Fleet managers are indispensable to any organization with mission-critical vehicles. For the uninitiated, we rundown everything fleet managers do to help their organization’s most mission-critical assets perform at their best.
What is a fleet manager?
To begin, let’s define the term “fleet manager.” A fleet manager is a person responsible for anything and everything related to an organization’s vehicles. Over the course of a single day, a fleet manager might interview potential drivers, purchase a new truck, schedule maintenance work and review recent fuel spending. Serving as leaders to an organization’s drivers and mechanics, fleet managers do everything they can to ensure vehicle-involved operations are safe, productive, cost-effective and in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
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Main responsibilities of a fleet manager
As the point person for all fleet-related activities at an organization, fleet managers have a wide assortment of responsibilities. Here are their most important duties:
If you’ve ever purchased a vehicle, you know how much research, test driving, and price negotiating is involved in the process. On top of handling all of that, fleet managers run the numbers to determine if acquiring new vehicles is the right call in the first place. Knowing when to hang on to an aging vehicle and when to replace it can be tricky, especially in recent times with supply chain shortages and inflation complicating things. By balancing budgetary concerns with the needs of their organization, fleet managers work to ensure their drivers have the vehicles they need to perform their work effectively.
Maintenance program management
In a nutshell, fleet managers determine what service work is performed on their vehicles and how often those maintenance actions occur. Once those parameters are in place, fleet managers keep a close eye on the health of their vehicles and make adjustments to their maintenance program as necessary. Depending on the organization, fleet managers will closely collaborate with internal mechanics or communicate with third-party repair shops to ensure service work is performed on-time and on-budget.
While vehicles are obviously paramount to the success of any fleet, the personnel that operate them are even more integral. From interviewing applicants to setting driver schedules, fleet managers spend much of their day focused on personnel-related matters. By addressing the concerns of their drivers, fleet managers are able to eliminate obstacles to productivity and improve job satisfaction at their organizations.
Safety and compliance
Above all else, fleet managers prioritize the safety of their personnel. By ensuring employees are well-trained and that safety protocols are adhered to, fleet managers strive to prevent on the job accidents from occurring. For some, this involves reviewing driver behavior behind the wheel using telematics to identify and correct instances of recklessness. Other fleet managers periodically review inspection reports to confirm drivers are thoroughly examining their vehicles.
Key skills of a fleet manager
Any fleet management association will tell you that, while fleet managers come from a wide range of backgrounds and approach their work in unique ways, the most effective ones typically excel in a few common areas. Here are the most important fleet management principles:
These days, when fleet managers want to check the health of their vehicles or how well their drivers are performing, they tend to use the reporting functions of their fleet management software. And while visualizations and other features make understanding these reports easier, the ability to interpret data and make conclusions is still an invaluable skill. The best fleet managers are able to identify notable outliers in data and customize their FMS’s reporting options to perfectly suit their needs.
From drivers to C-suite executives (and even clients on occasion), fleet managers interact with a wide variety of people. But no matter who they’re talking to, the best fleet managers are able to effectively communicate with any audience. Being friendly and approachable to drivers makes them more likely to reach out when they need assistance. And by learning how to present to upper management decision makers, fleet managers can better express what they need in order to realize their organization’s fleet-related goals.
It’s not an oversimplification to say that the better a fleet manager is at budgeting, forecasting and interpreting reports, the more likely their fleet is to succeed. Operating within a defined budget is a huge part of being a fleet manager, so strong financial acumen can be a massive boon for anyone leading a fleet. On top of that, keeping up to date with general and industry-specific economic conditions is also advantageous.
Familiarity with technology
Over the past few decades, rapid advancements in technology have completely changed the way fleets operate. From telematics to fleet management systems, fleet managers interact with different forms of hardware and software on a regular basis. Consequently, the more they understand the ins and outs of these technologies, the more they can get out of them. Additionally, the more comfortable a fleet manager feels with current technology, the quicker they’ll be able to adopt new technologies as they emerge.
Challenges fleet managers face
From keeping vehicles in good health to reining in expenses, fleet managers grapple with a litany of challenges everyday on the job.
Promoting safety and compliance
Because fleet managers can’t observe their personnel at all times, ensuring safety measures and compliance regulations are followed requires fleet managers to cultivate a strong safety culture among their personnel. This can be challenging, especially when drivers justify cutting corners in order to complete more work. For many fleet managers, striking the right balance between rewarding safety-conscious behavior and cracking down on recklessness takes continuous refinement and commitment.
Keeping costs under control
While fleet managers have some means of offsetting volatile fuel prices and costly vehicle breakdowns, such expenses are largely beyond their control. Despite this, organizations rely on fleet managers to sustain their operations within a defined budget. This tightrope act often proves challenging, especially when inflation and supply chain shortages radically impact prices of parts, vehicles and labor.
Accomplishing more work in less time or with fewer resources is as difficult as it sounds. To achieve that lofty goal, many fleet managers look for inefficiencies in their workflows. But identifying bottlenecks can be difficult, especially when certain practices have been in place for long periods of time.
How software streamlines fleet management
By now, it should be abundantly clear that organizations expect fleet managers to handle a myriad of responsibilities. But when fleet managers only have paper documents or spreadsheets to keep track of everything going on with their operations, things quickly become overwhelming.
Fortunately, fleet management software streamlines virtually every aspect of running a fleet. From a single source of truth, fleet managers can instantly view the status of their vehicles, schedule preventive maintenance, run reports and so much more. As Tom Rowlings, Assistant Fleet Manager for the City of Cambridge said in our case study, “[Fleet management software] allows us to see vehicle downtime, vehicle utilization, everything all in one place.”
This instant access to information provides fleet managers with complete visibility over their vehicles, equipment, drivers and expenses. Once fleet managers are able to see the full picture, keeping track of costs, spotting obstacles to productivity, and even identifying ways to improve safety becomes significantly more achievable.