In today's fast-paced world, the key factors in successful fleet management are communication and growing driver relationships.
The Work Truck Editorial Advisory Board gathered for the first quarter of 2023 to discuss the latest improvements in their fleets and their 2023 outlook.
They discussed the importance of working with drivers, keeping up with a growing company, staying ahead of the curve during times of restraints, and more.
Whether you are a seasoned fleet manager or starting out, the advisory board is here to help.
Managing a Fleet of Nondrivers
As a fleet manager, what do you do if your employees are skilled technicians first and drivers second?
The members voiced how they handle drivers who don’t have an experienced background in driving work trucks.
Lauren Fletcher, executive editor of Work Truck, emphasized the importance of creating an environment where professionals see themselves as drivers and skilled professionals.
Glenn Yamada, fleet & facilities supervisor, Hawaii Gas, tackles this by constantly improving communication and one-on-one driver coaching.
“We’ve been working with the department on driver behavior and improving communication between the supervisors and managers where it has fallen short.”
When it comes to improving the fleet’s driver skills it’s proving more difficult than it sounds. “It's been a challenge with private coaching. We try to implement the process of walking around the vehicle to get them to be more actively following through with the procedures,” said Yamada.
Keeping up With a Growing Company
For some, 2023 is the year of growth for their company and, as a result, their fleet.
For Brian Thompson Jr., General Manager of Transportation, DTG Recycle, his company has doubled in size from an acquisition in December. And the number of vehicles in the fleet went from 113 to now around 600.
How do you handle a growth spurt? For Thompson, his advice is to “get as much information as possible prior to acquisitions closing Communication and planning is a must! Work closely with our teams to build a good playbook. We have formed an acquisition team and have created a great process for handling all the speed bumps that may occur i.e. DOT, maintenance, HR, accounting, operations, etc. We also work closely with our vendor partners that are ready at a moment’s notice to help us with all of our needs.”
Getting Ahead of the Game
Every fleet has its challenges. Supply chain issues and transitioning to a more sustainable fleet make it even more difficult to overcome the challenges.
So what should fleet managers do when they feel like they’re behind? Matt Betz, expert fleet optimization, DTE, recommends working on strategies to get you ahead of the game.
It sounds difficult, maybe even impossible, but all good things take time.
“We were way behind the curve when I started at DTE in 2019. We were way behind because of supply chain issues. We didn’t start ordering 2023 models toward the end of 2022. So we had to look at our processes and rewrite everything.”
Bentz worked with his team to find a way to get ahead of the curve. He spent a lot of time building relationships with partners and OEMs and attending executive board meetings. And it turned out successful.
“We're wrapping up our 2025 replacement plan right now and placing orders. So we're now two years ahead of the game, where we were a year behind in the past. Of course, there are pros and cons to being ahead. But I believe the weeks we took to access and adjust to the supply chain challenges helped improve our processes to the best of our ability,” said Bentz.
One way Amy McAdams, CAFM, fleet manager, Farmer Brothers, gets ahead of the game during supply chain restraints is by maximizing the utilization of vehicles.
“The Ford box truck that I ordered back in 2021 is getting delivered soon. We did a pilot program to redesign our trucks to make sure they fit the functions and they’re almost ready to deliver. I also spent time working with upfitters to get other trucks that we could utilize in a different operation to relieve the supply chain shortages of parts,” said McAdams.
Quality Over Everything
What’s more, Sandy Martin, Corporate Fleet Manager, White Cap Construction, also explained she is having difficulty with the quality of the vehicles OEMs produce.
White Cap Construction supplies tools and equipment to professional contractors. And recently, she has been receiving new trucks for clients that have a variety of problems, such as coolant leaks.
To combat this reoccurring problem, she created a pilot review for customers to review the specifications and components to ensure they’re up to standards.
“We need to do a quality check on what's coming out of the factory and make sure that they improve their PPE before delivery of our vehicles to the branches. We're nationwide and in Canada, so getting them back to the dealer is hard when something happens. It's a miss build or poor quality on the truck.”
In the end, fleet managers may share the same title, but not all roles are the same. Some may have more challenges with drivers and others with OEMS.
However, by sharing our challenges, staying informed, and adopting innovative strategies, the Editorial Board can continue to navigate these challenges and help others succeed.