5 Common Concerns our Conversations with Fleet Managers Surfaced

After talking to fleet managers in different segments of the industry, we’ve found that there are common challenges fleets face beyond adhering to compliance and staying on top of asset maintenance. We’ve put together a list of some of the most prominent challenges and ways to overcome them.

common concerns for fleet managers

How to Balance Productivity with Safety

Productivity is a key factor in any organization’s success. For fleets, every aspect of the operation needs to be productive to drive revenue: the assets, the drivers, the techs, the managers, the supervisors. Because productivity goals aren’t stagnant, it’s normal to push for increased productivity from your team over time, whether it’s quarterly or over a fiscal year. But something we see a lot of is, when in a rush to meet those productivity goals, safety practices and compliance go by the wayside. Sacrificing safety to boost productivity can end up costing fleets thousands of dollars; however, there are a few ways you can balance the upward trajectory of both productivity and safety. Here’s what the pros have to say:

Cost of Cutting Corners

"Obviously you want to hit productivity goals, but if you’re sacrificing safety to hit productivity goals, everybody loses. Case in point, I ran a distribution center for [a brewing company], and they decided to try something different — the way they loaded a rail car. Well it came in, and it all caved in on itself, so there was no way to unload it by forklift. We literally unloaded an entire rail car of beer by hand because it was the right way to do it. We assessed the situation [and realized we had to] throw productivity out the window because of this, notate that it came in [that way and] it wasn’t our fault, and you find solutions to do it the safe way and the right way. I would rather incentivize people for working safely than working fast, because when you work fast, that’s when you start cutting corners."

Brent Godwin
Equipment Manager, Bighorn Construction and Reclamation (BCR)

Schedule to Strengths, Keep it Simple

"You have to work around the guys, really. Each guy is different. You kind of get a feel for your guys after working with them for so long. You know what they’re capable of and what they’re not capable of. I try not to move somebody around. I don’t like having a guy start something and then jump on another thing because then you start to miss things when you do that."

Chuck Metoyer
Fleet Manager, Abt

For more from Chuck, check out 5 Benchmarks to Help You Measure Fleet Tech Performance.

Purchase for Productivity and Safety

"I’ll look at the time it takes to do a certain task [and the guys will] come up with ideas. I have [vendors] coming in, trying to show us stuff where we can save time here or there. We used to waste a lot of time taking front rotors off the trucks. It’s a time-consuming job. A vendor came in with a brake lathe that [let you] cut the rotors on the truck without taking it apart. That just cut that job down to half the amount of time it normally takes. We can do three or four in a day versus one. [It’s saved labor] hours and people don’t get hurt; you were lifting stuff, now you’re not lifting anything — you’re just mounting [the lathe] to the truck while it’s on the rack and cutting the rotors. It’s a lot of safety stuff taken out of the picture."

Chuck Metoyer
Fleet Manager, Abt

Incentivize Top Producers

"Around here, every employee is on a bonus fund. What we try to do is: If you do a good job, you get an additional amount inside your bonus. If you’re a person that doesn’t produce, you get less in your bonus. And you kind of use that number at the end of each quarter as a report card. ‘Hey, you’re lowest in the bonus fund. There’s a reason why. Apparently there’s work that comes back that you’ve worked on, and that means that you’re not producing.’ You know, and it kinda gets the guys to think, ‘Well, I don’t want to be the lowest guy in the bonus fund, plus I want to have some extra cash, so let me do a good job — get the job done right.’ And we don’t have any comebacks."

Chuck Metoyer
Fleet Manager, Abt

How to Prioritize Maintenance Workloads

How you divvy up your fleet’s maintenance and repair services largely depends on your resources. While it may seem like lacking your own in-house shop doesn’t leave much room for flexibility when it comes to bringing maintenance "in-house," there are always workarounds. For instance, you could have your own mobile mechanic. Aside from the more stagnant resources, like facilities, such resources as employees, parts and labor hours are much more unreliable in today’s climate due to supply and labor shortages and inflation. Because of this, it wouldn’t hurt to reevaluate your fleet’s needs and available resources to see whether in-house, outsourced or a combination of the two maintenance options makes the most financial sense. Here’s what the pros have to say:

Resources Dictate Maintenance Venue

"Once we moved into this new building we [had] our own facility here in house, so we could do all the oil changes. That’s what I actually started out with at first was: ‘We’re not going to do any major work; we’re just going to do the oil changes, and we’ll farm out the major work to other shops.’ Well, that lasted maybe two years, and then it was like, ‘Why are we doing this? We could do it all in house.’ And then we just took it all over. The only thing I farm out now would be alignments and body work, and that’s it. Everything else is done here in house."

