The role has changed, and so must fleet managers.
Not long ago, a company’s equipment manager or fleet manager got their hands dirty. The job involved maintaining the iron and making sure it was where it needed to be — period. The person was typically a mechanic who had worked their way up to shop manager. Today, a fleet manager is often managing millions of dollars in assets and is expected to not only keep those assets in working condition but also generate a return on investment.
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Fleet management has become so important, in fact, that construction contractors must have a high-performing fleet manager in their C-suite, argued board members from the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) at the United Rentals 2019 Total Control & Innovation Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
The function no longer sits in a silo. Rather, fleet management must be integrated into all other corporate functions, including engineering, operations, safety, estimating, finance and accounting.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying or renting, you need to be in constant touch with finance and accounting to make sure you have a CAPEX budget to do whatever you want to do and you’ve got the cash flow to make it happen,” David Bolderoff, CEM, chair-elect of AEMP and fleet manager, Solid Waste Management Department, Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, told Project Uptime.
Today’s fleet managers are charged with reducing machine downtime, managing equipment leases and vendors, forecasting and reducing total lifecycle costs, recruiting, training and retaining workers and collaborating with safety staff. The demands of the role are reflected in the changing demographics of new fleet managers entering the ranks.
“We’re seeing a lot of the younger generation coming from either a finance/business background or an engineering background,” said Bolderoff. In addition to having a passion for machines, they have “that business or engineering mentality of managing such large assets” as well as a strong understanding of current technology, such as telematics.
“We need to ensure we soak up all the knowledge and experience of the older generation before they leave the workforce, and at the same time understand and adapt to new technologies such as AI, which will transform how things are done in the future.”
AEMP has identified 17 core competencies, organized across five categories, today’s fleet manager role requires:
- Finance: Financial management, risk management, procurement and acquisitions, warranty and performance guarantees
- Customer service
- Information: Benchmarking, lifecycle cost analysis, specifications, technology
- Policies: Safety, employee training, human resource management, environmental
- Controls: Outsourcing, parts management, preventive maintenance, shop and facilities management
Of course, a manager with that consummate set of skills can be hard to find, Bolderoff noted. A person might have ten of them down but fall short on others. That’s where training and continued education come into play. AEMP offers a variety of educational programs to support professional development at all levels, from entry-level to executive, and two annual events that facilitate peer education.
Having both strong technical understanding and solid management skills will help a corporate fleet manager become an effective and respected leader, the speakers contended.
And the role will continue to evolve in the future, they predicted. The best fleet managers will lead innovation and change in their organization, act as talent magnets and measure and manage safety.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in the profession,” said Bolderoff. “We need to ensure we soak up all the knowledge and experience of the older generation before they leave the workforce, and at the same time understand and adapt to new technologies such as AI, which will transform how things are done in the future.”
Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.