By Adlore Chaudier, Associate Vice President, Mercury Associates
The rapidity with which technological advancements occur and studies produce important insights increasingly requires professionals to invest significant time in continuous education. Fleet managers are no exception. Failure to make such an investment will inevitably result in falling short of achieving job goals and objectives and present an unnecessary barrier to professional advancement and personal success. Just as continuous improvement is the key to organizational progress and success so too is continuous education essential to personal success and growth.
The fleet industry continues to face rapid technological developments and corresponding knowledge challenges in many areas, including:
• Vehicles – three primary forces are irreversibly transforming the transportation industry: 1) electrification, 2) connectivity, and 3) autonomous driving.
• Software – from inputs to outputs, the data ecosystem is introducing new areas and degrees of complexity that fleet managers must master, ranging from information- capturing to analysis.
These challenges offer opportunities to fleet managers because they are the hub of transportation knowledge within their respective organizations. They are the experts who can become the technology and analytics translators and communication conduits who will contribute to ongoing organizational success.
Consensus continues to grow within the auto industry that global electrification is inevitable. Fleet managers can expect greater diversification in available vehicle types; consequently, selection of the right vehicle for the job will become an even greater challenge because needed knowledge is more technical and ranges far beyond that typical fleet task. For example, fleet managers must now be aware of developments in battery technology and even of changes in the prices of lithium-ion batteries, which affects innovation, availability and costs. At the same time, fleet managers must address an array of complex topics associated with electric vehicle charging stations; for example, the charging speed (Level 1, 2 or 3) that best meets fleet needs, the design of charging stations to manage cords and walkaways, or the use of solar charging rather than electrical charging.
We have entered the drive-by-wire world as our vehicles are mobile computers that communicate with other computers. This has opened a rich repository of data that can benefit a fleet program but can also result in information overload. Fleet managers must identify the data flows that benefit the organization, develop performance metrics that contribute to continuous improvement and attainment of goals, and be able to communicate appropriate information to diverse audiences.
To some extent, partial autonomous driving is already a part of the fleet insofar as vehicles may monitor and even modify our steering, braking and acceleration behaviors. Fleet managers should plan now for increased removal of humans from the driving experience as vehicle computerization increases, with greater use of artificial intelligence and environmental mapping.
Larger fleet operations are entering the world of big data insofar as inputs from and about vehicles and their operators are accessible, with telematics only one of the powerful tools available. Fleet managers must now ensure that they have in place a mature analytics system that can capture desired data and generate the reports and performance metrics that ensure optimum fleet operation.
Extend Fleet Education to Management and Customers
Fleet management increasingly requires a 360-degree communication and education outreach effort, embracing not only supervisors and management as well as technicians and specialists, but also customers and vendors as well as drivers and operators. Each audience requires different insight and information, so fleet managers must not only educate themselves but repackage their knowledge and insights accordingly. A fleet manager should not assume that any targeted audience will be aware of the significance or importance of a message, so the educational effort should explain why the message is significant. At the same time, word choice, sentence structure, organization of the information, graphics and charts must all be measured against the capability and interest of the intended audience.
Ultimately, the professional path to personal success derives from a) effectively doing the job, which results in contributing to the success of the organization, and b) communicating the importance and continuous improvement of the fleet program. Continuous professional education helps ensure that fleet managers get the job done effectively in this swiftly changing technological environment. The opportunities for professional education are many and varied, ranging from associations that provide training and certification programs to conferences and workshops and seminars. Many vendors regularly offer face-to-face and online events to communicate improvements and changes to their products and services.
Educating yourself but failing to communicate fleet program improvements and attainments as well as industry developments and insights to management, staff or customers means you have done only part of your job. A fleet manager’s job necessarily includes educating many others within the organization and to accomplish that requires creation of a successful communication program. Some of the ways to communicate with various constituencies within an organization include:
• Developing a strategic plan and reporting regularly on goals and attainments
• Identifying, planning for and implementing performance measures that align with the strategic plan and its goals
• Writing a well-structured and plain-English policy, keeping in mind that policies communicate what whereas procedures communicate how
• Developing a portfolio report for management that illustrates inventory, budget, goals and metrics for the fleet program
• Conducting a fleet performance review periodically and documenting areas for improvement as well as achievements
Pursue Continuous Education
Fleet professionals must commit themselves to dedicating a significant portion of their time and attention not only to the core tasks of the job but also to learning about and dealing with the knowledge challenges they encounter. Those challenges represent areas of growth and opportunity. To ensure success in a profession vital to all organizations, fleet managers must pursue continuous education. And organizations will serve their best interests by ensuring that fleet professionals have support in pursuing that education.