Fleet training body the Institute of Car Fleet Management had a productive 2015 – with clearer marketing, ex-Whitbread fleet manager and Alphabet strategic fleet consultant Nigel Trotman joining the board and rising membership figures all contributing to a successful 12 months – and it’s hoping to continue this growth into 2016, states chairman Paul Hollick.

The ICFM chairman – and managing director of fuel card and mileage expense management specialist The Miles Consultancy – concedes “it’s always going to be hard to sustain this growth”, but counters that the organisation has been busy redeveloping its website, building closer industry ties and improving the quality – and quantity – of its qualifications. Meanwhile, Hollick adds that the “depth and diversity that we’ve now got within the board is probably the strongest it’s ever been”.

Helping to woo new and current members alike, the ICFM’s website is currently undergoing a redesign with a new members’ page and slicker interfaces for users, and the organisation is considering greater interaction with website users through self-serve functionality. It is also launching a number of new continuous professional development courses to help existing fleet bosses stay up to date with industry developments.

Topics on the ICFM’s radar include compliance and control and duty of care, along with changes in lease accounting standards, commercial vehicles and the scope of connected vehicles within fleet. Also on the agenda is shaking up how courses are delivered, states Hollick. “We try to change the medium. For sure, we’ve always [offered] very class-based education – now it’s changing much more to be short bursts of information online,” he says, with LinkedIn and Twitter potentially being used more actively by the organisation in future.

“It’s not just about coming in and sitting in a class anymore; it’s about how do you get a constant level of education. We are trying to become far more accessible to our membership.”

Boosting recognition

The biggest challenge facing the ICFM “is making sure that we are relevant within the industry and new fleet managers”, and that people who are new to fleet are aware of the organisation and what it does, says Hollick. “My dream is that when a finance director is looking for a new fleet manager [they look for one with] an ICFM qualification – and at the moment we’re still a way away from that.”

While recruiters replacing fleet managers who have an ICFM membership often search for new ICFM-qualified staff, those replacing a fleet manager without these courses under their belt are much less likely to do so, Hollick claims. “At the moment, [ICFM qualifications] are still being viewed as being a nice to have rather than an absolute requirement,” he says.

According to Hollick: “The fleet managers that go through our training courses should be and will be, in the main, a cut above those that haven’t.” Drawing a parallel to other careers, he states that fleet management should be viewed in the same way as accountancy for instance, with specific qualifications a requirement: “I’m a qualified accountant; I would never get an accountancy job if I wasn’t.”

Linked to this, the ICFM is working to create stronger ties with other industry bodies in 2016, with closer links between the ICFM and the Association of Car Fleet Operators confirmed and between the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association likely.

Preparing for advent of mobility managers

Mobility has been one of 2015’s fleet buzzwords and fleet managers can expect to see a dramatic shift in their roles over the coming years, says Hollick, as fleets move away from traditional management techniques, with the ICFM aiming to equip fleet bosses with the range of mobility-centric skills they’ll need in future.

“We are starting to see a different type of fleet manager coming through that needs a broader skill set around travel and mobility, expenses management and payments,” Hollick adds. “We’ll continue to tailor our courses, but it’s very much lots of changes regularly rather than a big change straight away.”

Despite the growing importance of a mobility focus, “we’re not in the landscape of a proper functioning mobility manager yet. It’s an evolving landscape and it will be evolving for the next 10 to 15 years”, states the ICFM chairman. Consequently, Hollick suggests that fleet managers need to devise a five-year plan and keep a close eye on this in light of new technology and mobility options.

“Manufacturers are doing a fantastic job with automated cars on the horizon and new technology in terms of hydrogen fuel cells and EVs. All of this creates a massive melting pot for people to try to set the strategies over the next five years”, he says.

“And that five-year plan needs to be addressed every year if they can,” says Hollick, with such plans offering real scope for driving down fleet costsĀ  while still living up to fleets’ legal responsibilities.