Don Moore, fleet manager for Pinellas County, Fla., started out as a mechanic at the age of 21. He worked his way up through different technician classifications, and eventually was able to take on leadership responsibilities on a temporary and then full-time basis. Once he understood the departments mission in the organization, he always wanted to contribute in any way possible, and this has led him down a path that has earned him the title of fleet manager.
At the manager or director level, there's typically nobody above you in the department you can go to for advice or assistance. You might have a boss, but there’s no guarantee they completely understand the nuances of fleet. If your boss does understand fleet management, then you have the horsepower to move mountains.
“You make mistakes and take risks, and learn from the outcomes,” he says.
When managing assets from cradle to grave, as well as taking care of personnel and fleet facilities, it can become overwhelming if you don’t take pride in the decisions you are making and understand the outcomes they’ll have for your government entity.
However, this can be challenging in such a dynamic industry. Something’s always changing, such as how to consistently integrate technology into daily operations and facing a national shortage of fleet technicians. Knowing when to get creative can make or break a plan.
Outsourcing: Is It Really the Best Solution?
A challenge Moore is currently facing is outsourcing. Trying to determine what positions and services are vital versus which can be managed by a vendor can be tricky.
“This creates the constant threat of having to justify your existence. You can’t just assume you’re irreplaceable. However, there are many factors that are often overlooked. Our goals, vehicle uptime, and integrity of craftsmanship support our customers need to meet their operational goals on a daily basis. It's our job to make sure the vehicles and equipment support their mission. If you outsource this kind of work to someone who’s core objective is to generate revenue and doesn't understand what’s at stake, then it can actually cost more than what you thought you’d be saving.”
Implementing a GPS and telematics solution is a current project Moore is working on. Tracking and understanding how assets are being utilized in the field can contribute to strategic decisions in how to best manage assets over their full life cycle.
“Operator management and route optimization have not been at the forefront of fleet necessity until just recently. What’s changed is the ability to pull data from the vehicle in real time. These systems, once integrated into a fleet management information system, can send you alerts as soon as something becomes an issue and create a work order on its own.”
With a fleet of 2,100 vehicles and equipment, he plans to implement telematics on all of them. They’ve just begun contract negotiations, and Moore looks forward to determining how fleet management will use the data collected.
“Employees are still going to bristle at the idea big brother’s watching. But our intent is for fleet management to be the administrator, allowing departments to manage their own data. For instance, if a certain driver goes over the speed limit, their direct supervisor will get an email, and it’s that supervisor’s responsibility to sit them down and discuss it with them.”
Picking Your Battles
The most valuable lesson Moore’s learned during his time as a fleet manager is you don't have to win the battle to win the war. If you’re dealing with a personnel issue or a departmental policy decision, you have to address it through collaboration; sit down and have productive conversations while never losing sight of the larger picture.
“Are you meeting the overall needs of the organization as well as specific internal customer goals so they can do their job? Understanding the linkage to the public we serve and the role fleet management plays to that end will support near and long-term success.”