Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

In Their Own Words: Fleet Managers Evaluate Suppliers

July 2008, by Ed Bobit & Cindy Brauer

Early this year, an invitation was sent with total anonymity guaranteed to fleet managers of mid- to large-size commercial fleets. The message requested their honestly felt assessment of their relationships with fleet service providers, evaluating their satisfaction with outsource suppliers and the quality of their services.

Unfettered by considerations of company politics or reprisals, fleet managers responded via an online survey:

Anonymously, and therefore without concern for political or other implications, how satisfied are you with your outsource suppliers (lessors, fuel, safety, accident management, etc.) and their programs? Are those suppliers completely fair in their relationship with your company?

Respondents’ remarks ranged from complete satisfaction to downright frustration with many interesting observations on the relationship between client and supplier. Presented here in groups of recurring themes are the fleet managers’ voices in their own words.

‘Could Not Ask for Better’

■ The supplier we have is always trying to improve and is very easy to deal with. Could not ask for a better company that is “customer-focused and driven.”

■ Yes, completely satisfied. I believe we are all on the same page with the goal of providing the best services at the lowest costs.

■ The suppliers we partner with are extremely valuable and important to me. If they do their job right, I look great. If they do not, then they are out. It is as simple as that.

Our vendors need to understand our culture and our business completely and the key to that are the people in the organization. I have been extremely fortunate in that our supplier partners have reps who are hard-working, reliable, and are willing to challenge their organization and us to make a better product or fix a process.

If a supplier tried to interfere and bypass fleet to make points with our senior management, they would be out. If they try to cover problems or issues, eventually it will come back to bite them. I think most of the suppliers know this and are, for the most part, super to work with.

■ I sincerely feel that fairness may not be part of the formula when it comes to fleet. All of us are here to get the best deals for our companies/employers, etc., but are we genuinely treated fairly on every deal?

■ My current supplier is completely fair and open in the relationship with my company. However, prior vendors were not and made promises for services and pricing that they could not deliver or did not fully disclose what their pricing was to be! I’m glad to be working with a vendor I can trust.

■ My suppliers are fair with our company because of the straight-forward and direct approach we implement with our vendors from the very beginning. Save the “smoke and mirrors.” I directly ask for what I need and do not let them take control at any time over negotiations or implementation of programs.

Fair, But Not Always Satisfactory

■ I think they are fair, but not always proactive enough in coming to the table with cost-saving ideas.

■ Lessor finds ways to make up for what they think they lost by negotiated pricing in other areas. Programs are handled well, and since all is currently outsourced to the leasing company, that part of the equation seems to run smoothly.

■ My outsourced lessor does a good job for me. I still have issues with accident management and know there is easy money in this area, but can’t seem to get resolution.

■ The fuel program we’re using is top-notch, although at times, like a lot of sales/service-oriented groups, they are a bit slow in delivering on their promises.

■ I believe my suppliers are fair. They know I would speak my mind if I found otherwise. We are responsible for tracking their methods and holding them accountable.

My main concern today is the capability promises my management company has made and currently makes on the processes they can handle. I find mistakes daily in the internal systems, document management, etc. This takes up brain space and administrative time checking and cross-checking work they have done, specifically, document management, title management, and registration renewal.

■ We are satisfied but they could be better. Quicker and more responsive solutions to problems could always be better.

■ Our leasing company is fair, but completely lacking in what they promised they and their IT department could do.

■ As with any business relationship, management of those relationships is key to ensuring that you receive a fair shake. Mine are doing the best they can, but I believe if the fleet manager wasn’t there to assist, some decisions may not be in the company’s best economic interest.

■ We are totally outsourced and I would give the leasing vendor an “A-” only because I constantly monitor and question their performance and hold them to perform to the agreed targets via a monthly “scorecard.”

■ Very satisfied with my fleet lessor and safety partner. I am not so satisfied with my accident management company.


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