Managing an effective fleet can be a challenge – could this be the role for you?
We look at the skills you need to become a fleet manager, and share our 5 top tips to be successful
A Fleet Manager can be a rewarding career – being faced with fresh challenges on a regular basis is the nature of the job. But having the responsibility to manage a fleet in an ever-changing environment can often be both demanding and tricky.
So, what are the traits of a fleet manager to be highly effective in the role?
How to become a fleet manager
When leaving school or considering a change of a career, becoming a fleet manager doesn’t usually come top of the list. It’s one of those roles that people often fall into rather than strive towards. But there are some common traits of highly effective fleet managers that could mean this is just the role for you.
There are several pathways into becoming a fleet manager and which one you will follow very much depend on where you are in your career – a school leaver considering your career options or perhaps already in work and planning a change of career.
There are several routes into fleet management and although no set qualifications are needed, work-based learning, skills training and higher education courses are available to support your career progression.
Academic route into fleet management
The academic route has the options of further and higher education courses such as BTEC, HND’s and degrees in subjects such as Transport Management and Logistics; for more information, visit the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) website.
Other training that you may want to consider once in post ? or striving to achieve your career goals include the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) and the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD). The latter provides a good basic understanding of HR, people and leadership.
Similarly, the Fleet Transport Association’s Commercial Vehicle Fleet Management pathway has been developed in partnership with City & Guilds. This is an industry recognised qualification evidencing a good level of efficiency.
Work-based route into fleet management
If the academia is not for you then an apprenticeship scheme could be the ideal entry route. Apprenticeships provide on the spot training whilst at work, earning a salary.
Alternatively, consider joining an organisation at a lower level to gain a good level of understanding of the industry. Make your intentions clear during job reviews that you wish to progress in the industry and never be afraid to put yourself forward for opportunities and experiences to further this.
The benefits of networking
In any role, always make the most of networking opportunities available for meeting new contacts and developing new ways of working. Groups such as Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO), ICFM, British Vehicle and Leasing Association (BVRLA), The Freight Transport Association (FTA) and Fleet Industry Advisory Group (FLAG) host regular events that are worthwhile including in your calendar. In addition, take the time to attend leading industry events such as Fleet Live and the Commercial Vehicle Show.
5 skills you need to become a fleet manager
1. Ability to multi task
It’s one of those roles that you really do need to be able to think on your feet. Unscheduled vehicle downtime, driver availability and managing costs with ever challenged budgets means having to deal with multiple tasks on a daily basis. It can be a fast paced role and at times, not for the fainthearted!
2. Keeping vehicles on the road whilst managing costs and performance
Most businesses departments are challenged with tight budgets to work with and fleet is no exception. Costs continue to spiral whilst funds get cut, so there’s always a balancing act between providing a top rate service albeit at minimum cost.
3. Adaptable to change
In the ever-changing world of fleet, fleet managers need to be adaptable to change such as the introduction of new technology and legislation. It’s a continuous process of being aware of changes, understanding how they will impact your fleet and the best ways in which you can implement them.
4. Excellent communication skills
It goes without saying, any internal or external changes that affect the business need to be communicated to the fleet. Choosing the most appropriate communication channels and ensuring that the correct messages are received is a skill. Getting this right can make all the difference in securing that all-important buy-in from the staff which helps with the smooth integration of changes.
5. Inspire and lead a team
The team will often look to you for guidance which makes it so important to be a good team leader, inspiring confidence and trust throughout. The ability to quickly analyse information, solve problems and decide on the correct course of action is critical in this role.
So, you weighed up the pros and cons and have decided on a career as a fleet manager – welcome on board! But where do you start?
5 Tips to Become An Effective Fleet Manager
It may seem a little daunting at first, but these five tips are a great place to start in helping you become highly effective in your role.
1. Only record the important information
Recording information provides you with the opportunity to measure and monitor the performance of your fleet. Record everything though and you will quickly become overwhelmed! Information is of course useful for bench marking against past performance and as a tool to help when setting goals and objectives, leading to greater accountability, improved efficiency and a safer fleet operation. But the more information that you collect, the greater the need for administration resource to manage it. Only collect the information necessary to make informed decisions in the core areas of fleet management. This includes:
Procurement: The purchase or leasing contract details of each vehicle.
