Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

4 Nominated for 2012 Fleet Executive of the Year

Four professional fleet executives have been nominated for the prestigious award. The winner will be announced at the 2012 NAFA Institute & Expo in St. Louis.

March 2012, by Lauren Fletcher - Also by this author

Michael Ahart

Company: Dean Foods Company
Title: Vice President, Transportation
Total Vehicles: 12,000 Class 7-8 trucks; 1,500 passenger vehicles
Staff Supervised: 11
Years in Fleet: 7
Replacement Policy: Tractors - 10 years/800,000 miles; trucks - 10 years/350,000 miles; passenger cars - three to five years/approximately 120,000 miles.

Michael Ahart is vice president of transportation for the Fresh Dairy Direct division of Dean Foods Company, a food and beverage company, reporting revenues of more than $13 billion in 2011.  With nearly 12,000 Class 7 and 8 power units and refrigerated trailers, Dean Foods is recognized as the 12th largest private carrier in the United States by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), traveling approximately 200 million miles annually.

Ahart has been with Dallas-headquartered Dean Foods since August 2000, where he has held a variety of operational and financial leadership positions before being promoted to his current position in 2006. He holds a master of professional accounting degree and has worked for Deloitte and Halliburton. Ahart is a member of the ATA's Technology Maintenance Council and a charter member of the Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) Fleet Forum.

Ahart has implemented several fleet initiatives since taking the helm of the Dean Foods fleet. Vehicle specifications have been standardized, purchasing and leasing have been centralized, titling and registration outsourced, vehicle maintenance enhanced, fuel purchases consolidated, and employee safety prioritized. Additionally, by the end of 2009, the company outfitted all of its Class 7 and 8 vehicles with electronic onboard recorders.

During 2011, Ahart deployed the first Class 8 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles into the fleet, and has plans for additional CNG vehicles to be delivered during 2012.

All of these initiatives have resulted in significant cost reductions for Dean Foods; however, there are also non-financial benefits tied to these improvements. For example, diesel fuel consumed has been reduced by more than 8 million gallons (16-percent) since 2007, helping Dean Foods meet one of the many sustainability objectives outlined in its Corporate Responsibility Report.

Additionally, the deployment of Smith System Driver Training and many other comprehensive employee safety programs and processes have created a work environment where employees remain safe throughout the workday.

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