The figures tell their own story. Of the estimated 3,800 fleet managers in the UK, fewer than 200 have completed the ICFM Certificate or Diploma in Car Fleet Management.
The only training programmes created specifically for the role of the fleet manager are seriously under-employed, yet graduates are glowing in their praise for both courses.
Duane Leach, head of transport services at Gloucestershire Constabulary, achieved not only a Distinction in the Diploma last year, but was awarded ICFM training achievement of the year (96% average).
He was promoted from workshop manager to his current role four years ago.
It was, he admits, a “big transition”. Within a year he had enrolled on the ICFM Certificate course, which provides an overview of law, acquisition/disposal, finance and admin, and control. He fast-tracked through to the Diploma, which adds the strategic perspective including writing policy, planning, budgeting, supply routes and supplier relationships.
The appeal was the opportunity to broaden his skills, particularly in finance, legislation and business, as part of the continuing professional development philosophy which courses through the police force.
“I wanted to be recognised as a fleet professional,” Leach says. But he was surprised just how much there was to learn.
“I didn’t think it would make as much difference as it has – it’s a much bigger skills base,” he says. “The ICFM modules will give you the base you require to springboard forward.”
In many ways, the training came at the perfect time for Leach. Like other police fleet managers, he is facing the swingeing budget cuts implemented under the Government’s austerity measures.
“Finance was one of the biggest difficulties on the course, but I now have a better understanding of budget analysis,” Leach says. “And I can apply this to the cuts that are coming in.”
He adds: “Everything fell into place as we were doing the modules – there were things to change and improve based on all of them.”
Leach’s priority is to deliver a support service to the police to enable officers to carry out their duties.
But a core element is to control costs, which helps the force to retain the staff required to deliver the service.
It’s where the focus on streamlining processes and procedures and introducing ‘invest to save’ strategies like telematics can really make a difference. As Leach says, “the savings keep people in jobs”.
He is currently undergoing a thorough review of the force’s 446 vehicles, challenging staff that travel fewer than 1,000 business miles a month to justify why they need that operational vehicle.
Leach calls it “working smarter with the budget”, a sentiment that would sit well with the policymakers in Whitehall. “Plan/forecast/control are the buzzwords,” he adds.
The review follows a substantial restructure of the Gloucestershire force, which transformed three regional divisions into six local policing areas. Leach has needed to reassess his fleet policy to ensure vehicles reflect where the resource is now needed.