What makes a successful fleet manager?
The transport sector is constantly looking for greater efficiency, cleaner operations and reduced expenditure and, for fleet managers who face these challenges every day, finding those solutions can never be easy.
Three fleet managers, in a series of interviews with Goodyear, describe their biggest successes and detail what advice they would give to new fleet managers or those who are new to the industry.
What are the biggest challenges fleet managers face?
According to Lee Downer, Fleet Manager at TJ Transport, the biggest challenge in terms of goods and services is getting value for money – a test that many fleet managers face. However, he has learnt to live by the mantra that “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
He also said that working in such a rapidly evolving industry can undoubtedly come with challenges, but it’s important to be able to embrace change and new developments in technology including solutions such as Goodyear Total Mobility which provides access to TruckForce – a 24/7 commercial support network that can carry out proactive maintenance and support fleets when tyre-related breakdowns occur.
Paul Rymer, Fleet Manager at ECM (Vehicle Delivery Service) LTD, said, “Working closely with all the manufacturers, sharing information and implementing new technologies and innovations to make sure we are getting the best from every product is vital.”
As an Engineering Fleet Manager, Gary Archer from PD Ports feels that “keeping up with legislation and compliance” is the most challenging part of being a fleet manager, while Rymer said, “dealing with day-to-day problems such as breakdowns and serious incidents”, was top of his list.
What makes a successful fleet manager?
Downer believes that what makes a successful fleet manager is building a sense of equality – “from the directors to the drivers” – which is something he frequently reminds his team of. Making them feel valued and part of a unit is something that will pay off, adding that, “It’s amazing how much more productive they become when you do.”
But it’s not just about having a strong relationship with drivers. Downer also believes that “having a good rapport with service providers is key to getting a good service”, and can make life much easier, whether it be by making regular contact or finding time for workshop visits or building strong relationships with external supporters.
He says that even something as simple as taking the odd box of cakes along can help to establish a “firm, but friendly” working relationship. “It’s the team ethos that makes the success,” he added.
Rymer agrees that above all else, you have to be supportive of the whole team. In his 25 years’ experience, he has seen many changes within the industry, but credits keeping up with ECM’s ever-expanding fleet and workforce as one of his biggest successes.
What advice would you give to new fleet managers?
“As a fleet manager, it’s important for respect to be earnt, not commanded,” according to Downer. He also stressed that manners play a big part, with simple things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ going a long way.
When he was a young lorry driver himself, Downer recalls being asked, just as he was finishing his day, if he could take a lorry back out for just “one quick job”. Despite the horrible weather, he duly obliged, but always remembers his Transport Manager coming out in the pouring rain to say thanks and tell him that he appreciated his help. He says it is something he has never forgotten to this day.
Making your staff feel fulfilled is an important part of managing a team. Downer says: “Members of a team – drivers in particular – should always be listened to because they are the ones out there trying to get the job done.”
As such valuable assets to a transport company, helping out and going the extra mile for them can really pay off, even if it’s just in small gestures like helping to find a postcode or a petrol station, he adds.
Archer believes that your reputation is “your currency in this business.” and added that delegation is vital so a fleet manager gets into the habit of managing their own time and that of others. Having been in the transport industry for 42 years, he said, “I look forward to passing on my knowledge and experience to the younger generation.”