How to Get into Fleet Management
Oct 24, 2023
Are you considering a career in fleet management? We sat down with a recently-hired fleet manager to learn more about his daily responsibilities and to highlight some of the key characteristics of a good fleet manager. In this episode, you'll get tips on how to set yourself apart during the interview process as well as some guidance on how to be successful once you land the job.
Welcome to The Fleet Code, a podcast brought to you by Fleetio, where we dive into the latest fleet industry trends, technologies, and best practices. My name is Zach Searcy, and I was recently talking to Carlos Romero with C&C Complete Service, who is relatively new to fleet management. And I was able to get some unique insights into what the interview process looks like for a fleet manager and some of the steps that he took to prepare for his first role in fleet management.
And just in case my boss is listening, Carlos did say that he actually used tips from this podcast to prepare for his job.
But I wanted to share some highlights from our conversation and hopefully help out some of you who are looking for a new role or trying to get into fleet management for the first time. So let's get into it.
What is a fleet manager?
I think it's important that we first assign a definition to "fleet manager." I just used air quotes there and immediately realized that most of you cannot see me because this is a podcast. But what is a fleet manager? At its core, a fleet manager is a person responsible for anything and everything related to an organization's vehicles, and there are so many things that go into this role.
As a fleet manager, your primary responsibilities are to promote safety and compliance, keep costs under control, and increase productivity within your fleet. As a fleet manager, you could interview potential drivers, purchase a new truck, schedule out your next week's fleet maintenance, and review your fuel expenses to see how it aligns with your budget plan, and that's just one day's work.
Fleet management is not a specialty, it's a full service shop, and outside of the measurable tasks, you're taking actions to ensure the safety of your technicians and your fleet operators. And when I asked Carlos about his daily responsibilities, he said,
[Carlos] Day to day has been pretty hectic, 45 vehicles, 45 individual drivers, everybody scattered pretty much across the operational area.
When I came in, we had about 45 vehicles, you know, and just we're acquiring more constantly. Okay. If you're still on board so far, then that's good to hear because it's a big job with a lot of moving pieces, literally. Fortunately, with the tools and technology that are now available, you have a lot of resources to help you be successful quickly.
What is the path to fleet management?
So how do you land your first job in fleet management? Obviously, when applying for any position, the most important way to set yourself apart is by showcasing relevant experience. Traditionally, most fleet managers started as a fleet technician first, and then they worked their way up. However, we're seeing more and more young people getting their start in fleet management because Technology has become such a useful part of the job.
New age fleet managers are able to get up to speed quickly because they're more willing to leverage new age processes in order to simplify their job. Carlos was not a fleet manager before this. For Carlos, his relevant experience started in the Marine Corps as a warehouse manager.
[Carlos] Before, my experience was running warehouses, running marines, running personnel and really was not a lot to do with, uh, you know, fleet management before this. Uh, it wasn't actually until my in person interview with the COO where they brought up the fleet management aspect of the role.
I was completely honest. I had almost no background in that. The most vehicles I've ever managed were the ones that were signed out by our unit when I was in the Marine Corps. And that was three, maybe four vehicles. Maintenance was real minimal.
I want you to notice that he did not lie or exaggerate his past experience. He found connections that would allow him to be successful in this, and then laid out a plan for how he could quickly get up to speed and be a successful fleet manager.
If you're looking for a role, Carlos took a pretty unconventional approach, so he just uploaded his resume to Indeed. Let the employer find him.
[Carlos] Kind of just on a whim my wife had recommended that I throw my resume up there and just, you know, see if anybody, you know, took the bait and that it worked out.
And now I know your mom has told you that any company would be lucky to have you. And that's true, but you might have to take a few more steps than Carlos did. So much of finding a role in fleet management is about making the right connections and showing the right indirect skills.
Like, can you lead a team? Can you create structure and organization, or are you good with technology? Do you have a good financial sense? Or even can you communicate what you're seeing in your fleet's data?
For some fleets, the best person for them to hire is somebody who will come in with a fresh set of eyes and refresh a bunch of outdated or inefficient processes.
That person could be you. You just have to communicate that. And sometimes the right job for you is not even one that exists yet. You would be surprised at how many people we talk to who have no clue that they even operate a fleet of vehicles. Like, they know they have a lot of vehicles for their company, but they've never once considered it to be a "fleet."
I just used air quotes again, by the way. Even in Carlos's scenario, they had a fleet, and they knew they had a fleet, but they didn't have any effective fleet processes in place.
[Carlos] As far as service history, there was nothing. There's no database, nothing crazy. It was a stack of paper, like a foot thick of just service records for every single vehicle with no type of organization.
You might find yourself searching for a role that doesn't exist yet. That can become a game of convincing the hiring manager of their need for this kind of role. But if you can show that you have a plan, then maybe you can convince them that you've identified a gap in their team. And I think that's a good practice to follow regardless.
How can you stand out in a fleet management interview?
Once you land an interview, Your job is now to convince the hiring manager that you're the right fit. And the best way to get a hiring manager to feel comfortable around you is for you to show a high level of understanding of their fleet operation. Take note, or even your best guess of what their fleet assets look like, and then do some research on what standard maintenance and upkeep looks like for those assets, ask them questions about their current maintenance process to see if you can identify any inefficiencies and speak to past experiences that are similar or share some of the tools that you'd like them to use.
My producer asked that I mention Fleetio's fleet management software here. Be ready to talk about which tools will allow you to improve productivity fleet wide.
