Although fairly new to his position as executive fleet manager for the City of Lakeland, Tenn., Daniel Lovett originally started out as public works director for the Town of Atoka. He was contacted about applying for a position in Lakeland, which is only a few miles down the road from Atoka. Since he thrives in roles where he can improve operations, he felt this was the perfect next step in his career.
Advocating for Consolidation
The project he’s currently working on is consolidating the fleet to include multi-purpose vehicles.
“Instead of having a dump truck that’s just a dump truck, I want a swap loader that can be used for more than that,” he explains. “I don’t want dedicated trucks that can only serve one purpose. It’s about making the most out of what you have, but operating with less if you can.”
For example, says swap loaders can be used in many different ways -- depending on the attachments you use – such as plowing snow or lifting heavy objects with cranes.
“I don’t want to see funds wasted on vehicles that don’t move as much as they should. My goal has been to change the mentality of only using specific trucks each for a single purpose.”
Building Trust Before Acting
He’s been in his current position for a month and a half, and it hasn’t been easy. He took over a fleet that was not well maintained and in disrepair. The previous fleet manager didn't have a capital replacement plan, so he’s taken it upon himself to create one to try and get the equipment modernized, repaired, and replaced.
Working during the COVID-19 crisis has made collaboration a bit difficult as “the new guy” because upper managers don’t get to see each other in person as much as before. While this has slowed the process of getting acclimated, Lovett says it has given him time to build the trust he needs to be able to make tough calls.
“You can’t just come in and ridicule the fleet. You want to avoid stepping on toes, but you have to be honest about how you’re here to help improve the situation.”
Leading with a Team Mentality
He came into his current role with a lot of knowledge, but was put at a bit of a disadvantage as there was a large gap between managers.
“I’ve had to figure a lot of it out on my own. Those who were here before me had a much different leadership style than I do. It was more ‘we’re going to handle everything, you can just use shovels.’ I want everyone to be trained on everything. This makes my job easier, gives the employees a sense of ownership, and helps us serve our citizens better.”