Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

True Confessions of a Fleet Manager

Lost staff, reduced resources, late night calls at home from drivers, “advice” from executives. It’s easy to imagine what thoughts might go through the mind of a fleet manager during the course of a year.

July 2011, by Staff



At a Glance:


Fleet managers have a lot on their plates — and their minds:

  • Being labeled as “the car guy.”
  • E-mails from employees at all levels.
  • Balancing work/home life.
  • Losing staff.
  • Constant demands from upper management to cut costs.



Wednesday, 7:30 a.m.: The fleet manager eases into the cubicle chair.


I love the early mornings; the offices are clean, the coffee is fresh, the phones are quiet, the day is new ... well, I love it until I log into e-mail. Jeez, don't these people have anything better to do than e-mail me asking what their wife's eight-year-old car is worth? Here's a good one: We've sent this guy a half-dozen notices to get that state inspection renewed, and he e-mails me that he got a ticket. Great, another in the never-ending series of reports that some department head needs yesterday - and, of course, she copies my boss.

I guess they're not all bad. I remember when a driver who had an accident called me for help. He was pretty shaken up. We do have an accident management program, but I've been there, and believe me, when some idiot runs a red light and t-bones you, you're not thinking what the fleet procedure is, so I walked him through it, and he's nice enough to e-mail his thanks. Too bad he didn't think to copy my boss.

Voice mails are next. There are seven between 6:30 last night and now. A lot is going on out on the West Coast. Heck, I completely forgot to send one guy the price on the upgraded sound system he wants to buy. Have to get that one out first thing. Now that's weird; the dealer calls a driver and tells her the new car is in, and when she goes to pick it up, it isn't there. Add that to the list for the morning call to the lessor.

I like people as much as the next guy, but wouldn't it be nice if the place was this quiet, this peaceful, all day long? I could sure get things done then.

Friday, 6:15 p.m.: The fleet manager is packing up to head home for the day.

That was an absolutely brutal meeting. I only have one staff member, and I get the word that we're cutting back and I have to give him notice. Jason has been with me for almost four years and is one heck of a worker. With the economy still in the dump, gas prices rising, and my boss hitting me up daily for cost-saving ideas, I couldn't have got through the past 18 months without him. He's a class act, though - took it like an adult, and I'll be on the phone first thing Monday to see what I can do for him.

Now what? I've got three conference calls beginning at 8:30 a.m. Monday, yet another meeting with the policy committee before lunch, and I still haven't finished the selector numbers yet. A day in the life, eh?

Ah, I didn't check the cell phone, and I'm running on fumes. I hope the Chicago office doesn't call and the phone dies in mid-sentence, again. I can't believe Little League is starting already; I love taking Alex out to the ball field - he's growing up so fast. All this travel I have to do in the next month or two, I hate missing his games.

Now that Jason's gone, how do I make myself promotable if there's no one here to step into my role? That job in strategic sourcing is right up my alley - I hope they don't pass me by, simply because they don't want to have to recruit and hire a replacement from outside.

I really like working here and love the job, but sometimes I wonder if all they think I am is some kind of clerk, or backyard mechanic who isn't up to more responsibility. Sure, they told me "go to college, get your degree," and I did. Yet, here I am, worried that I'll be stuck in this cubicle for the rest of my career.

On second thought, stop whining - I could be Jason.

Thursday, 2:45 p.m.: The fleet manager leaves the conference room after the meeting ends.

Did I say I love this job? A meeting where we were actually able to accomplish something, and management actually listened to me! Better yet, we will finally go forward with the new upfits to the service vans. No more calls about the ladders sliding off onto the hood, or complaints about the tool bins. I'm actually looking forward to calling Stephanie this time, and giving her the good news. All in all, a good learning experience; I learned how much I really didn't know about upfits.

I'm thinking now might be a good time to bring up the GPS route planner software. When I rode with the service tech last month, he seemed to spend a lot of time trying to find the next call location. If we can implement the routing program, it'll all be mapped out for him before he leaves the shop. I can work the numbers and come up with a cost savings.

One more conference call, and another meeting, and it's time to head home. Time sure flies when you're having fun.

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