I do want to interrupt myself here real quick.So, there is a fine line between riffing and having ideas in an interview setting and tearing down what they're currently doing. You don't know what they've tried. You don't know where they've had success. You aren't even recommending any big changes here just yet. You're just trying to show them that you have the competence and the ability to optimize their fleet operations.
Make this conversational. Ask them questions. Listen and show an interest in what they have to say. That's a good rule of thumb for any interview.
Okay, so where was I? Remember the primary responsibilities of a fleet manager that I mentioned earlier? Promote safety and compliance, keep costs under control and increase productivity within your fleet.
Those responsibilities are common across all fleets. So have a plan for how you can tackle each of those challenges and use that to guide your conversation and your questions. In an old episode of The Fleet Code, we talked with two former fleet managers about steps that people can take in the first 90 days to make a quick impact on their fleet.
The whole episode is full of great moments, so I highly recommend that you listen to it next, but the key takeaway was to learn as much as you can about their fleet and then find opportunities to improve processes. If you can get a head start on learning about their fleet and can showcase that in an interview, then you allow the hiring manager to get a glimpse into what it would be like to hire you and how they can look good by bringing you on board.
How can I learn how to be a good fleet manager without prior experience?
And then leading up to your interview, during your interview, and after your interview, the best thing you can do to prepare yourself is to always be learning. There are so many great resources available to fleet managers that allow you to learn what others are doing. I mean, off the top of my head, I can think of at least one fleet management podcast, but use those resources to be the best version of yourself.
The reason that Carlos is finding success in his role is because he's leveraging what's available to him to keep improving his understanding of fleet management.
[Carlos] Pretty much every educational resource that you guys had to offer on just the basics on. how to be a fleet manager, what to look for in a fleet, you know, what kind of metrics that you should run yourself off of. Like, everything that has to do with being a fleet manager, I pulled mostly from Fleetio resources and the Fleetio information bank.
If you're interested, I will obviously share those links in the podcast description.
[Carlos] But that was absolutely crucial, um, between that and then just Amazon Audible books on the basics of fleet management and that kind of thing.
So the best thing you can do right now is subscribe to fleet management newsletters. So you can see what news is happening in the industry, listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos to hear what people are talking about, but also to hear how they talk about it, read blogs. I mean, if there's a TikTok dance that teaches you how to be a better fleet manager, then it's time to put your phone on a tripod and start learning the moves.
And this is all going to help you after you land the role as well. For Carlos, they went from not even being able to measure their fleet's productivity to setting goals that forced them to be more proactive in service rather than reactive.
[Carlos] That was the biggest thing, was just trying to figure out how to track what had been done, what was being done, and then also making sure that we weren't just doing repetitive service.
That happened for a long time. Quite a few vehicles fairly often in the beginning kind of tailored that out now that we're, you know, actually, you know, aggregating everything and being able to have a history for, you know, all the service that's been done. But, uh, yeah, that was one of the bigger things was just trying to get ahead of the scheduled maintenance, um, and reducing the unplanned.
Cause I think it's still pretty high. I think it's like a 60, 40 split as far as unplanned versus scheduled maintenance.
[Zach] What do you think is your goal there? Do you, do you have like any targets that you're trying to get that to?
[Carlos] Uh, yeah. So within the next three months, um, that's kind of when I, my forecast that I'll be able to have be, you know, fully implemented into Fleetio, at least being able to have all my drivers into it. And then I want to get that flipped. So I want to be at least 60 percent scheduled and 40 percent unplanned and then just continuing down as the rest of the year goes on.
Music to my ears! And also, there's no better way to improve your processes than to learn how others in the industry are tackling the same challenges.
We always recommend that fleet managers try to get plugged into a community of fleet managers, be it through a fleet management association or by attending fleet management conferences. The more you can surround yourself with people in the same position, the more you can learn from their... I don't want to say mistakes, but I will.
The more you can learn from their mistakes to prevent it from happening in your fleet.
That's all I have for today's episode, although I do have a question for other fleet managers out there. If you've been through the hiring process, what do you think prepared you the best? Or if you've been involved in hiring fleet managers, what skills were you looking for in a candidate?
Send us an email at podcast[@]fleetio.com or leave a comment on our YouTube channel. As a reminder, the fleet code is brought to you by Fleetio. If you're looking for the best way to get control of your fleet, being proactive in vehicle maintenance and measuring the impact of the work you do, it does not get any better than Fleetio's fleet management software.
You can learn more about Fleetio at Fleetio. com. That's fleetio.com. Carlos kindly mentioned Fleetio's resource library in this episode. I've included a link to that in the episode description, as well as a link to the episode where we talk about how to make an impact in your first 90 days. I think you will find all of those resources helpful as you learn more about being a fleet manager and then land your first job.
Make sure you subscribe to the fleet code on your podcast platform of choice to keep up with the latest tips and tricks for fleet managers, leave a review or a rating. If you're into that kind of thing. And if you have a topic that you would like for us to cover, send us an email to podcast[@]fleetio.com and let us know.
Subscribe to our newsletter and follow @Fleetio on social media for even more fleet management best practices.
Takeaways from this episode:
- The right fleet management role for you might not even exist yet. Sometimes you have to convince an organization that they need somebody to manage their fleet.
- Leverage the interview setting to learn about an organization's current system and speak to past experiences to show that you understand their scenario.
- Take advantage of any learning opportunities that exist - newsletters, fleet management associations, podcasts and more.