When your company reaches a certain size, a fleet manager may become necessary for continued growth and success. But what does a fleet manager do? And how do you know when it’s time to hire one?
In this article, we’ll discuss the answers to those questions so you can make the right decision for your business.
Table Of Contents
What Does A Fleet Manager Do?
1) Acquire Vehicles
Acquiring the right vehicles for your business is a big part of what a fleet manager does. It starts with analyzing the needs of your company to determine what type and size of vehicle best serves your drivers and customers.
Do the everyday tasks demand a lot of tools and supplies that can only fit in a pickup truck or a cargo van? Or does a sedan provide enough space to carry everything the employee needs? What will the future needs of the fleet demand?
The answers to those types of questions directly affect your bottom line in the form of initial cost, fuel, registration, maintenance, and other variables.
2) Decide Between Purchase And Lease
For most fleet managers, the vehicle acquisition job doesn’t stop with deciding between a Ford Transit and a Ford Transit Connect.
Fleet managers are also responsible for getting the best possible price for the vehicles, whether you decide to purchase them outright or lease them from another company.
Deciding between purchasing a brand new vehicle and leasing one involves a number of important variables, including:
- Business needs
- Cash flow
- Vehicle availability
- Purchase/lease terms
- Maintenance and service commitments
- And much more
From an accounting perspective, leasing a new vehicle is now considered committed capital and is the same as owning a new vehicle.
In many ways, that makes deciding between a straight purchase and a lease a bit clearer — at least where money is concerned. The choice is now almost solely dependent on the available cash flow your business has to work with.
3) Manage Fuel Consumption
Fuel consumption — and the costs associated with it — is one of the biggest expenses that your business fleet will face.
A big part of the fleet manager’s job is to control fuel consumption so that the price of keeping your vehicles on the road doesn’t exceed the budget.
This may involve setting up an on-site fueling program, negotiating with a preferred fuel network, or providing drivers with the right resources and training to keep costs as low as possible.
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to manage fuel consumption is to issue every driver a fleet fuel card they can use wherever a regular credit card is accepted.
That gives drivers more control over where they fuel up and gives your fleet manager more control over what drivers can purchase.
4) Design Maintenance Programs
Preventative maintenance keeps a fleet safe and on the road longer. A fleet manager is responsible for creating the maintenance program for each vehicle and making sure that drivers and technicians stick to the schedule.
This goes above and beyond just scheduling regular oil changes or ensuring that drivers inflate vehicle tires properly.
Effective maintenance programs depend on a number of variables, including:
- Type of vehicle
- Size of vehicle
- Age of vehicle
- What the vehicle is used for
- Where the vehicle is used
- Driver habits
Setting up preventative maintenance programs for every vehicle in the fleet directly impacts driver safety, total repair costs, and eventual resale value.
5) Lead Safety And Training Programs
Fleet managers also work to establish safety and responsibility protocols and then train drivers on how to abide by those protocols.
Such protocols may include:
- Proper driving technique
- On-the-road vehicle monitoring and maintenance
- Risk management
- Loading and unloading
- Local, state, and federal compliance
- Record keeping
Ongoing training of this type provides real and lasting benefits for your drivers and your business.
6) Track Telematics
No fleet management program would be complete without data from vehicle telematics.
This technology provides real-time access to information, such as:
- Vehicle idling time
- Fuel consumption
- Driver safety and behavior
- State of vehicle systems
- Asset utilization
- And much more
It’s the fleet manager’s responsibility to analyze that data and make changes and decisions to improve the way the entire fleet operates.
7) Ensure Compliance
Managing a business (of any kind) comes with its own set of rules and regulations laid down by local, state, and federal governments.
For fleets of all shapes and sizes, those rules and regulations come from organizations such as the:
- United States Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
- Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)
- And others
Fleet managers are tasked with making sure the business complies with all local, state, and federal laws that apply to its vehicles, drivers, and activities on the road.
- Monitoring hours of service
- Maintaining driver-vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs)
- Abiding by the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA)
- Keeping compliance, safety, and accountability scores up to date
Failure to manage compliance can result in hefty fines and having fleet vehicles removed from service.
8) Create And Enforce Fleet Policies
Fleet managers are also responsible for creating and enforcing all fleet policies.
Each business is different and will have its own unique practices and guidelines, but there are some common policies that all fleets will share, including:
- Standard operating procedures
- Texting-and-driving standards
- Safety standards
- Distracted driving regulations
- Impaired driving rules
- Driver responsibilities
- Seat belt rules
- Accident procedures
- Pre- and post-trip inspections
- Route management
Fleet policies like these help drivers maintain quality and safety standards at all times while representing your business on the road.
