At a Glance
The Association of Equipment Management Professionals’ education offerings include:
Continuing education is always an advantage in the fleet industry. There are various certifications available to public fleet professionals, but one more specifically addresses the concerns of fleet managers with a significant percentage of heavy equipment, both off-road and on-road — the Certified Equipment Manager (CEM) certification from the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP).
The AEMP formed in 1982 and works to advance heavy-duty on- and off-road fleet management as a career. Its members form what Sara Sanderman, vice president of education, describes as an equipment triangle, with the corners formed by OEMs, dealers, and end users. This group makes up the core membership of the AEMP.
Public sector involvement has dropped in the past few years from a high of 40% of membership, due to the economy and public agencies’ ability to fund travel and training efforts, Sanderman said. However, she does expect public sector membership to increase and is already seeing a larger number of government fleets come back.
As that happens, fleets today are benefiting from the specialized education the association provides.
A Certification for Heavy-Duty Fleet Managers
The AEMP, and hence its certifications, distinguishes itself from other associations through its focus on heavy equipment. Its target then, is fleets, both public and private, that have significant amount of heavy equipment, and these fleets in turn look to the association to provide what may be more specialized training.
Newell Brooks, CEM, manager of auxiliary programs for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, earned his certification through a recent department-sponsored training session. Brooks explained that the fleet professionals in the DOT staff are broken up into 14 different geographic areas — each area has a fleet manager and an equipment superintendent. Of the 75 individuals who qualified for the training program (eligibility is determined by whether the person is a supervisor, oversees equipment, and has 15 years of experience), 15 participated in the recent training session.
The session, presented in conjunction with Ferris State University and the National Center for Pavement Preservation, focused on the CEM curriculum as well as performance-based management, data-driven decision-making, fleet management systems, fleet utilization and optimization, and sizing of equipment fleets, Sanderman said.
Brooks said the department chose the CEM because of its fleet makeup — the DOT has no sedans, its smallest vehicles are Class 1 pickup trucks, and between 35% and 40% of its fleet consists of off-road equipment.
The AEMP certification commission, consisting of volunteer members and led by Chairman Dan Pitt, CEM, of Mulzer Crushed Stone, and Jim Phillips, vice president and chief certification officer for AEMP, writes and oversees the exam. The CEM is targeted to fleet managers with at least five years of experience in the industry. Those seeking this designation study five standards divided by 17 areas of competency: customer service, benchmarking, employee training, environmental requirements as they apply to fleet management, financial management, human resources, life cycle analysis, negotiations, outsourcing, parts management, preventive maintenance, risk management, safety, shop/facilities management, specifications, technology, and warranty and performance guarantees. These standards are part of the AEMP curriculum and manual.
Members can take the CEM test at AEMP conferences and at proctored exams that take place around the world, which are available quarterly. The exam runs four hours, and the amount of studying fleet managers have to do depends on the skills they already have. If test-takers don’t pass an exam, they only have to retake the test in the standards they missed, rather than retaking the entire test. Sanderman said the CEM pass rate for the initial test is 65%, but this pass rate bumps up to 95% upon exam retake.
One of the benefits of certification, Phillips said, is the range of topics fleet managers are tested in. In public agencies, some fleet managers may not get much training in procurement or finance because a separate department will handle this. Since the certifications test this area, this allows fleet managers to develop an expertise in a different area of asset management, even if they don’t deal with that particular task on a day-to-day basis, Phillips said. Another area, he noted, is in writing specifications.
“We have public fleet managers who believe the CEM certification gives them a more well-rounded view of fleet management,” Phillips said.
Sanderman added that one public sector CEM she works with has earned the reputation of having an expertise in procurement, even though that’s not his job responsibility, building credibility for the fleet.
There are two individual equipment certification programs targeted to public fleet managers. For those who are just beginning in their career, with five years or less of experience, the AEMP has the Equipment Manager Specialist (EMS) designation. The EMS exam, which is only available online at AEMP University, addresses the same categories as the CEM exam, but on lower levels. The EMS focuses on practical, multiple-choice questions while the CEM also includes scenario-based essay questions, Sanderman explained.
“[The EMS] is a good beginner’s course for people starting out,” she said.
Of those with EMS and CEM designations, 23% work for government fleets.
Adapting to Changing Standards
The CEM certification began in 1996, and the association has made some major changes since then in order to address changing needs, Phillips said. The association sent out a survey to fleet managers across the country, asking them about changes they wanted to see at AEMP. As a direct result of these surveys, the AEMP in 2008 added the scenario-based essay questions to the CEM exam. It partnered with an outside company to do field testing on these questions, making sure they were useful and applicable. It added the EMS certification in 2009 after hearing from members that it needed a more entry-level certification. Also in 2009, the AEMP added the customer service competency to its study guides.
But the association isn’t stopping there.
“We’re getting ready in 2014 to field test a whole new set of questions so that we can increase our data bank,” Phillips said.
One major component of the field tests will address customer service, so these questions can be added to the CEM exam. While the customer service section is in the AEMP manual, and fleet managers are expected to study it, questions about customer service won’t be added to the exam until 2014, after field testing.
Continuing Fleet Education
In addition to the CEM certification, the AEMP also offers additional training through online modules as part of AEMP University. Some of these courses are available as part of membership, while others, such as webinars, require payment to access. Members can take courses to earn points as part of the recertification process for the CEM and EMS designations — managers must recertify every five years with 40 continuing education points.
Finally, the AEMP offers two conferences annually that also provide training and allows members to take the tests required for certification. Participation in the educational aspects of the conferences earns members recertification points. Additionally, participation in AEMP leadership and classes outside of AEMP training courses, such as those at universities or technical centers, and other industry-related training may also count toward recertification.
As the economy improves and some fleets are gaining back funding, there may be a renewed interest in training programs for fleet professionals. At least, that’s the case for the North Carolina DOT. Brooks explained the department had been working on getting the training since 2005, but hadn’t been able to get funding together. However, after the success of the recent training program, plans are under way for additional training classes with the AEMP in the spring of 2014. Fifteen new participants will be invited to next year’s training session, Brooks said.
● Newell Brooks, CEM, manager, Auxiliary Programs, North Carolina Department of Transportation
● Jim Phillips, vice president and chief certification officer, AEMP
● Sara Sanderman, vice president of education, AEMP