Chuck Metoyer
Fleet Manager, Abt

Focus on Immediate or Specialized Needs

"We probably outsource, if you’re considering the truck platform [side] of things, 75 percent of our maintenance. Roughly 25 percent is done in house, and those are more smaller tech. We have the opportunity to pick and choose what we want to do, not due to capability — because we have the capacity in house to do whatever level repair we want to do — but it’s by priority. That’s how we kind of dictate our current maintenance program. We would rather our technicians focus more on the AV side of things than doing maintenance and repairs on the truck platform."

Matt Cearnal
Texas Hardware Manager, Kodiak Robotics

Evaluate In-house Capacity, Farm Out the Rest

"It used to be that Jiffy Lube was known as an oil change place, but now with our multicare model, we’re able to literally do many of your maintenance services a la cart if you want. If you want to do your own oil changes in house, but you want us to do your brakes, or you want us to do serpentine belts or cabin air filters, wiper blades, whatever, we can do all that stuff a la cart. We can do anything from 100 percent maintenance, you know, take care of all the preventative maintenance (PM) at a Jiffy Lube location, or we could actually scale that all the way down to just performing one of those items. Our store’s willing to work with fleets at any capacity."

James Shelton
Technical Field Support Manager, Jiffy Lube International

For more from James, check out Tips from a Fleet Manager: Seasonality with James Shelton.

How to Capitalize on the Hours in a Day

Another common concern among fleet managers is simply finding enough time in the day. This is where fleet management software (FMS) really shines. If you’re dealing with paper or spreadsheets or calls and emails and Post-it notes regarding things like inspections, work orders, parts inventory and fuel expenses, it’s definitely going to eat up a lot of your time. FMS automates workflows and automatically aggregates your maintenance, utilization, and expense data from which you can create and share configurable reports on virtually any fleet metric to monitor success. All that, happening in the background, while you go about your day. Here’s what the pros have to say:

Speed up the Service Process

"[Mobile inspections], I think, have made a difference because it helps us, I mean, from the management side of things — never mind the compliance side — just the management side. If somebody sends me a picture of a broken taillight, I can see what that taillight looks like and what model it is and make sure we have the parts in stock, so that tailors into [a] faster response. I can get parts coming from the vendor if I’ve already seen what the issue is with a picture."

Tom Rowlings
Assistant Fleet Manager, City of Cambridge

For more from Tom, check out Tips from a Fleet Manager: Implementing New Technologies with Tom Rowlings.

Standardize Assets and Parts for Faster Repairs

"If we buy a Volvo loader for the farm, we like to buy a Volvo loader for construction and for maintenance so that we’ve got those parts on the shelf here. When they say they need a tire, we already have one mounted to a wheel here—we just take the whole thing out there, jack it up, switch it out, and bring the other one back."

Herman VanDenBogaert
Fleet and Raw Material Purchasing Manager, Cherrylake

For more from Herman, check out Tips from a Fleet Manager: Preventing Breakdowns with Herman VanDenBogaert.

Share Documents with Stakeholders in Real Time

"Probably one of the biggest time wasting things we ever did is what’s called a general foreman audit, which is [a monthly] inspection. This is most probably the biggest saving for us in the Fleetio platform from a time perspective. First, [the audits] used to be paper-based up until about four years ago. Someone would manually do an inspection on every piece of fleet. And previously, the admin staff would be making literally dozens and dozens of phone calls every month [to track down the audits]. And I’m not exaggerating in saying this: they’d be losing probably two to three days a month, per person, in each business unit, just chasing the general foreman audits. And you times that by [the] 15 depots we have. There was serious amounts of lost time, whereas now that’s all been removed."

Bryan Abbott
Fleet Manager, Asplundh Tree Expert Australia

For more from Bryan, check out Tips from a Fleet Manager: Time Management with Bryan Abbott.

Improve Fleet Mobilization with Data Visibility

"The visibility through Fleetio and through Fleet Complete, our GPS tracking system: all our utilization reports for all our fleet are conducted through that, so within absolutely no time at all, we now have the visibility of any spare fleet within the business that’s not actually getting utilized; we track that by kilometers and hours on our machinery. So when you start talking mobilizing contracts, now we have the ability to — and I’m not exaggerating in saying this — within minutes, find out what is available within the business units. And I’ll be honest with you, it would’ve taken days before."

