What do the cities of Santa Rosa, Calif.; Castle Rock, Colo.; and Sacramento, Calif., have in common? All of them employ fleet advisory boards.

In the case of the City of Santa Rosa, its fleet advisory board is a committee of customer department representatives that convenes on a quarterly basis. It consists of appointed employees from: Utilities, Public Works, Transit, Recreation and Parks, Police, and Fire. The board members oversee the utilization program and replacement prioritization, and review all additional fleet vehicles prior to budget development. They also monitor the performance criteria established for the Fleet Services section in meeting its goals, which were established in the budget process.

Similarly, the Town of Castle Rock uses its fleet advisory committee as a customer service tool. The Castle Rock fleet advisory committee includes one representative from each town de-partment and meets quarterly. The committee has two purposes: provide performance feedback to the Fleet Services division and help make policy decisions concerning the Town’s fleet.

Likewise, the fleet advisory board for the City of Sacramento is used to facilitate internal/external communication and separately to monitor and improve customer service provided to city user departments by the Fleet Management Division.

The key reason fleet advisory boards are successful is because they offer customers/users a say in managing the fleet. By its nature, a fleet advisory board institutionalizes ongoing communication and helps increase customer understanding of the constraints and challenges facing fleet operations.

Setting Expectations

If you are planning to create a fleet advisory panel, it is important, from the outset, to clearly state your expectations as to the purpose of the board. As the fleet manager, you need to drive the fleet advisory process.

Initially, this includes determining how often the board will meet, the length of each meeting, how long committee members will serve, and how new members will be selected. It is important to rotate new members into the fleet advisory board. However, you need to be cognizant of balancing the need for continuity with the need for fresh ideas and perspectives.

As the chairperson, you can’t “wing” these meetings. To get the most out of an advisory board meeting, it is necessary to prepare for each meeting far in advance. You should give careful thought when developing the meeting agenda. However, developing the meeting agenda isn’t a solitary effort. Solicit input and suggestions for the agenda from each of the advisory board members. Distribute pertinent information well in advance of the meet-ing to allow members to come prepared to address the scheduled topics. Not only should you give in-depth thought to the agenda, but also to how you will be managing the discussion during the meeting. To ensure the fleet advisory committee is productive, you must listen to each of your board members and address voiced concerns. Run the fleet advisory board as you would other official departmental meetings.

Someone should be assigned the responsibility of documenting the discussion. These written minutes should be circulated to not only all participants, but also to senior management. In addition, the minutes should document the recommendations or action plans to address the issues discussed.

A fleet advisory board is a powerful tool to gauge the perception of fleet operations by your user groups. It is important that you include on the board people who will challenge you, even on minor issues. Don’t dismiss minor problems as unimportant, as they can fester and eventually grow into more serious problems. When you meet, hold nothing back and remain open to challenges. Do not become defensive. An advisory board discussion must be open and frank, so don’t be offended if you hear things you don’t like. The purpose of the advisory board is to suggest ways to correct the problems identified by committee member. Advisory board members should know you want their honest opinions. Encourage communication to flow both ways. Consult with your advisory board before making major changes in fleet operations.

Selecting the Right People

It is important to choose the right people for a fleet advisory board. When forming a board, you want members to be problem solvers who are quick studies with strong communications skills, and are open-minded. It is important to be respectful of the time commitment of each of board member. Don’t waste their time. Make sure every meeting is well facilitated so that specific action items, assignments, and deadlines result.
Once a year, assess how effectively the advisory committee is functioning. Is the committee serving its purpose? Ask committee members to provide feedback on the effectiveness of the advisory board. Do they feel their work is making a difference? Do they feel their input is valued and taken into account by fleet operations when planning and implementing initiatives?

Fleet advisory boards require a lot of work and are not for thin-skinned managers, but the benefits are substantial – just ask the cities of Sacramento, Santa Rosa, and Castle Rock.

Let me know what you think.

About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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