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Every year, Government Fleet and the American Public Works Association name the top-performing public-sector fleets in the U.S. and Canada. Fleets serving all levels of government compete, the top 50 are named, and individual titles are awarded to the best small, mid-size, and large fleets, as decided by a judging panel made up of esteemed public fleet professionals.

But it isn’t just a benefit to those who take the top spots. National acclaim through the Leading Fleets award program can shine a spotlight on successful fleet operations and lead to increased recognition from customers, taxpayers, and the industry. We spoke to a few fleets about how applying to the Leading Fleets award made a difference in their operation in more ways than a trophy.

1. Obtain Better Resources 

Fleet is a department that traditionally works under the radar. Taxpayers rarely hear about the team keeping their vehicles running until a scandal or negative news item comes up.

“We are able to show that the value of their maintenance dollar is well-spent on initial training as well as ongoing education of the individuals assigned to maintain the millions of taxpayer dollars in equipment,” said Scott McIver, CPFP, fleet manager for the City of Greenville, S.C. Greenville took home the No. 1 Mid-Size Fleet award in 2017, and was named a Leading Fleet in 2018.

After the City of Tulsa, Okla., was awarded the No. 1 Fleet award in 2018, the mayor held an employee town hall and touted the success of the fleet operation. 

“The Leading Fleet recognition opened up a channel with the Mayor’s Office for us to pinpoint the dire need for additional funding to replace aging vehicles and equipment. As a result, the Mayor now hypes the fleet operation but underscores the need for updated fleet equipment,” said Brian Franklin, CPFP, administrative manager for Tulsa’s Asset Management Department.

Asset funding isn’t the only result the department has seen from this achievement. On last year’s award application, Tulsa’s fleet noted an initiative to improve training and certification opportunities for fleet technicians. After the fleet built up its staff, several technicians were recruited by private-sector fleets. 

“As a result, we worked with the Mayor’s Office to gain approval to immediately pay technicians a 10% stipend, and are now working with our Human Resources Department to implement a permanent pay solution that would allow us to be more competitive with the private sector,” Franklin said. 

2. Improve Customer Collaboration

The award may lead to big results, but it can also aid in day-to-day operations. 

“We use the No. 1 fleet recognition as a conversation starter to answer customer inquiries about the awards program, communicate how we earned the award, and highlight ongoing initiatives to improve our services,” Franklin noted. “We are building on this momentum as the award gives us the extra push to improve collaboration with customers and achieve win-win solutions.” 

Fleets often work behind the scenes, and must clearly communicate what they do and how they do it to customers and the community. Explaining their duties with a national award under their belt can help back them up.

“It’s a way to show and share your team with your customers and the public — the national recognition for a job well done,” said Matthew Case, fleet division manager for Manatee County, Fla., which has been named a Leading Fleet  every year since the award began.

3. Earn Industry Recognition

As a Leading Fleet, Manatee County has been approached to assist public and private fleets in improving their preventive maintenance and replacement programs.

“We have hosted several tours of our recently opened transit fleet facility,” Case noted.

Franklin and McIver have also been asked to speak at fleet events across the country, sharing how their fleets have found success. 

4. Boost Team Morale

When the City of Tulsa took home the No. 1 fleet award last year, the team immediately began celebrating. Photos of team members holding up the trophy were uploaded to the division website, banners were hung at each shop, and each employee received a hoodie with the No. 1 designation showing proudly.

McIver from Greenville noted that the national recognition has added an image of professionalism to the fleet operation.

“It has really made the staff here at fleet look at themselves in a whole new light. Our team has seen, though the competition, that they are the best [at what] they do and deserve to be recognized,” McIver said. “Gone is the misconception that Fleet Maintenance consists of a group of grease-covered, foul-mouthed guys piecing the equipment together.”

5. Focus on Self-Reflection

Awards can bring in much-needed recognition from the community and the industry, but winning is not the only thing that matters.  

“The rankings are fun, but I believe they are secondary in importance. In my opinion, the most important aspect of the contest is the ability to self-audit your fleet operation and reflect on your strengths and weaknesses,” Franklin said. 

Following each Honors Celebration at the Government Fleet Expo & Conference — where the winners are named —the City of Tulsa’s Asset Management Department would meet to discuss its application, how the operation compares to the winners, and what initiatives would put them in the right direction. This included adopting ideas and programs from the winning fleets.


Advice from the Experts

  • Get your point across (accurately). “Be willing to look at yourself openly and accentuate those achievements you have worked for all year or years. My boss once told me that ‘it is a sad dog that won’t wag its own tail,’ ” said Scott McIver, CPFP, fleet manager for the City of Greenville, S.C.
  • Get your team involved. Enlisting staff to help you with your application can bring up ideas or notes that you may overlook if working alone. “Competing against other organizations is a fun way to involve your staff and tap into their creativity,” noted Brian Franklin, CPFP, administrative manager for the City of Tulsa Asset Management Department in Oklahoma. 
  • Be ready to brag. “Don’t be conservative when boasting about your team,” said Matthew Case, fleet division manager for Manatee County, Fla. 
  • Consult past winners. “Ask those who have already been through the process what they did and apply that knowledge, as applicable, to your organization,” McIver said. 
  • Start fresh every year. “Don’t get discouraged when your organization does not move up in the rankings. For multiple years we dropped before earning the No. 1 designation. Each year is a clean slate and an opportunity to showcase your fleet operation,” Franklin said.

Applications for the Leading Fleets award open every January. For more information about Leading Fleets and all of Govenment Fleet's awards, click here

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