Bryan Abbott
Fleet Manager, Asplundh Tree Expert Australia

Streamline Outsourced Maintenance Communication and Workflows

"Before [outsourced maintenance automation (OMA) with our current FMS] there was no [repair order] process in place. We just had to get calls or email over the repair order. It was kind of a mess for one person to try to handle shops across the entire country, and we started losing things here and there. [OMA] streamlined it way better. You can see everything right in front of you, you can communicate back and forth with the shop right on one screen. You don’t lose anything; nothing gets done that’s not supposed to be done. Records are clean. I can see what’s ready, what’s been completed, what’s waiting on the shop, what’s waiting on me, downtime. I just click on one of the vehicles, and I can see everything about it. Everything’s on one screen; you can manage everything from one screen which […] gives you time for everything else you have to do, and you don’t fall behind."

Umair Tahir
Director of Fleet, DeliverOL

Collaborate with Other Departments for Greater Automation Opportunities

"By going down the electronic path and such, as far as all our data collection — more so financial data here we’re talking — it’s now automated. Before, every business unit within the company was, in a sense, running little silos and bits and pieces like that, whereas now, there’s a lot more transparency across the whole business. And because it’s now all automated through [application programming interface (API)] connections and what not, people are now not having to run their own spreadsheets and all this other stuff. It’s now all being done via API connections between all the different platforms. So from a time saving point of view, it’s not just me, it’s everyone in the business starting to really save a hell of a lot of time."

Bryan Abbott
Fleet Manager, Asplundh Tree Expert Australia

How to Keep Employees Engaged and Morale High

A big concern for fleet managers is employee burnout and disengagement, especially given the labor shortage and increase in individuals leaving their jobs compared to the pre-pandemic times. Employee retention is critical, and once an employee disengages with their job, it’s hard to get them reengaged. There are numerous ways that you can keep employees engaged and morale high to reduce turnover, however. Here’s what the pros have to say:

Ensure Your Team has a Healthy Work-life Balance

"[If a repair comes in after hours], we’ll just wait til we open. My phone is on 24/7, so if something breaks down after hours, I just call a tow truck and have them pull it back here to the store, have my guys Uber back. We’ll take care of it tomorrow. I used to […] come in at 6:30, and the store closed at like 8:00 or 9:00 — and I’m still here? It’s like, ‘Nah, that’s enough of that. You can’t do that.’ I’ll be the first one to say, ‘Hey, we can get that tomorrow. That truck’s not going anywhere.’ I’m not gonna have somebody stick around here just to get something done if it doesn’t need to be done."

Chuck Metoyer
Fleet Manager, Abt

Engage Employees by Communicating any Changes in Processes or Procedures

"With any change in [standard operating procedures] communication is paramount. You have to not take anything under some sort of […] assumption; you have to create that chain of communication so that the processes can be well communicated. If [the changes are] not well-communicated, [personnel are] either uninformed or misinformed, and [the changes are] not going to be followed correctly. So that’s paramount in any kind of change in any kind of process is communication. And then making sure you establish a way to receive feedback from that change. There’s bound to be questions of ‘why,’ because especially with someone who has, say, a mechanical aptitude, they’re not trying to just fulfill the need, they’re trying to understand why the need changed, and that’s how they better accomplish their position."

Matt Cearnal
Texas Hardware Manager, Kodiak Robotics

Prioritize Your Team’s Safety — with the Help of Their Feedback

"We have the basic checklist of what you have to look at, but that’s not usually industry specific, so we ask [our employees] things. We ask them, ‘Hey, does this look good? Do you think we’re missing something here? Let’s get your input on this because you operate this equipment every single day.’ So we value their input on things. Our guys see, ‘Hey, how can we become more operational — how is this going to impact our operations here? What can we do to make things a little better, a little safer?’ Maybe there’s a different type of PPE we could be buying. Safety glasses, straps, whatever, you know, get our guys’ input to make sure we’re getting them the best PPE, we’re getting the best procedures."

