Back to the Basics
Many new fleet managers ask me where they should begin to gain control and start managing their fleet assets. The answer to this question is simple, you have to get back to the basics and begin with the end in mind to vision where you need to be in the future!” The answer is, vehicles (and all other fleet equipment) are organizational assets (or tools) used to accomplish the unique mission objectives of the company.
So ask yourself, “What would I need to know in order for me to operate an effective and efficient fleet of vehicles?
Like most fleet managers you begin by seeking answers to elementary questions like these listed below:
- What is our purpose?
- Who do we serve?
- How do we make decisions?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- What do we do and how to we become successful?
- How many vehicles do we have?
- Where are the vehicles located?
- How much do our vehicles cost?
- Who uses our company vehicles?
- What are our licensing/insurance/administration costs?
- What is the total value of fleet?
- What are our future replacement costs?
- How do we use (i.e., utilize) our fleet vehicles?
- How many miles/hours/kilometers do we operate?
- How do we know if we have the appropriate number of vehicles?
- How much do we spend to fuel our vehicles?
- How much do our vehicles cost to repair?
- What is the useful service life of our vehicles?
- How do we dispose our vehicles when no longer useful?
- And so on…
How does your fleet become a world class operation? All the best organizations have the following characteristics in common:
- Vision, mission, values
- Policies and procedures
- Standard operating practices (SOPs)
- Expect continuous improvement
- Dedicated and talented employees to carry out objectives
There is an old Chinese adage that says, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." So it goes if your fleet organization doesn't know its purpose of what it trying to accomplish.
First things first
Similar to constructing a good quality building that will stand the test of time, every organization is only as good as its foundation. In fleet management the foundation begins with the establishment of a vision, mission and effective policies and procedures that will serve as the guiding principles for the organization.
Every leader sets the stage for success by establishing a vision of what they are trying to accomplish. A vision statement is simply a high level ideal defining what the organization is trying to become. For example, if you want to be world class then as a leader you need to set this as your primary purpose.
Once you decide your organization is going to become world class, then you need to determine who it is you serve, what service you provide, and how you will acomplish it. This usually comes in the form is a mission statement. A mission statement lets everyone know how your organization plans to accomplish its unique purpose. A sample mission statement for a fleet organization may read something like, "The mission of the fleet operation is to provide safe and reliable transportation to accomplish the objectives of the organization."
Finally, you need to establish your organization's guiding principles which are articulated in the form of policies and procedures reflecting the values, processes, practices your organization will follow to perform its business.
A solid set of policies and procedures provides every fleet organization with the foundation in which it will conduct itself in making day-to-day decisions. Fleet policies include processes like:
- How are vehicles used?
- Who gets a vehicle to conduct business?
- How they maintain vehicles?
- How they fuel vehicles and how an employee gets a fuel card?
- How a fleet will dispose vehicles?
Further, once effective policies and procedures are in place and used as the guiding principles impacting business decisions then an organization is on its way to becoming world class. To define organizational practices each policy must be accompanied by a well constructed set of SOPs serving as step by step processes to carry out the mission and policies. Moreover, as organizations create policies, procedures and SOPs they need to keep in mind that they require constant monitoring and revision as various situations arise where guidance is necessary to continue making effective decisions.
Measuring your fleet for continuous improvement
In order to manage vehicles effectively, organizations must understand what they have in their fleet operation. In other words, the most logical starting point is always to be able to account for (or audit) all of your fleet assets and equipment. This can be achieved by maintaining quality data including; details about assets, domicile locations and accurate utilization information.
Simply put, if you don’t know what you have, you can't manage it! And if you can't measure it, you can't manage it!
Knowing answers to the organization’s most common questions allows a company to establish effective metrics to benchmark. Once metrics are identified, measured and benchmarked they can be used to track continuous improvement and set subsequent goals and objectives. To be truly world class metrics must be measured and everyone can be accountable. Accountable fleets use a Fleet Management Information System to track their assets and associated activities.
Finally, world class organizations seek (and retain) talented employees dedicated to carry out a leader's vision via mission execution in accordance with policies and procedures, using defined SOPs and measuring metrics to benchmark its operation for continuous improvement.