Published in December 2022 Fleet Affiliation.
Vocational fleets, by definition, exist to support an organization’s specific technical functions. However, it is important to tell the story. In many cases, upper management views fleet as an expensive budget line outside the organization's core mission and activities. They might not understand what’s required to run a vocational fleet. After all, just about everyone drives a vehicle and has some level of maintenance role, including fueling and ensuring basic services are performed (e.g., oil changes and tire rotations). More advanced operators may even check and properly maintain tire pressure. As a result, many may think they understand vehicle procurement, maintenance, and fuel acquisition. But while many believe they are experts when it comes to managing vehicles – including upper management believing they have a handle on how a vocational fleet is run – this is hardly the case.
Those who are intertwined within the vehicle industry understand that the fleet is oftentimes the organization’s core driver. After all, without properly designed trucks, an organization's productivity will most likely come to a grinding halt. This knowledge gap can be an opportunity for fleet managers to shine light.
Take time to educate upper management and walk through possible outcomes that will affect an organization's core functions if the fleet is not properly managed and maintained. To begin with, work trucks have become extremely complex and are highly regulated; if management does not understand this from the get-go, mitigation can be very expensive.
Returning to the premise, it is important to educate the management team on what is involved in managing and maintaining the fleet. If you fail to do this, management may make decisions that can negatively impact operations. In short, they do not know what they do not know. Some of the more common outcomes of uneducated upper management include making the fleet part of a larger general services group; assigning individuals with little or no fleet experience to fleet management positions; and most devastatingly, cutting funding to a point that fleet cannot maintain an adequate level of service. These decisions are made because of a lack of understanding.
Selling the fleet
While no one likes to be on the defensive to justify their job, taking an opportunity to sell the fleet and push the department into the spotlight can be the first step in teaching upper management. It is important to exert a level of professionalism. To educate others, you must stay educated. Investing in training for yourself and your staff is the first step.
Secondly, communicate to the management team that your department members are experts in the field.
Finally, grow or look for an estalished fleet professional and expert in upper management to champion the cause. Involve them with the important operations of the fleet. If they believe that they understand the importance, the fleet budget line becomes more justifiable and operations are considered to be at the core of the organization’s structure.
Taking advantage of resources
Training does not have to be expensive. NTEA provides many fleet-centric resources that are available both in-person and on demand. Fleets can access these valuable resources at https://www.ntea.com/fleetresources.