Successful fleet managers in the future will have to adapt to and make the best use of new technologies.
The fleet landscape has already undergone considerable change, with far fewer traditional fleet managers as companies have outsourced large parts of their fleet functions to leasing providers or fleet management companies.
It has resulted in supply chain managers taking responsibility for these relationships as part of a broader role, perhaps in finance, procurement or HR.
But, while the role is changing and often expanding into travel, mobility or insurance, the fundamental purpose of a fleet expert to reduce costs, improve safety, tackle environmental concerns and manage relationships, remain central to an effective and efficient fleet operation.
Technology will have a major role to play and is already providing more management information and autonomy for drivers to manage their cars via online services.
Paul Marchmant, market development manager at Arval, speaking at the Future of Fleet debate at Fleet Management Live, said: “There are a myriad of fleet technologies now such as battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, but it needs to be deployed in the right place.
“The role of the fleet manager will be to assess what their drivers are doing, their journey cycles and how they’re using their vehicles so that they’re deploying the right technology in the right place.”
It suggests a steep learning curve and one which providers will have an important role to play, according to Jayne Pett, commercial director at Interactive Fleet Management.
She said: “They will need to be better educated and we will need to be part of that, whether a company fully outsources or part outsources their operations, and it may include bringing in other third party suppliers such as the Energy Saving Trust where they can offer their expertise.”
Matthew Walters, head of consultancy services at LeasePlan, believes the sector is probably facing the biggest change it has seen in the past 20 years.
“In the future, it’s going to be more about the journey than the metal,” said Walters.
It is a trend that Caroline Sandall, fleet manager at Barclays Bank, is already seeing in her day-to-day operations.
“Everybody wants an effortless experience, whether you’re buying your broadband or choosing your company car,” she said.
“Technology is key, but fleet managers need to find their way through the data to help users to have a simpler experience and keep control over costs.”