Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Fleet Executives & Managers Partner to Control Costs and Productivity

According to Wayne Smolda of The CEI Group, fleet executives continue to help mentor and guide fleet managers, promoting policy streamlining and strategic initiatives.

May 2009, by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

Wayne Smolda (right), CEO of The CEI Group, presents the 2009 Fleet Executive of the Year trophy to Satish Natarajan, senior director of fleet operations for ARAMARK Uniform and Office Apparel. CEI is a sponsor of the annual award, this year presented April 26 at the NAFA I&E in New Orleans.

As a long-time, leading provider of vehicle accident, driver safety, and fleet management services to self-insured, commercial and government fleets, and leasing companies, The CEI Group continues to emphasize the importance of fleet executives to fleet managers and their organizations.

A nine-year sponsor of Fleet Financials’ Fleet Executive of the Year award, CEI and its DriverCare program supports businesses in their efforts to maximize productivity and reduce fleet costs.

“The fleet manager and fleet department need visionary mentors for guidance to help set strategy and decision making on dealing with the many challenges fleet managers face,” said Wayne Smolda, CEO of CEI, a Trevose, Pa., company helping fleets for more than 25 years.

In today’s uncertain economy, keeping a handle on unpredictable fuel costs, difficult financing issues, and depreciation (or resale values that affect it) — not to mention the disruptions in the automotive markets and with the car manufacturers and their dealer networks — makes the fleet executive/manager relationship all the more important.

“All this leads to having better communication with senior executives at the top of organizations to explain these issues and obtain alignment on fleet strategy and vision,” Smolda added.

That’s why he feels it’s important to get behind industry recognition initiatives such as Fleet Financials’ annual executive award. “The fleet manager mentors are our fleet executive nominees and winners of Fleet Financials magazine’s award, and it recognizes their value and the importance of their roles for fleet management,” he said.

Strategy, Communications & Competency Keys to Future

While CEI is not involved in the selection process of the Fleet Executive of the Year award winner, its sponsorship is just one way the company shows an ongoing commitment toward making the fleet industry the best it can be.

“We believe strategy and executive communications are key, as well as shaping the competency requirements in fleet management as we move into a new world where dramatic change and challenges test traditional fleet expertise,” Smolda said.

The 2009 winner of Fleet Financials’ Fleet Executive of the Year award, Satish Natarajan of ARAMARK Uniform and Career Apparel, provided a new perspective to a large field fleet operation, according to Smolda.

“Satish did not have a fleet background when he joined the team, but he successfully provided his company’s field fleet managers and administrators unique skills that generally do not exist in fleet departments. He is able to provide more strategic leadership in the areas of asset management and process metrics,” Smolda added.

Fleet Managers Will Stay Ahead of the Curve

Smolda believes the fleet industry will march steadfastly into the future, even as fleet managers face challenges in the areas of fuel, finance, depreciation, and the supply chain of a shifting core of car manufacturers and their dealer networks.

He also is confident fleet management will need to respond to government greening mandates, as well as continue to effectively leverage telematics as the next generation of fleet management infrastructure tooling.

“Telematics is becoming an emerging area to fleet management, and I believe that many fleet operators will eventually rationalize its cost into fleet management budgets,” he concluded. “Fleet executives will be the key mentors for fleet departments to do so.”

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