The merits of training appear more widely recognised than the benefits of qualifications, although qualifications are recognised as adding status to an employee, and would be even more valuable if employers made them a pre-requisite when recruiting fleet executives.
The advantages of different types of training also vary, with some fleet managers speaking in favour of seminars, Association of Car Fleet Operator meetings, and general networking opportunities to discuss issues and learn from peers.
Others speak strongly in favour of formal fleet training courses and qualifications, with a few panel members having studied for the Institute of Car Fleet Management diploma. One indignant panel member accused Fleet News of 'dumbing down' by asking this question, on the basis that specialist training should be a pre-requisite for fleet decision makers. Other respondents (particularly fleets which have outsourced much of their operation) see a greater need for general management knowledge than fleet qualifications.
Finally, all agree that whatever a fleet manager's qualifications, there is no substitute for common-sense.
##Yes 47--left## ##No 53--right##
'Do executives responsible for managing fleets require specialist fleet training and fleet specific qualifications?'
'Anybody managing the fleet needs to have a thorough understanding of what they are doing in order to achieve best value, but I am not convinced that specialist training and qualifications are the only way of acquiring this knowledge.'
Phillippa Caine, company secretary, CORGI
'A qualification will only become valuable when companies only recruit qualified people into the fleet executive position. I can't see that happening.'
Dave Gill, fleet manager, JM Computing
'In an ideal world yes - but in my own experience, you take the job on and gradually build up a pool of knowledge. The downside is that without any formal qualifications, you are sometimes not taken seriously.'
Pat Marks, Hilton
'This issue depends on circumstances - managing a mainly outsourced fleet is a very different proposition to one where everything is done in-house. I learned a great deal from others in the industry, mainly through ACFO, which I believe can also play a valuable role in educating new entrants and those needing help.'
Nigel Trotman, Whitbread
'No, although any kind of formal training is always beneficial. The other way of learning is by on-the-job training and experience gained over time. That can be just as effective even though you don't have letters after your name. There is nothing like practical experience to learn how to handle difficult situations, and in the fleet industry we have more than our fair share of those.'
Audrey Milne, fleet manager, Bayer
'Yes. Professional competence was perhaps previously associated only with the management requirements of a commercial vehicle fleet, especially under Operators' Licence conditions. However, the increasing health and safety and also corporate liability implications now extending to company cars, and mobile staff in general, makes this a must for managers of all but the very smallest of fleets.'
A.P.M, MICFM and CPC holder. Details supplied
'There is a definite need for training, with too many people employed in the fleet industry who have to learn their trade as they bumble along in the dark. There are also a great number of fleet managers who suffer as a result of number-crunchers who do not understand the basic mechanics of running a fleet and who are not prepared to invest in training for their people.
The ICFM runs some excellent modular training courses - not only do you learn from direct teaching but there is also the opportunity to learn through association with other fleet managers.'
John Clarke, Fleet Services (South), Telewest
'We were a small fleet that has grown to 70–80 vehicles of late. The management of this fleet is only a relatively small part of my role but at this size it is difficult to manage properly and hence we have outsourced our fleet management activity. I do rely on this company to manage and control costs on my behalf and it has reduced my workload considerably over the past two years, especially in the sourcing and disposing of vehicles. It does, however, remain an area where I have not felt the need for specialist training to function properly although recent seminars on issues such as risk management have been very thought provoking.'
M.D. Details supplied
'Yes, the role of the modern fleet manager has become very diverse and requires specialist knowledge. For those fleets who choose to rely on outsourced management, specialist fleet training for the executive who is responsible is essential and qualifications are nice to have but not essential.'
Barry Lingard, fleet manager, Leisure Link
'The role of the modern fleet manager has altered beyond recognition. In today's environment we are expected to be a fountain of knowledge with duties ranging from tax consultant to mobile phone expert to general agony aunt. It is also quite normal for qualified human resources staff and other professional managers to seek procedural advice and recommendations from fleet. I think it would be most beneficial for fleet staff to be trained and obtain specific qualifications, although no examining board can issue certificates in common-sense.'
Chris Fitzpatrick, area fleet co-ordinator, Telewest Broadband
'Yes. Executives responsible for fleets certainly require specialist training. I am a little disturbed that a professional magazine like Fleet News seems to be following the popular trend of 'dumbing down'. Does anyone actually think fleet management does not require specialist training or experience? Further words fail me.'
Bill Pinkney, Transport Consultancy Services
'It depends on what they were originally trained in. Much of the job is finance-based (eg wholelife costing) with the usual HR complications, and like any management position at least 50% is based on common-sense - I am not aware of any training courses/qualifications for this part.'
Ian Smith, group accountant, CpiO
'As my other main activity outside of managing the Motorcare fleet is that of secretary of the Institute of Car Fleet Management, this is a topic close to my heart. As in all walks of life, the pursuit of excellence in the workplace must surely be considered as a hygiene factor and fleet executives responsible for managing fleets should be seeking to lead by example.
In addition, they may wish to consider that there are real advantages attached to specialist fleet training and to the achievement of accredited standards of competence, which are widely accepted by the industry as the pre-requisite for credibility within the profession.
Whether managing fleets directly or through a preferred partner, the issues remain the same and my fellow ICFM council members and I firmly support the view that there is no substitute for high quality formal training which leads to a recognised qualification.'
Peter Eldridge, fleet manager, Motorcare Holdings
'No-one should be so complacent as to believe that they can effectively carry out a job as dynamic and multi-faceted as fleet management without training. There is no shortage of publications, books and information on the internet, seminars, networking opportunities from events and ACFO meetings, and to the fleet executive with an enquiring and open mind these are training.
Training for a job in fleet, or any other discipline, is a necessity but this should not be narrowly focused as in specific fleet training.'
P.B. Details supplied
'Yes. You always want to believe that you know everything about what you do and that what you do is right. With fleet moving into all sorts of areas of risk management and taxation issues, I felt two years ago that I needed to become more involved and understand more, so I decided to take the ICFM Diploma, although it has been extremely hard trying to do the assignment work and still manage my day job. The problem is there are many fleet people around who have never undergone training of any kind and who really believe they know everything about fleet management.
This profession now needs to bring in certain standards, so there should be a recognised qualification for any fleet role.
Because the fleet you have today may change tomorrow with acquisitions and mergers happening within companies, you could find yourself with a small, manageable, tidy fleet today, and tomorrow you could find yourself with a large fleet due to acquisition, so you need a sound knowledge of fleet and the 'interpersonal skills'.
Diane Miller, fleet manager, Milgo Solutions