Nobody Asked Me, But...

The Fleet Manager Is Still Here to Stay

September 3, 2015

by - Also by this author

I remember sitting in a meeting with Ed Bobit and a few other fleet industry luminaries a little over 20 years ago. The topic of discussion was the rapid decline in the number of fleet manager jobs, the growing influence of “total fleet management,” and the impending doom for all of us who were dedicated to the fleet management profession.

Despite the fact that I had lots of energy, a full head of hair, a great condo on the beach in Los Angeles, and a beautiful young bride, this was more than a little disconcerting to me. Nobody wants to hear that they are about to get disintermediated or relegated to the scrap heap in the race to modernization.

Now, 20 years later, a lot of the energy is gone, even more of the hair is gone, and the condo on the beach has been traded for a kid friendly house with a yard in an area where the beach is just a rumor. And, I’ve still got the same beautiful young bride and I’m still sitting in meetings where people are predicting the impending “doom of fleet management.”

Back in those good old days, Ed Bobit was always quick to point out that the smart and savvy companies were never going to completely outsource such a key function as fleet. Even those who embraced the concept of total fleet management still had key executive and management personnel dedicated to making sure the service providers were hitting the promised benchmarks. And, he also correctly pointed out that no purchasing or sourcing executive with any self-respect would allow a vendor to make all the key decisions over their fleet.

Those sourcing and purchasing executives need to stay on top of the fleet market today even more than they did 20 years ago. Back then, choices were a bit more limited. You had to pick which of the “Big 3” sedans you wanted, then you had to decide if your drivers would revolt if you took that V-8 off the selector and stuck them with the V-6. If you were really progressive, you might have been exploring a maintenance management program or a fuel management program too.

Granted, there was a lot of work involved in managing those relationships, but the year-over-year or month-to-month leaps in technology were much more limited. Today’s fleet professional, whether he or she is a full-time fleet manager or a sourcing and purchasing executive who does fleet “part-time,” needs to invest a lot of time and attention into managing supplier relationships as well as staying on top of technology, legislation, and macro-economic trends that impact the market.

The need for fleet information is greater than ever, even after 20 years.

Even though the sky is still falling and traditional fleet manager jobs are being eliminated, there will always be a need for fleet professionals to make sure the right drivers have the right vehicles with the right powertrains and right cargo capacities and right safety features. We’re dedicated to providing you with that information just as much now as we were 20 years ago. And, we don’t care if your title is fleet manager or director of sourcing, or junior assistant sourcing manager.

It’s time more of our industry associations and suppliers embraced this concept as well. Fleet management will always be a critical role in any business or public entity that relies on vehicles regardless of the title of the person making the decisions.


  1. 1. Pete Barker [ September 03, 2015 @ 10:46AM ]

    Well said!

  2. 2. Allen [ September 07, 2015 @ 03:48PM ]

    The fleet manger is only as assured of the position as he/she is recognized as an industry professional and a member of key professional organizations. By winning professional awards and by holding responsible offices in the organizations expertise can be demonstrated. Membership in NAFA, APWA will show resolve in being recognized. Also, subscribing to key industry periodicals is one way to keep informed of developments in the industry and one way to quickly answer upper managements' questions.

  3. 3. Julie [ September 08, 2015 @ 07:02AM ]

    Throughout my career, my peers in the fleet industry have been surprised that it is not my only role. Even though, for over 20 years, fleet has only been a part of my job, I've managed to run a good fleet. Knowing how to get the most help from your suppliers and keeping myself informed of what is going on in the industry by reading and networking as I have time has enabled me to make the right adjustments at the right time. I have not been afforded the opportunity to be a member of NAFA or ALFA but have still been able to develop a solid network by maximizing contacts through suppliers, LinkedIn, etc. Long story short, this article is exactly right! No matter the title, job function or amount of time spent on it, someone needs to manage the fleet and can do so no matter their overall corporate role.

  4. 4. John Brewington [ September 14, 2015 @ 12:25PM ]

    I consult with organizations that have fleets of 2000 or more vehicles across the US and/or Canada that are “managed” internally by one part-time person whose background is something other than fleet. These fleet “managers” are totally dependent on their FMCs to set fleet policy, communicate with drivers, process orders, arrange vendor agreements, run the day-to day fleet operations, and provide all types of reports that no one has time to review.
    On the other hand, I have worked with organizations that view fleet as another strategic advantage over their competition and are always looking for opportunities to improve safety and lower overall costs. Fleet managers at these organizations have a staff, have goals, have incentives to obtain those goals, and work directly with fleet users to get the very best results for the organization. At which type fleet would most professional managers prefer to work? I think we know the answer to that question!

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Author Bio

Sherb Brown

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Vice President and Group Publisher

Sherb Brown is the vice president and group publisher for BBM's AutoGroup. Sherb has covered the auto industry for more than 12 years in various positions with Bobit Business Media.

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Arthur Lewis is the president and CEO of American Leasing Corporation.

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