Excel as a Strategic Fleet Manager in 7 Steps

A strategic fleet manager is hard to define. They’re someone who needs to have a long-term vision of what they want to accomplish for their fleet while setting policies that are supported by senior leadership. They should embrace advancements in technology and use it to lead innovative change as well as integrate new programs into their fleet management strategy. Perhaps most importantly, strategic fleet managers need to manage their fleet proactively, preparing their fleet to take advantage of changing trends within the industry rather than reacting to them.

A strategic fleet manager works proactivelyWhat any aspiring fleet manager should keep in mind is that proactive decisions regarding the direction of your fleet are considered strategic while decisions on how to implement those actions are considered tactical.

A fleet manager who manages their fleet strategically can proactively reduce their company’s fleet spend by implementing the right fleet policies and selecting the right vehicles and suppliers at the right time. With that being said, let’s take a look at the seven steps that will help you to excel as a strategic fleet manager:

1. Understand overall company objectives and corporate culture

If you want to be successful as a fleet manager, it should go without saying that you need to understand your company’s products, services, and corporate culture. More importantly, you need to understand how your fleet fits into supporting your company’s objectives whether they be corporate, operational, employee retention based, or financial.

2. Identify critical focus areas that align with business initiatives

What are the key areas your fleet needs to improve in order to function more efficiently and support your company’s business initiatives? Is it reducing acquisition, fuel, or maintenance costs? Taking measures to make your fleet more environmentally conscious? Or developing safety programs to reduce accident rates within your fleet? Whatever it is, find out what needs fixing in your fleet. After all, you can’t find a solution if you don’t know what the problem is.

3. Use data and case examples to support the need

Data speaks louder than words. Rather than asking senior leadership to blindly trust what you’re saying, conduct research and compile data that shows what the problem is. It’s hard to say no when the facts are staring you in the face.   

4. Present problem to decision-makers

In order to resolve an issue, you need to involve decision-makers in the process to reaffirm that there is a problem and gain their approval for setting out to find a solution. Donlen’s FleetWeb™ Intelligence Visualization Suite is a great tool that compiles your data and shows it in an easily understandable format, which would be perfect for presenting to and gaining approval from decision-makers.

5. Align with key stakeholders to develop a solution

When proposing a solution that will impact anyone else’s job or responsibilities, you had better make sure that you include all of those people in the decision making process. For example, if you’re proposing to develop new processes and programs that would reduce accident rates and costs, then you’d probably want to notify relevant branch managers, HR, risk managers, and your drivers, since they’re the ones who are using the vehicles in the first place. Involving key stakeholders in the process of developing a solution will make it easier for you to implement your change further down the road.

6. Present proposed solution to leadership to gain buy-in and approvals

Many fleet managers are in a position in which they need additional approval to make decisions concerning their fleet. By presenting your solution to your company’s senior leadership team in order to get their buy-in, you can confidently execute on your proposed solutions knowing that your supervisors are aware of what you’re doing and back your actions all the way. Support for your initiatives from the top down is critical to the success of any new process you are implementing for your fleet.

7. Implement change

All that’s left after identifying the problem, finding a solution, and gaining approval from senior leadership is to implement the decided upon changes. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but nothing will improve if you don’t put all of the hard work you did into play. As you implement your fleet initiatives, make sure that you are communicating with your drivers about the change early and often in order to ensure the success of your plan.

Being a strategic fleet manager isn’t easy, but it definitely isn’t unachievable. Remember that managing your fleet strategically means being proactive. Focus more on being a manager and a fleet leader. Concern yourself more with achieving specific, long-term goals and spend less time putting out the inevitable day-to-day fires. The road to success isn’t so straightforward, but with access to the right tools and a knowledgeable fleet management company to help guide you, you’ll be an expert in no time.

Donlen’s fleet management platform, FleetWeb®, gives you the tools you need to be a strategic fleet manager. Contact Donlen to learn more!

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This article was written in collaboration with IDEXX's Sonya Garrepy, 2017 Fleet Visionary Winner and USIC's Phil Samuelson, Fleet Manager of the Year Finalist.