Brent Godwin
Equipment Manager, BCR

Foster an Atmosphere of Open Communication

"The way you create safety is you have your meetings with the guys, you get their input, you make sure it’s an open door, that you value their input and then you act upon it. You can’t just have them speak and then not do anything about it. It’s better to have somebody say that ‘this doesn’t work out very good, we can do it this way better,’ and nobody gets offended by it. Because when you don’t have that open line of communication, that’s when you get guys tuning out, you don’t get compliance. There’s not a buy-in."

Brent Godwin
Equipment Manager, BCR

Give Value to the Voices on Your Team

"We work as a team, you know. If there’s something one guy suggests, then usually, okay […] all you can do is try it. If it’s wrong, guess what? Tomorrow’s another day; let’s go somewhere else with it. But you have to do that. Everybody has to work like a team. It’s not just one person that runs this. I got the five of us [who] are running this, and you gotta listen to what they say because they’re the guys [who are] knowledgeable about what they’re doing."

Chuck Metoyer
Fleet Manager, Abt

Recognize Your Team’s Successes

"We have an internal incentive program where we recognize employees company-wide that have either excelled in an area that they already have as a current area of responsibility, or maybe they have gone above and beyond and executed something that was a difficult task and did it in a record amount of time. It could be something they have done that has been a pending, long-term problem and they found the root cause and solved it. Whatever the case might be, […] we do an internal recognizing of that. It’s not just managerial feedback, it’s company-wide."

Matt Cearnal
Texas Hardware Manager, Kodiak Robotics

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How to be Successful with Fleet Softwares and Solutions

We mentioned previously the time saving benefits of FMS, but many fleets are still concerned when it comes to adopting new software. For sure, an incorrectly chosen software becomes a liability, and poor implementation can wreak havoc on your data (not to mention waste time and money). While that is a legitimate fear, proper research can lead you to the perfect software for your fleet. Additionally, most FMS offer onboarding features to walk you through setup, help you seamlessly transition over your fleet’s data and provide training to you, your team and any stakeholders. Here’s what the pros have to say:

Cost of Improper Setup

"[At City of Boston], we went from having a [FMS] program that was a little difficult and it worked to having a program that was extremely difficult for users. Part of that difficulty I think is: On our end and the vendor’s end, we didn’t do a great job setting it up. So that lasted about three months and we went back to paper and pen as a result, which is kinda wild. [When I came on at City of Cambridge] we shut [its current FMS] down. I went back to ground zero. It was a situation where that software was brought here to the City of Cambridge under the advice of other local municipalities, but it was never properly set up."

Tom Rowlings
Assistant Fleet Manager, City of Cambridge

Lack of Training Causes Implementation Failure

"A lot of times, my experience has been the training — you know, planning for the training and then the actual training, and then follow up. And that’s really, I think, […] a cause of failure for implementation — a lot of the training and a lot of the prep-work ahead of time, and not being able to set the proper expectations of that."

Tom Rowlings
Assistant Fleet Manager, City of Cambridge

Tailor Training to the Technology

"The implementation, I think, a lot of times you have to base it on what your expectation of technology usage is. You know, it’s different if you’re using an iPad versus guys that are gonna sit down at a computer, ‘cause quite frankly the app and the desktop application are different. So you have to be aware of that in the way you train."

Tom Rowlings
Assistant Fleet Manager, City of Cambridge

Use the Onboarding Tools Available to You

"[Our Fleetio customer success manager (CSM)] helped me a lot on the implementation and got me the tools I needed to get going and then I just got feedback from my team members on, ‘Hey, if we did inspections and we did this, what do you want it to look like?’ And really just started building it from there. And there’s little things we’ve added along the way and changed, but yeah, the initial setup helped a lot, and [our CMS] going through that implementation made it easier."

Herman VanDenBogaert
Fleet and Raw Material Purchasing Manager, Cherrylake

Ask for Help Whenever Needed, Especially if Past Implementation Missed the Mark

"[Fleetio] was in place before I arrived, but the way it was being managed before was chaos. Nobody knew how to actually use it. So when I stepped in, I took the time, I learned, I figured everything out. I talked to [our Fleetio CSM] for a long time, and she helped me through a lot of it."

Umair Tahir
Director of Fleet, DeliverOL


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About the Author

Rachael Plant
Content Marketing Specialist

Rachael Plant is a Content Marketing Specialist at Fleetio whose automotive background spans from managing auto parts inventories to overseeing fleet-specific editorial in national trade publications. She resides deep in the middle-of-nowhere Alabama with her two dogs and, thankfully, reliable GPS.

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