9) Maintain Fleet Records
While many fleet managers think of compliance as something that only has to do with drivers and vehicles, there is another significant variable in the equation: fleet records. The federal government has established strict guidelines about the records fleets must maintain.
These records include:
- Electronic logging device (ELD) data
- Dispatch and trip records
- Bills of lading
- Communication records
- Driver expense receipts
- Payroll records
- Settlement sheets
- Driver qualification and performance records
- Drug and alcohol tests
- Vehicle maintenance reports
Rules about fleet recordkeeping — what to keep and for how long — continue to change, so be sure to stay abreast of local, state, and federal laws.
10) Remarket And Repurpose Older Vehicles
It doesn’t matter how diligent you are with preventative maintenance, if you operate cars, SUVs, vans, pickup trucks, semis, or construction equipment, those commercial vehicles are going to wear out eventually.
When they do, it’s the fleet manager’s responsibility to remarket or repurpose these business assets.
There are many ways to do so, including:
- Restricting older vehicles to onsite use only
- Trading in older vehicles for discounts on newer vehicles
- Selling commercial vehicles privately
- Selling vehicles for parts
- Scrapping/recycling worn-out vehicles
- Donating fleet vehicles to a worthy cause
If you’re diligent about how you remarket or repurpose your used vehicles, you can recoup a bit of the cost of ownership through straight sales, discounts, or tax breaks down the road.
11) Monitor Driver Performance
Monitoring driver performance is a big part of what fleet managers do every day. The purpose of this task isn’t to spy on your team but to help them get better at their job.
For example, you may notice that a certain driver tends to accelerate rapidly from or break heavily into a stop. This behavior can cause unnecessary wear on fleet vehicles and even shorten their useful life.
Or, you may notice that a driver has a tendency to navigate corners a bit fast under high loads where they risk tipping, skidding, or otherwise losing control.
By monitoring driver performance and identifying negligent, harmful, or even unsafe behavior, you can take steps to improve their performance and fleet operations overall.
12) Coordinate With Upper Management
Depending on the structure of your business, the fleet manager position typically occupies the middle-management tier between drivers and the owners or C-suite executives.
Part of the fleet manager’s job is to serve as the link between those on the front line (i.e., the road) and those guiding the overall direction of the business.
This usually involves reporting fleet activities and productivity to upper management, translating executive decisions into actionable items, providing input on the state of the fleet, and generally communicating business information from bottom to top and top to bottom.
13) Plan For The Long Term
While being a fleet manager requires you to focus heavily on the short-term, day-to-day activities of your team, it also requires you to plan for the future and the long term.
In most cases, this involves making sure your fleet has the right composition, skills, abilities, tools, and resources for the demands of the business. But it also involves making sure your fleet is reaching its goals — or, at least, heading in the right direction to do so.
For example, planning for the long term may mean analyzing and evaluating whether or not you have the right mix of vehicles to keep pace with the ever-changing niche in which you operate.
And based on the goals and strategies you and upper management developed, is your fleet fielding the most efficient vehicles possible?
These and many other variables are part of planning for the long term and guiding your fleet successfully into the future.
14) Hire And Train New Drivers
As turnover rates continue to rise and driver shortages persist, hiring and training new drivers may occupy a large portion of a fleet manager’s workday.
This usually involves activities such as:
- Setting qualification standards
- Attracting skilled applicants
- Interviewing for a variety of positions
- Using the best hiring tools
- Selecting the best candidates
- Identifying risky behaviors and habits
- Training and educating new hires
- Emphasizing company policies
- Enforcing the rules
- Encouraging good communication
All of this takes time to execute efficiently and well. Hiring and training drivers can quickly turn into a full-time job all by itself if not managed correctly.
15) Control Fleet Costs
A fleet manager has to be a jack-of-all-trades and be able to do many things well to keep the business running smoothly. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to controlling fleet costs.
There are so many expenses necessary to field commercial vehicles that it’s easy to get lost in all the details.
Fleet managers must take account of factors such as:
- Vehicle payments
- Insurance premiums
- Licenses and permits
- Maintenance and repair
- Unexpected expenses (e.g., accidents, tickets, fines)
- Driver salary
- And many more
If any one of these expenses gets out of control, it can affect the business’s bottom line for the worse.
Signs You Need A Fleet Manager
1) You Have At Least 12 Vehicles In Your Fleet
For many businesses, fleet management becomes more of a full-time job when they have 12 or more vehicles on the road.
At 12 vehicles, the job load — i.e., day-to-day logistics and vehicle readiness — often becomes too much for one person who also has to focus on other aspects of the business.