Utilisation: The time, date and distance vehicles have made, including odometer readings.
Fuel: The fuel transactions including costs, fuel type, quantity and date.
Maintenance: The service schedules, costs, parts, labour and work done.
Accidents: The driver, vehicle, damage, cost and liability
Compliance: Dates of compliance events, requirements and documentation.
It’s easy to forget to collect the basic information but just as easy to collect plenty of irrelevant information too. This in turn wastes valuable resource and creates unnecessary administration.
2. Update your driver policy
Safety of your drivers, employees, customers and other road users should be at the heart of what you do. With most accidents being due to driver distraction, this could be a good opportunity to monitor driving behaviour, update policies and review fleet driver training tools that are in place. 1 in 10 drivers still believe that the risks of using a mobile phone whilst driving are overstated.
It goes without saying, having appropriate health and safety measures in place is a necessity in terms of a legal and compliance perspective. These should be regularly reviewed and updated for auditing purposes should an incident occur. From the maintenance schedule and defect reporting processes of vehicles through to driver behaviour – the importance of safety through compliance should be present throughout the entire business.
Technological support is available to ensure that rules and regulations are adhered to. These include digital fleet vehicle inspection forms that can record when and where they were created and submitted through to telematics to track driving habits. Fleet managers need to work closely with both human resources and health and safety departments to manage potential risk and develop suitable training plans. Company policies need to be made transparent so that employees are aware of their responsibilities to minimise the risk of accidents before they actually happen.
3. Keep a sharp focus on costs
It goes without saying, keeping on track of all fleet management costs by recording and monitoring (as per our first tip) will really help with controlling budgets. Vehicle, maintenance, fuel, staff and other business costs all add up and it is essential to look for possible savings and avoid unnecessary losses across the entire business. Be vigilant too – a saving in one department can easily be lost by another.
Always look for alternative ways of saving money such as encouraging better driving from your drivers, as an example. By avoiding sudden acceleration followed by hard braking, driving faster than necessary and removing unnecessary bulk from the trunk of a vehicle drivers can contribute towards fuel cost savings. Consider the vehicles in your fleet too. Is it time to downgrade to more economical models and switch to alternative fuel types? Vehicle maintenance can play its part too – an under inflated tyre can increase fuel consumption by up to 10%!
4. Join a Fleet Association or attend an annual event
Being actively involved in industry organisations can be highly beneficial. Association and industry events aimed at fleet operators can provide a wealth of information such as industry wide issues. These groups can also provide useful networking opportunities for sharing ideas and gaining support on areas of concern. A word of caution though – try and avoid ‘associations; that heavily push their own commercial interests or business partnerships.
The focus should be on developing a through understanding of the fleet industry and to keep up to date on news, ideas and development that could influence your own operation. Having a clear understanding of changes to legislation, for example, can help you prepare for changes before they actually happen. Similarly, keeping on track of your own fleets’ internal successes and failures can create opportunities to share best practice or highlight how things have gone wrong in order to prevent them from happening again.
5. Check your allocation of resources
Regularly review your fleet of vehicles and the tasks that they need to carry out to determine suitability for the job. Is an SUV with low fuel economy really the best choice for long distance journeys when a smaller vehicle could return better cost savings? Look at alternative fuel and vehicle types to see if by switching, your fleet could return greater efficiencies and cost savings.
Consider investing in technology such as fleet management software to save your operation both time and money. That initial investment can soon be recouped by reducing administration time and cost through automated processes and procedures. The data recorded can provide fleet managers, drivers, technicians, parts managers, supervisors and other personnel the reports needed to keep a modern fleet running efficiently.
Being a highly effective fleet manager can be a task in itself. But by taking the time to develop a good working knowledge of the industry, setting specific and measurable goals and having the tools in place to measure them, you can identify areas of your business that can be improved.
Downloadable Fleet Management Guides
See our free fleet management software guides below: