Fleet News

Ask Nigel: Networking/new to fleet

Nigel Trotman has more than 25 years’ experience in the fleet industry. 

As fleet manager at Whitbread he scooped two Fleet News awards – fleet manager of the year (large fleets) and UK fleet of the year – before making the switch to consultancy at major leasing companies Lex Autolease and Alphabet. He entered the Fleet News Hall of Fame in 2013.

He is secretary of ACFO Midlands and is an ICFM board member.

Q: I am a relatively new fleet manager. My background is in procurement, but I have  taken on fleet responsibility as part of my role. I would like the opportunity to network with experienced fleet managers and pick up some best practice. Where should I start?

Nigel says: Welcome to our industry – I hope you enjoy it. I was in an identical position when I first came into fleet from facilities management more than 20 years ago and, while the world of fleet  is a very different place now, the basic principles remain the same: keep building your network and learn from the best.

As a starting point, industry bodies like the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO), the Fleet Industry Advisory Group (FIAG) and the Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM) can help you to start the process by providing networking opportunities, access to forum discussions and best practice guidance. ACFO has a regional structure, so there is the chance to attend two local meetings each year where you can meet locally-based fleet managers. There are also national seminars. The ACFO website allows members to ask questions, participate in discussions and have access to documentation. FIAG was created to share best practice and offers benefits to members. 

The ICFM is the industry’s only accredited training body. Undertaking ICFM training is an effective,  structured way to cover all aspects of fleet  management for someone new to the industry.  Membership of these organisations will also give  you access to annual conferences.

Other ways to learn

Conferences and seminars provide the chance to network with your peers and the opportunity to hear about best practice. I have always found that events such as those run by the various fleet publications provide something of value, whether that is to extend my personal network, view a new product or service or drive a new vehicle. It is important, however, to go to these events with a plan – a clear idea of what you want to get from the day.

I have found that using your suppliers is a great way to extend your network. If you have a leasing or fleet management supplier, ask your account manager to introduce you to other customers – and if the supplier has any form of customer forum, get involved. You can learn a lot about how to get the best from your supplier by sharing experiences.

Similarly, vehicle manufacturers see lots of fleet managers and always want close engagement with them, so make the most of that.

Don’t ignore the fleet press either. Fleet News, for example, offers real insights into best practice  – an interview with a fleet manager who has won  a Fleet News Award is always a worthwhile read, as are the fleet profiles, which are based on real-life  fleet management.

Finally, use online resources such as LinkedIn – this is a really effective way to connect with the industry and gain insights from those who have answers that can help you to avoid reinventing the wheel.

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