What Makes a Good Fleet Manager?

Sam BramlettApril 16, 2021

Odds are, when you were younger – you probably didn’t dream about becoming a fleet manager. I’d be surprised if anyone did. It’s a job that many analytical minds, dedicated to process and efficiency, find themselves falling into rather than seeking out. Fleet management requires a tremendous amount of knowledge across multiple disciplines. 

But don’t let that put you off.

Rather, it’s more of a niche job that you tend to master and become effective at after years of putting your nose to the grindstone and learning as you go. The average age of fleet managers is changing. A new generation is beginning to rise up and fill the gaps, and they aren’t willing to wait years to learn the ropes.

A good fleet manager is crucial in having an effectively run fleet

A fleet manager occupies a central role in the operation of many organizations. They work closely with various departments from HR to legal, finance, sales, procurement and administration. Alongside working with multiple departments for smooth operation, there are many moving parts to consider, and more people to take care of. Fleet management is no easy task, but the good managers all share a few golden traits.

Key traits of a good fleet manager

Data-Driven

Telematics and understanding how to properly manage your data is essential for locating your problem areas and how they can be fixed. A lot of fleet managers will make the mistake of reading through their various data sources and thinking they’re done.

But it’s not as simple as that.

The best fleet managers jump into their data headfirst and make the most of it – sometimes done in-house, but also can be done by outsourcing data management to a third party platform. If there is a mistake or a large fluctuation in the data they’re able to catch it right away and understand why it occurred. Third party platforms, like Utilimarc, flatten the learning curve by taking all of your varied data sources and data silos and cleaning it to ensure that you’re receiving quality data and key performance insights to more effectively manage your fleet. Better yet, this data is represented in visual dashboards so that you can check in on your fleet at a moment’s notice.

Communicative

There’s no way to do this job effectively without clear, organized communication. Because fleet managers are consistently working across many departments and with a variety of people, everyone needs to be kept up to date and taken care of so that the operation runs smoothly. A good tactic to consider implementing is to make known an open line of communication, as well as how to best get in touch. This could be done by providing some kind of forum where drivers can speak to you, or a dedicated inbox for internal communication. This can make it easier to keep on top of potential problems or items that require immediate attention.

Proactivity

Goals for growth are no good if there isn’t an executable plan of action. You need to understand how your assets will be used and take steps to ensure you’re always up-to-date on their condition and location. Don’t wait for problems to arise, use the information at your disposal to make predictions and form a yearly plan. 

Persistency

Far too often, a fleet manager (or other decision maker within the organization) will get the ball rolling on a project to increase fleet efficiency and lower costs. However, if it’s not a priority-project, then it has the potential to fizzle out for a length of time before being looked at with urgency when the need surfaces. 

A good tip to being proactive in your fleet management strategy is to be consistent with your budget and your vehicle replacements, as well as to keep working at making the process more efficient and cost effective by relying on your data partners to identify areas of improvement.

Flexibility

A good goal to keep in mind is to keep your finger on the pulse of trending topics within the industry – perhaps it surrounds management efficiency, new technology releases or different ways to manage your data. Fleet managers have to adapt to change to stay ahead, especially now when everything is still a bit up in the air. There’s a new wave of digitization, remote-working, electrification and health policies that organizations need to stay on top of. Don’t be a late adapter and make life harder on yourself. Instead, try to be more flexible and change your management strategy to fit the needs of your ever-evolving organization.

What are some of the core responsibilities that fleet managers share?

A fleet manager is responsible for many things, as I’m sure you already know. From replacement cycles to annual budget preparation, policy implementation to vehicle usage management and maintenance. The needs and objectives of multiple departments depend on the fleet manager executing their responsibilities well and keeping the fleet running smoothly. Here are a few key responsibilities that most fleet managers share:

Driver safety

Perhaps the most critical function of a fleet manager is ensuring drivers’ safety – no matter the vehicle or equipment type. It can be difficult, especially if drivers are far from the garage on assignment. Thanks to technology, there are many dashcams and other tracking systems available for fleets to track their vehicles; from an efficiency standpoint, but also in case of safety incidents, like speeding or accidents.

Driver retention

No matter the season, it’s always hard to find new (and experienced) drivers. Because of this, a good fleet manager takes care to hold on to the drivers they have. One way to do this is to maintain good workplace conditions and culture, as well as getting to know who your drivers are in order to build trust amongst the team. If your workers feel appreciated and taken care of, they tend to be more productive and stick around longer, but that’s true for most organizations.

Fleet tracking

Tracking your vehicles and equipment is increasingly important as budgets tighten and funds are reallocated around your organization. This is more challenging than it seems, especially if you’re working with a large fleet that has a variety of assets. Utilizing telematics systems is a way that many fleets obtain real time driver data, vehicle diagnostics and gain more of an understanding of how each classification of vehicle is used within their fleet. It’s a way to aid in scheduling preventative maintenance, determine new vehicle mix makeup if change is necessary, or even kickstart an electric vehicle initiative by planning where charging infrastructure is most needed.

Total cost reduction

Most fleet managers will tell you that there are always ways to cut back on fuel and other operating costs. It’s your responsibility to always be considering new ways to reduce expenses – like doing a deep dive into your fleet data to understand where these opportunities are. You can also cut back on expenses by keeping in mind how your vehicles will be used as you acquire them. Have a plan, and don’t simply focus on the initial price. More often than not, better equipment may have a higher price tag, but it’s more reliable and can reduce total cost of ownership depending on its lifecycle.

Vehicle acquisition

It always helps to have a plan – especially when it comes to vehicle purchasing strategy. New technology is consistently being rolled out, as well as updates to current vehicles already in production. As fleets tend to order their new replacements/vehicle adds years in advance, planning out how many and what type of vehicles you need to work smoothly will come in quite useful indeed. It may be tempting to just purchase vehicles as the need arises, but this risks creating waste or a spare-unit fleet. With tight budgets and less wiggle room than previous years, most fleets aren’t keen to have units sitting unused in garages or yards. Create a purchasing strategy and consider things like the time of year, vehicle longevity, safety requirements and new technologies that your organization can make use of.

The bottom line

Many people may not have learned how to be a fleet manager in school, but sometimes the best fleet managers learn from experience. There are a variety of skill sets you need to be good at to succeed in this position, ranging from something as simple as strong communication skills to budgeting for the correct kind of equipment needed to keep your executive management and equipment operators happy. At the end of the day, the most important thing is having the information you need to make informed decisions. 

Utilimarc has helped fleets for nearly two decades by streamlining all of your data sources into a single platform, and we even go a step further by benchmarking your operations (both internally and externally) so that you can see how you stack up against other industry-leading fleets and see what’s revving engines and making waves across the different industry niches. If you’re looking to streamline your data reporting and need a helping hand, schedule a demo with a member of our analytics team.


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Sam Bramlett

Editorial Marketing Intern

Sam is a writer from Charlotte, NC, with an M.F.A. in writing from SCAD. He lives and works in Savannah, GA, has two cats named Bennie and Tina, and writes self-help books and novels with plenty of stories about the horrors of door-to-door sales. See more from Sam


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