I’ve often heard resilience is the marker of success. The ability to recover from difficulties — to get up after being knocked down — allows people to move forward and overcome their biggest professional and personal obstacles.
That’s why reading the Leading Fleets’ biggest challenges and how they overcame them is always something I look forward to. Not only does it provide a very educational snapshot of what fleet professionals have been dealing with for the past year, but it also shows the resilience of fleet operations and the creativity and hard work of fleet teams to make necessary changes.
Like last year, this year’s applications often listed technician recruiting as a major challenge. What do you do if technicians just don’t think the pay at public sector fleets is high enough? Apprenticeship programs, expanding recruiting to new avenues, and raising technician pay are a few ways to address this. These methods aren’t easy, but most are successful in some way.
Another challenge fleet organizations face is implementing alternative-fuel or zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). Public agencies often tout their new initiatives about a cleaner fleet — “we have this goal, and we’ll have this many ZEVs within 10 years.” It’s important to remember that a lot of work goes into accomplishing these goals. Sometimes, there isn’t enough money and fleet operations have to rely on grants. Maybe the building where you want to install charging stations is too old to handle them. Perhaps you have to work with multiple departments during implementation and they aren’t very knowledgeable — or supportive — of the goal.
Yet, fleet operations persist, finding ways to resolve their problems — which is probably why they were named the Leading Fleets.
Preparing for Post-Pandemic Changes
Resilience is definitely needed right now. Many fleet managers are preparing for a recession. Between 69% and 81% of government fleet professionals expect a reduction in budgets (operating and procurement) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to two surveys Government Fleet sent out this spring.
I’ve heard agencies are laying people off. Perhaps these aren’t fleet employees, or not yet, but even if fleet employees are spared as essential workers, there’s no doubt this will affect their operations.
Public agencies have faced hiring freezes, some of them self-imposed. After all, why hire if you’ll only have to lay off staff members later?
Fewer procurement funds may mean an aging fleet, which means more maintenance needs. Yet, fleet operations have fewer dollars for training and an inability to hire new employees — this is quite a problem the industry will have to overcome.
But unlike other industries faring much worse, public fleet management and maintenance is essential. It’s essential in keeping police cars, refuse trucks, utility vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances, public works, and other vehicles on the road. It’s essential in helping society run. I’m certain while the next few years are likely to be painful ones, the industry will get through it, like it always does. And we’ll continue the cycle again at some point.
We have to rely on preparation, creativity, resilience, and the knowledge this won’t last forever.
Let me know what you think.