So, for example, if a manager in your HR department has been coordinating fleet activity and supervising the customer service side of the business, when your fleet starts to exceed 10 vehicles, the workload may become too much for them to handle.
This rule isn’t set in stone, but it provides a good metric you can use to decide if it’s time to hire a full-time fleet manager.
2) Maintenance Costs Are Getting Out Of Control
As your fleet grows and vehicles age, maintenance costs can begin to spiral out of control. If you notice that those expenses have grown in recent months, it may mean you need to develop better programs to stay ahead of major breakdowns.
That’s where a fleet manager comes into play. As we mentioned earlier, a big part of the fleet manager’s responsibility is finding ways to keep maintenance and repair costs down.
So, whether that’s creating better preventative maintenance schedules, finding different mechanics to do the work, or hiring an in-house crew to keep the vehicles in good working order, a full-time fleet manager can give the issue the time and energy it deserves.
3) Parts And Supplies Aren’t Readily Available
If you find that your business is often short on parts and supplies the fleet needs, it may be time to hire a fleet manager.
One of the first things to fall by the wayside when a manager is pulling double duty — i.e., coordinating the fleet and overseeing another part of the business — is keeping parts and supplies in stock.
Maintaining inventory of necessary fleet materials often gets pushed off until tomorrow so the manager can deal with something else that needs attention in the business. If this happens often enough, it can become extremely difficult for your drivers to do their jobs.
A full-time fleet manager doesn’t have to spend time managing another part of the business. They can focus on keeping the fleet in good working order and making sure that the drivers have what they need.
4) Driver Performance Is Becoming A Problem
Driver performance — whether related to fatigue, efficiency, or something else — is another one of those issues that, with a certain size fleet, can become extremely difficult to manage if you’re not giving it your full attention.
If you notice your drivers starting to perform below company standards, it might be time to hire a fleet manager. A full-time supervisor can analyze the situation and address the issues that are causing job performance to decline.
Another manager in your business could do this job, but a fleet manager is able to focus solely on fleet-related issues rather than dividing their attention.
While a drop in driver performance doesn’t always indicate a need to hire a full-time fleet manager, along with the other signs on this list, it does serve as an excellent metric.
5) You’re Missing Registration And Inspection Deadlines
Managing a fleet requires you to comply with all local, state, and federal registration and inspection requirements.
If these details aren’t kept current, your business can face hefty fines and punitive downtime from a number of different organizations.
For a manager dividing their attention between supervising a fleet and another sector of your business, it can be easy to lose track of registration and inspection deadlines.
A full-time fleet manager, on the other hand, can focus exclusively on fleet-related issues so that annual, semi-annual, or quarterly events like this don’t go forgotten.
6) You Don’t Have Time To Evaluate New Technology
New technology is the lifeblood of effective fleet management. From GPS to telematics to fleet cards that also let your drivers pay for maintenance and repairs — technology comes in many forms.
If you don’t have time to evaluate and implement these new advances when they benefit your business, you’re working at a distinct disadvantage.
A dedicated fleet manager is “in the trenches” every day and knows what technology your drivers and your company need to be successful. They’re also in a better position to know how to implement new tools without making the day-to-day work more difficult.
7) Quality Of Repairs Is Decreasing
When the quality of repairs you receive on your fleet vehicles decreases and you’re unsure why it’s happening, it’s usually a symptom of a larger problem underneath and a sign that your business needs a dedicated fleet manager.
As an owner who’s pulling double duty, it can be extremely difficult to stay on top of vehicle maintenance issues and monitor the repairs to ensure they’re done right the first time around.
While a dedicated manager has a lot of other responsibilities to contend with, one of their main tasks is to find high-quality mechanics to work on your business vehicles.
If the quality of repairs is decreasing, the fleet manager will be the first to know and can take steps to find a different shop or broach the subject with your on-staff fleet mechanic.
8) Your Current Program Isn’t Scalable
As your business grows, programs and processes that worked before may start to break down.
Your first instinct may be that some external factor, like the rising cost of doing business, is causing the problems. But the reality may be that your current fleet management program isn’t scalable.
In essence, your business may have outgrown the programs and processes you had in place originally and need something new to fill the void.
If you discover this is the case, it may be time to add a dedicated fleet manager to your staff. They’ll have the time and energy to put programs in place that are flexible enough to scale with your business and not be left behind as your business grows or evolves in a different direction.
Scalability can be difficult to achieve, but with the right input and collaboration, a dedicated fleet manager can create solutions that will serve your business well no matter how large it gets.
Grow Your Business With A Fleet And Fuel Card
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- Assign a single card to different drivers or vehicles
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