the stigma of fleet as a necessary expense. In recent years, this has become more challenging as fleet and vocational vehicles have become extremely technical and tremendously regulated. Failure to educate upper management on the value and challenges of fleet makes it more difficult to maintain an efficient department.

First hurdle — Everyone’s an expert and critic
It is quite possible that nearly everyone within your organization owns and drives light-duty vehicles, making them experts. They put fuel in the tank, maintain vehicle insurance, turn the key and drive. To them, maintenance is the periodic stop to the shop to conduct oil changes, and they consider themselves vehicle experts. Unfortunately, they may not realize the long-term maintenance issues, operating costs and reduced value when vehicles are not properly preserved or replaced when needed. You have an opportunity to tell your story and sell your department’s value organization-wide. There are several ways to boost your department status as subject matter experts — receiving (and documenting) as much training and education as possible; obtaining fleet management certification such as NAFA’s Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM®) or Certified Automotive Fleet Specialist (CAFS®) programs; and attend educational trade events (such as The Work Truck Show® and Fleet Technical Congress).

Finally, create a cross-functional team within your organization. This group can potentially change your fleet’s perception. Consider this a focus group and think tank that provides a two-way street. Fleets and other professional groups often get tunneled into their specific operations. Representation from multiple perspectives may raise new ideas and concerns. However, the most important takeaway is providing awareness of the department’s inner workings and extreme contributions to those outside the fleet environment.

Defining a champion
Once positioned as fleet professionals and subject matter experts, it is time to champion upper management. Positioning your department’s value to the organization can help elevate its status from a line item in the budget to an organizational asset and part of the core mission. In the end, you have positioned yourself as the skilled professional poised to deliver new ideas and alternatives. Additionally, you have, most likely, educated many people outside the fleet realm on maintenance procedures for their personal vehicles that could result in significant cost savings over time.

If you would like to discuss this, or any other fleet issue with the NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations, at chris@ntea.com.