Mistakes to avoid as a Fleet Manager

Aug 15, 2014

Fleet managers have an exorbitant amount of responsibility stemming from organizing a team of fleet operators to ensuring budgets and projections are realistic and attainable. Like any career path, mistakes and learning experiences foreseeably come and go. However, there are a few that can spell disaster for a company if consistently overlooked. With overt pressure from both the drivers they manage and the executives whom expect results, it is crucial for fleet controllers to be aware of the common mistakes that thwart fleets around the country.

Acknowledge the risk of these seven mistakes so that you can take your clout as a fleet manager to the next level.

Poor Fuel management

With fuel expenses as the largest portion of a fleet's budget, fuel management is a fragile aspect of a fleet manager's duties. When proficiently executed, a controller can save the business thousands of dollars annually. However, when best practices are neglected, fuel management becomes detrimental to the entire business. Key fuel management mistakes arise from failure to utilize a fleet card program, a lack of future planning to hedge the risk of fuel cost spikes, ignoring need for plan in the event of shortage, and not holding individual employees accountable for fuel expenses.

Lackluster communication

As is the case with all verticals of management, communication has the power to build a cohesive team of employees. However, when needs are not met, or expectations of tasks are not explicit, divisions will quickly appear between the hierarchical levels of the business. For fleet managers, it is crucial to clearly state expectations of the drivers – especially in terms of fuel management – as well as regularly inquire about the general desires and mood of the fleet teams.

Improper vehicle utilization

When building a fleet or replacing fleet vehicles, a fleet manager should be able to produce a list of needs and expectations for vehicle design. Factors that can have a long term impact if not properly recognized include operating conditions, vehicle purpose, and fleet size. Fleet vehicles are not one-size-fit-all and should not be treated as such, for oversight in vehicle selection and life span can incur thousands of dollars of unnecessary expenditures.

Weak record keeping

The responsibility for developing or delegating the development of accounting and reporting procedures lies in the lap of fleet managers. This information is necessary for reporting of inventory, cost of fleet operations and supplemental operating data necessary for proper management and control of fleet assets – both tangible and intangible. A competent and efficient means of handling this side of the business is implementing the use of properly programmed fleet management software to maintain these crucial fleet records

Ignorance of dynamic practices

While habits are important to develop for success in both management and life, becoming too steadfast and methodical can lead to declining results. We live in a society where technology and best practices are constantly upgrading to facilitate more efficient implementations of strategies. Ignoring this innovation with the mindset "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" can cause fleets to fall behind the competition and spend more than necessary.

Inability to maintain vehicles

Falling in line with the ignorance of innovation above is the inability of fleet managers to maintain fleet vehicles. Far too often it is seen that managers will not perform regular maintenance of vehicles so as to save a few dollars in the short term. While a few hundred dollars might be saved in one month by avoiding trivial maintenance practices, a failing system might go unnoticed which could lead to requiring vehicle replacement. Spending to maintain in the short run will save an exponential amount over the life of the vehicle

Failure to fully oversee operations

In order to progress as a fleet manager it is important to improve internal processes. By only focusing on direct responsibilities, and ignoring smaller segments of the business can cause fleet controllers to fall behind the average progression of the whole industry. One area in particular that gets overlooked is reception of regular reports about routes, schedule times, and service records.