I haven’t been around as long as many fleet managers, but my understanding is that public fleet management used to be simpler. Years ago, vehicles didn’t have so many electronics, there were fewer technologies available, and there wasn’t so much data to sort through and understand. I’m sure it was still complex, but it certainly wasn’t as much as it is now.
The Growing Role of Fleet Managers
The responsibilities of fleet managers are increasing. At a recent advisory board meeting, some fleet professionals talked about their growing job duties and not knowing who has the obligation to carry out a certain task. For example, when it comes to installing electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, is it the responsibility of the fleet manager or the facilities manager? Even if it’s not the fleet manager’s job, eventually, that person will still need to become an EV infrastructure expert to collaborate on a solution.
Many have expanded titles, such as fleet and facilities managers. Others have expanded duties and projects, whether that’s doing research on technologies that didn’t exist years before, or an extensive project such redesigning a maintenance facility so technicians can work on natural gas.
Add to this the fact that fleet managers must be public speakers who can convey a message at council meetings, leaders who can manage a diverse team of technicians and office staff, data managers who understand their data and how to make decisions from it, alternative-fuel experts who can help determine the future direction of the city’s mix of fuels, procurement experts who must keep up with purchasing regulations, vehicle and technology experts knowledgeable about the changes to vehicles and technologies, and peacekeepers who know how to tell a customer about a new, unpopular policy — such as one that reduces their fleet size.
It’s a growing list of responsibilities. How do fleet managers keep up?
Rely on Specialists, Even Those Not in Your Organization
Larger fleet organizations often have staff members who can specialize in specific areas. These specialists have the time and expertise to determine how to cost-effectively buy fuel, analyze data to allow department heads to make smart decisions, or try out a new alternative fuel. For example, the City of Seattle’s green fleet program manager is leading the test of using an isobutanol-gasoline blend on a small number of vehicles, possibly the first time a government fleet is doing so.
Smaller fleets, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of employing these specialists. For these fleet operations especially, it’s important to pool resources and knowledge and learn from other agencies.
They can turn to the larger fleets that may have already tried things out. New York City, for example, has released data about the maintenance costs of its electric vehicles as well as detailing its pilot with renewable diesel, along with costs and differences in maintenance and operation. Those unfamiliar with the fuel can rely on these printed resources to stay informed.
How have you kept up with the growing responsibilities of your fleet role?