It's a complex and varied role, but what separates a great fleet operator from a good one? Andrew Ryan asks Fleet News Awards winners for their opinion
Role: Head of vehicle fleet management, South Yorkshire Police.
Fleet News Awards CV: Fleet of the year 251-1,000 vehicles, 2015.
SG: Great fleet managers need to have a number of qualities.
You need the ability to multi-task: as a fleet manager you are constantly juggling a variety of demands from drivers, management and suppliers, to mention just a few. The art is not dropping the ball and keeping the fleet on the road, while managing costs, performance, etc.
You need to be adaptable to change. Fleet is constantly developing with new technology, legislation, reductions in staff, budget cuts and requirements to meet savings targets. You must be able to not only keep up with the pace of change, but be ahead of the game.
A fleet manager needs excellent communication skills. Being able to communicate at all levels, both verbally and in writing, is paramount.
Great fleet managers also need leadership skills. The ability to lead and inspire a team toward a common goal is important. You also need to be a good decision-maker. As a fleet manager, you are called upon to make a variety of decisions, some on the spot.
It is important to have the confidence to take those decisions and stand by them.
Role: Procurement manager, Red Bull.
Fleet News Awards CV: Fleet of the year up to 250 vehicles, 2014.
DO: Being a great fleet manager requires a wide variety of different qualities. But the ability to be curious and agile enough to react to so many changes from your business, its employees, manufacturers and legislative and environmental requirements means you can keep your fleet at the forefront of best practice and future thinking. Having a clear understanding of your organisation’s aims, your drivers’ wants and needs and the skills to marry these into a workable fleet-managed vision that you want to ‘sell’ to the senior management means you also need to be credible and influence all levels of your organisation.
To do this, a fleet manager should always be inquisitive and challenging of both his or her self and the raft of suppliers that help them deliver the vision.
An ability to see the driver, the journey and the vehicle as completely interlinked and not just cars and fuel will ensure you take a holistic view of fleet management, which in my experience is easier to translate into a strategy that the board will buy into.
Role: Head of fleet services, Environment Agency.
Fleet News Awards CV: Fleet manager of the year, 2015, green fleet of the year, 2015.
DE: Having the right team of people around you is vital to great fleet management, so make sure you are recruiting, selecting and training the right people: don’t think you can do it all yourself.
I also think fleet managers need to be able to constantly look to the future and prepare themselves for what might be coming. It’s not an industry that ever stays still, so someone’s ability to look at the slightly bigger picture and look ahead and plan on that basis is an essential skill that you want to have.
In addition, an ability to manage suppliers is vital, although it’s not an area you can get a lot of training for. Procurement will get a contract for you, but actually managing that supplier throughout the course of that contract is quite challenging, so you need to be very good at managing contracts.
Role: Head of logistics support - Western Europe, Iron Mountain.
Fleet News Awards CV: Fleet of the year – up to 250 vehicles, 2015.
RM: Great fleet managers have the ability to embrace change and the exploration of opportunities to enhance the fleet, its drivers and the business.
They need to be open-minded regarding alternatives and/or new technology, but also have the capability to understand and take decisions based on their potential and if they deliver value and benefit.
Role: National fleet services manager, NHS Blood & Transplant.
Fleet News Awards CV: Fleet News hall of fame inductee, 2015.
LB: Great fleet management is the skill of getting the basics right for such things as vehicle selection, specification, maintenance, replacement programmes, driver training, fuel management, etc., and developing them to high standards. I believe a great fleet manager develops what I call ‘management stamina’ to keep reproducing high standards over and over again in a sustained manner over a number of years.
This builds the experience to drive ongoing good fleet management; and good fleet management includes introducing initiatives and sharing these initiatives with the fleet industry. I think it is important that fleet managers strive for continual improvement and learn from other fleet managers. But what is also important is innovation: doing something that works, that no one else has done before. I like to think that the distinction between implementing good initiatives and developing innovative ideas is the difference between good fleet management and great fleet management.