The majority are 'silent, lazy and apathetic, tend to be reactive and will find themselves jobless if they don't change, the annual Institute of Car Fleet Management conference was told.
The wide divide between the minority of fleet managers who are 'leading the charge' towards becoming total/personal mobility managers and those fleet managers with 'a comfortable life at the bottom of the corporate ladder' came under the microscope at the conference.
Professor Peter Cooke, head of automotive industries management, Nottingham Trent University, said: 'The new breed of fleet executive will be an expert on conventional fleet management but will also be proactive, will be an expert communicator, multi-skilled, will focus on personal mobility and will report in at least at financial director level to put the case for fleet within the organisation.
'If the totally professional fleet manager is not taking such actions then in a dog eat dog world other areas of the business will take over the fleet function.
'It is up to the fleet manager to offer genuine added value to their employer in terms of reducing cost and staff being more efficient in performing their jobs. If directors do not see the fleet manager performing at that level, the job will cease to exist.'
Hywell Houghton-Jones, head of group purchasing at the Nationwide Building Society, said: 'There has never been a better time to be a fleet manager. They can be radical and think strategically. Fleet management is not about vehicles. It is about managing people, their aspirations and lifestyle and that is why I don't believe there is a better time to be a fleet manager.'
Vauxhall corporate sales director Mike Bonner said: 'Companies which will be successful in terms of transportation will be those which have professional fleet managers. But some companies where they have such people already in place just don't understand what the high quality fleet manager can do for them. Increasingly it will be important for fleet managers to say what they can do at board level in their companies. Fleet management is not just about managing cars. It is about transportation issues in the widest sense.'