The average fleet manager job description doesn't vary much by location—whether you're in San Francisco or Atlanta—the list of requirements typically includes an ability to strategically purchase vehicles, previous work experience at transportation companies, and a minimum of an associate's degree. But what the job description often leaves out is the more difficult to measure aspects of the job—the softer skills needed to effectively get the job done on a day-to-day basis.
Not only are these skills harder to measure, but they're also typically harder to acquire. More than anything, they require a shift in perspective, a little bit of patience, and a lot of practice. Whether you're a seasoned fleet manager with 20+ years experience or just entering the field, it's never a bad time to brush up on the habits that will help you effectively lead your team to success.
Below are five guidelines fleet managers can follow to set themselves up for success in the new year.
Develop excellent communication skills
One simple way a fleet manager can set up their fleet for a smooth year is by effectively communicating expectations with drivers and strategies with business owners.
From explaining safety requirements to identifying the most efficient routes, the fleet manager acts as the guiding force behind an entire fleet. Take the extra time to review directions with drivers or hold trainings to ensure each driver understands how to stay safe behind the wheel. Communicate actionable goals to your drivers to promote safer, more responsible driving habits.
A fleet manager is also expected to communicate larger initiatives to their management team. Whether that’s a plan to reduce costs or a case for new vehicle acquisition, a fleet manager needs to feel comfortable articulating a strategy to senior leadership. Without strong communication skills, it can be challenging for a fleet manager to get the green light on a new initiative.
Data from Berg Insights, a market research firm specializing in fleet management, found that the number of commercial fleets using fleet management software is expected to grow from 8 million in 2017 to over 16 million by 2022. These numbers will only continue to increase thanks to additional fleet management software features like real-time GPS vehicle location and automated vehicle maintenance alerts. The proven ROI should be reason enough for fleet managers, who are pivotal to the financial well-being of their fleets, to adopt telematics and stay up to date with new product roll-outs. As technology continues to shape the fleet industry, fleet managers will be expected to adapt and pull the plug on a “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality.
Get in the driver's seat
In October 2018, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) identified driver shortages as the number one concern for America’s trucking industry. If fleet managers want to retain drivers, it’s critical for them to meet their drivers’ needs.
A major part of driver management and retention is fostering a positive workplace environment. It's easy to fall in the habit of drilling down on drivers who exhibit risky behavior, but it's just as important to take note of safe driving behavior. Consider implementing incentive programs that reward good driving and promote a healthy amount of competition among employees.
Not sure where to start? Try creating a safety awards program or simply make it a point to remark on drivers who go above and beyond. Recognition can go a long way in any industry, and you're bound to see a shift in engagement when drivers feel like they're acknowledged for their hard work.
Use data effectively
Take the guesswork out of company-wide initiatives by making data-driven decisions that impact your fleet and business.
Every fleet manager is expected to collect data about their fleet of vehicles, but that's only half the battle. It's equally important to spend time analyzing and understanding your data and what it means for larger company endeavors. For example, if reducing fuel spend is a major business goal, examine idling metrics.
If you're swimming in data and don't know where to dig in, consider using a fleet management system to help surface key findings. A fleet management system can easily track and distill the information you need and display it in real time to identify and solve problems faster.
It's easy to get tunnel vision when you're hyper-focused on your drivers and the road ahead. It's important to take a step back to ensure you're tuned in to how your operations fit into the company at large. Find an in-house mentor who can provide you with a new perspective and help you solicit feedback about your work. Not only will this help you improve any shortcomings, but it may offer you the opportunity to strengthen relationships within the company for a more fulfilling year ahead.
It's critical to dedicate time for driver feedback, too. Create open forums for drivers to make suggestions or share honest feedback. It’s just as important for drivers to feel like they have a stake in the business, and taking their opinions seriously will result in increased levels of engagement.
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