Behind every successful vehicle based business is a hard-working fleet manager that takes care of the vehicles and drivers.
But what exactly does a fleet manager do and how easy is it to become one? Let’s find out.
What is a Fleet Manager?
A fleet manager is a person responsible for overseeing every aspect of the vehicle fleet used by a business.
They handle tasks like vehicle maintenance, fuel management, driver safety, and compliance with regulations.
Their work involves making efficient use of resources, managing costs, and making sure the fleet operates safely and effectively.
What Does a Fleet Manager Do?
Ensuring that each vehicle in the fleet receives routine maintenance is one of the key responsibilities of a fleet manager, but there's more.
They have to coordinate and schedule regular inspections, servicing, emergency repairs, and preventive fleet maintenance to keep the vehicles in tip-top condition.
A fleet manager also keeps an eye on the performance of each vehicle to identify patterns and issues that may indicate a more significant problem. If a specific vehicle requires frequent repairs, it might be more cost-effective to replace it altogether.
An integral part of this role is selecting and managing relationships with vendors and service providers who conduct the maintenance and repair work. This includes negotiating contracts and ensuring the quality of work while keeping costs within budget.
Fleet managers must closely monitor how much fuel each vehicle uses and identify any sudden changes or anomalies, which can help single out problematic vehicles or untrained drivers.
For example, excessive idling or aggressive driving can lead to an increase in fuel usage. Fleet managers can fix this by training their drivers and instilling fuel-efficient driving habits in them.
Many fleet managers also use telematics systems that provide real-time data on vehicle location, speed, idle time, and more. This technology can offer a thorough understanding of fuel consumption patterns and help identify ways to improve efficiency.
Fuel management also involves the administration of fuel purchases, often through fleet fuel cards.
Vehicle Acquisition and Disposal
Fleet managers have to decide which vehicles are best suited for their fleet based on a variety of factors like the purpose of the vehicle, fuel efficiency, cost, reliability, and even the company's environmental policies. They also negotiate with dealerships to ensure they get the best prices.
When a vehicle reaches the end of its useful life or is no longer cost-effective to maintain, the fleet manager must decide when and how to sell or replace it.
A key part of this process is understanding the residual value of a vehicle. The aim is to get the maximum resale value which can help compensate for the cost of replacement vehicles.
This also applies to a leased fleet, where it’s important to maintain the resale value of the vehicles above the predicted amount to avoid paying unnecessary fines.
Your fleet should have only skilled, reliable drivers capable of performing under pressure. Fleet managers, therefore, only hire individuals with the right qualifications, experience, and temperament for the job.
Once the drivers are on board, fleet managers coordinate driver schedules, balance workloads, and help achieve timely completion of tasks.
It’s the fleet manager’s duty to keep the team of drivers updated on the latest safety procedures, regulatory changes, and technological advancements. They also oversee training programs to improve their driver’s skills.
The fleet manager also plays a pivotal role in maintaining a safe and respectful work environment. They resolve conflicts and handle disciplinary issues while guaranteeing that the drivers adhere to company policies.
What Skills Make for a Good Fleet Manager?
Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills
Fleet managers deal with a wealth of data, from vehicle usage to fuel consumption.
By dissecting this information, they can spot trends and pinpoint issues. For instance, they might notice a sudden increase in fuel consumption for certain vehicles, hinting at a potential mechanical issue or poor driving practices.
However, identifying problems is only half the task. Fleet managers also need to devise effective solutions, whether that involves scheduling repairs or improving driver habits.
Sometimes, they might encounter complex problems that require innovative solutions and put the manager’s problem-solving skills to the test. A driver shortage, for instance, might necessitate a complete rehaul of schedules, routes, and vehicle allocation.
A fleet manager spends half their time behind a desk, trying to manage budgets, expenditures, and costs of their fleet.
Whether it's choosing between leasing or buying vehicles, selecting maintenance vendors, or implementing cost-saving projects, the decisions often come down to cost implications.
But it's not just about choosing the cheapest option. Fleet managers need to consider the long-term value too.
Leadership and People Skills
Fleet management is as much about people as it is about vehicles. As leaders, fleet managers set goals, steer the team, and maintain motivation, similar to a ship's captain.
They have to understand individual team members, resolve conflicts, and foster a positive work environment. Their task is to bridge the gap between ground-level drivers and senior management and effectively communicate across all levels.
A good fleet manager should be able to use tools like GPS tracking and fleet management software to simplify operations and make data-driven decisions.
This also means staying updated with emerging technologies and understanding their potential benefits for fleet operations.
Fleet managers must be familiar with and stay updated with laws, regulations, and standards governing fleet operations, acting as legal scholars within their domain.
Regulations may cover environmental standards, safety protocols, driver work hours, or vehicle maintenance, and non-compliance can result in penalties, increased scrutiny, and damage to the company's reputation.
How Do You Become a Fleet Manager?
You usually need a bachelor's degree in a field like business administration or logistics, which teaches you about how businesses work and how to manage goods and people.
Experience is equally important. Working in logistics, operations, or transportation gives you a front-row seat to the challenges and inner workings of managing fleets. It's common for fleet managers to start their careers as drivers, dispatchers, or even mechanics.
You can also earn professional certificates, such as the Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) or Certified Public Fleet Professional (CPFP), which demonstrate your dedication and competence in the field.
Building relationships in the industry can also give your career a boost, so try to get involved with groups in the industry, attend conferences, and stay updated on the latest trends in fleet management.