Richard Hipkiss' blog: The times they are a-changing.
23 March 2017
It's unlikely Bob Dylan had the fleet manager in mind when he first said this, but the phrase fits.
In recent years, we have seen a definite shift away from the traditional role of the fleet manager as the responsibilities and focus of managing a fleet continue to shift.
In organisations where a fleet manager remains in place, the role has often expanded to take more of a strategic focus, with an emphasis on contributing to wider company goals.
In other cases, the role has disappeared altogether, as fleet responsibilities have been subsumed into other departments, such as finance, operations or human resources.
Fleet managers looking to avoid the latter situation have had to up-skill and expand their field of expertise in order to cope with increased cost pressures, complex legislative demands and technological developments.
No matter the situation, one thing is clear, effective fleet management requires a broader focus, as well as dedicated resource.
In an era of 'big data', the amount of information produced by a vehicle fleet is phenomenal. This includes data from risk assessments, driver and vehicle checks, insurance, accident management and telematics.
All these streams feed into different aspects of a business and have huge potential for making significant change, whether in reducing costs, improving risk profile or boosting productivity.
But it is almost impossible for one person to handle all this data, so businesses must look to either allocate appropriate internal resource for data processing and analysis or work with an outsourced partner.
Taking telematics data for example, these systems churn out reams of data on each individual driver, covering everything from journey times, working hours and mpg to their driving style. In organisations employing a large number of drivers, this would be completely overwhelming so it is important to ensure the appropriate managers receive only what is appropriate to them
For example, individual driver reports may be useful to team managers, who can then use these reports to address specific concerns with their employees. Meanwhile, department heads will only need to see an overview of those data streams that are relevant to them - finance will want to see trends in areas such as fuel spend or total cost of ownership (TCO).
But it is not just data where a new approach is required. Given the current volatility of financial and currency markets, it is more important than ever for those with a fleet remit to have a deep understanding of purchasing models and the fleet supply chain.
Greater efficiencies and cost savings can be extracted by applying scrutiny to each element of the process - using a multi-bid purchasing model rather than sole supply being just one example - but the question is whether fleet professionals are ready to rise to the challenge.