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Diary of a fleet manager: Month One

Date: 30 March 2022

Our anonymous insider gives their second report on getting a fleet in shape.

Today did not get off to a good start. Not one, but two company vehicles had damaged tyres - and yet not one spare between them. The result was two stationary drivers, with jobs to do, with the SLA clock ticking loudly in my head. 

I could not find any fitters to go and replace the tyres immediately, and both drivers were on the same job in deepest, darkest Dorset. A great place to live or to go on holiday, but not so great to get new tyres fitted - so frustrating.

We are now getting new policies in place for the fleet and drivers, but it has been like running up a hill wearing concrete boots. Changing everyone's mindset is not easy, but nobody seems to realise you must do lots of things to keep drivers safe and the boss out of trouble.

The fleet manager's or coordinator's job is often seen as the poor relation within a company, and you really need to work hard to win over the respect of everyone. I find I need to be everyone's friend, yet be ruthless in decision-making and often be the passive-aggressive person to get things done. Our policies seem good and robust, but implementation is not that easy.

We do have specialist engineers who drive our fleet of vehicles, going to customers to install and repair our products. It used to be that you could shake the jobs tree and another candidate would fall out, making filling vacancies quite easy. But now, that tree has withered away, and engineers are in short supply.

The constant battle I have with HR is that I insist the vehicles are kept in tip-top condition, with drivers having to pay for any minor damage, parking fines and other issues. But implementing these simple rules is proving difficult. Our HR department does not want me to upset any drivers by presenting them with invoices for damage or parking fines. HR does not want our engineers to leave over something so mundane as a scratch or parking ticket. This of course leaves me and I suppose many other fleet managers around the country with a dilemma: keeping rules in place or letting drivers get away with anything. It is a real problem, and it is inevitable that you will have someone fall out with you.

Recently, a couple of engineers left the company for different reasons. They returned their vans to the office, and to say they were in a disgusting condition is an understatement. They were filthy, had obviously been smoked in and the cabs were a tip. You could have grown potatoes in the residual filth. Worse still, there were face masks and plastic gloves everywhere - even stuffed into the air-vents. It was down to me to remove these offensive items - where can I find a full hazmat suit? I really do not know how they can drive a vehicle in that condition. I would hate to see what their homes are like; or maybe their houses are immaculate and cleaned regularly, and it is just their vehicles for which they do not have any respect. 

Getting new vehicles to replace end-of-contract vehicles is still proving a nightmare, as nobody can give any definitive date for delivery. I had to buy a car recently from stock that was well above the junior salesperson's grade, but was available for immediate delivery and saved on rental costs for this new starter. As other salespeople got to know what car "sales boy" had got, this caused major problems. They could not understand why someone so junior and new to the company was driving a better car than them. Oh dear, you try to do your best, but it still backfires. Ah, the joys of being a fleet manager.

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