The Future of Fleet: Product and Service Sector
Fleet industry demographics are rapidly evolving. Traditionally dominated by males 51-60 years old, the American Trucking Association reports that more than half (54 percent) of new trucking hires will be brought on to their new roles to replace drivers that retire. Despite being a field with a high potential for career growth and competitive salary, the fleet industry has historically struggled to recruit fresh talent.
Rather than preparing for a career in fleet through a single educational track, most professionals are led to the fleet industry through their work in another field. Only once they’ve begun working in fleet do they realize how much they still have to learn through essential training like NAFA’s CAFM certification.
Keeping this in mind, I spoke with two young fleet leaders in the Product and Service sector to discuss how they began working in the fleet business and how they predict their generation will turn the industry on its head.
Your Actions Today Will Change Tomorrow's Outcomes
Motivational speaker Kevin Brown opened NAFA’s first-ever virtual conference & expo with energy and optimism, setting the tone for what proved to be an exceptional experience despite its unconventional format.
Author and motivational speaker Brown took the virtual stage to share the story of his unconventional path to business and personal success, a philosophy he calls The Hero Effect®. The Hero Effect, Brown shared, is the recognition that heroism isn’t something only embodied by a handful of exceptional individuals; it’s something that we’re all capable of by striving to do the best we can do each and every day. It might sound simplistic, but as he shared anecdotes from his personal life highlighting the profound impact seemingly insignificant actions displayed by ordinary people throughout his life, he drove home the fact that actual heroism isn’t about flash or fanfare; it’s about humility.
Trailblazing Women in the Fleet Industry
Women are swiftly scaling ranks in the fleet industry. Today, women comprise 47 percent of the trucking workforce, including 7 percent of drivers and 23 percent of fleet management roles. The number of female fleet business owners is also on the rise. American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses report found that, between 2014 and 2019, the growth in the share of total employment by women-owned transportation and warehousing firms increased by 10 percent. The share of total revenue by women-owned firms in transportation and warehousing increased by 28 percent during this time.
The question, then, becomes: what inspires female pioneers to enter the traditionally male-dominated transportation industry? We spoke with four female fleet leaders from different sectors to find out their path to a career in the transportation industry, what inspires them, and what advice they have for the next generation of women in fleet.
Improve Safety, Reduce Liability
Keeping drivers safe on the road is critical, and well-trained drivers can make the road safer for everyone, reduce a company's liability and improve efficiency. The National Safety Council reported that the most dangerous part of an employee's workday is when they are on the road, which is why it is vital to offer driver training, even to experienced drivers.
How CAFM Matters
What makes fleet professionals decide to become a Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM)? The desire to improve. Jonathan D. Ford, MPA, CAFM, Fleet Manager for City of Orlando Fleet & Facilities Management was driven to become a more valuable asset to the City of Orlando. “I perceived it as a challenge to myself,” says Ford, “and felt the need to accomplish it. Throughout my life, I have consistently embraced challenges aiming to better myself personally and professionally.”
The Promise of Volunteering
Volunteering is a transformative experience. Deloitte suggests that volunteering can help professionals develop the “soft skills” sought out by organizations. These soft skills include leadership, time management, planning, empathy, communication, and professionalism––and 92 percent of company leaders described these soft skills as a “crucial priority.”
Wayne W. Westerholm, CAFM and Deputy Director at the Office of Parking & Transportation at Harding University, explained it perfectly: he says, “Volunteering within an organization permits professionals to display capabilities in ways that may not be traditionally observed by others by using different skill sets or techniques.”
But volunteering isn’t only beneficial to the individual. On an organizational level, volunteering can help fleet agencies stay relevant, connected, and at the forefront of burgeoning technologies. We spoke with four fleet leaders with a rich history of volunteer work to discover how volunteering has enriched their personal and professional lives.
Reinventing Industry Conferences Is More Essential Than Ever
How do you keep a community connected during a pandemic when staying connected has never been more important? Meetings and conferences have traditionally brought business leaders together to share best practices and strategize how to get through challenging times. It’s pivotal to have a platform to share insights and outcomes. But all of that was turned upside down by Covid-19. We have had to reinvent the whole idea of a meeting and ways to stay connected over the past four months. The good news is that we have quickly adapted to many positive innovations.
The importance of conferences is especially critical to the fleet industry because it is evolving quickly. Keeping up with technology, risk management and operational challenges has always been important. Now with the impact of four months (and counting) of dealing with a public health crisis, exacerbated by an economic crisis, business leaders can use all the insights they can find.
Don’t Be Distracted from Distracted Driving!
We’ve read about it. We’ve written policies about it. We may have been guilty of doing it ourselves. Distracted driving. One side effect from the past few months is most of us experiencing a high level of distraction as a result of living with uncertainty, the rigors of sheltering in place and more recently, the conflicting signals and guidelines about how to reopen post-lockdown.
How does this relate to fleet? Many drivers getting back out onto the road regularly, and as surprising as it may sound, the skills of day-to-day driving may have been stunted after four months of shelter-in-place protocols. Then there’s the added issue of fleet drivers navigating roads with local residents who may be suffering from the same conditions, resulting in their own distracted driving.
A Dive into EVs
Electric vehicles (EVs) are the way of the future. Ninety percent of fleet owners have assessed, or plan to assess, the feasibility of incorporating more electric assets into their operations. While only one percent of current fleet vehicles are electric, this number is projected to grow to 12 percent by 2030. Electric vehicles are not just better for the environment, there are also tangible, fiscal benefits to electric fleet adoption. New York City, for one, found that maintenance costs for battery electric fleet vehicles were about 25 percent the costs of vehicles with internal combustion engines.
However, there are still a handful of factors slowing the adoption of electric vehicles in the fleet industry. Let’s delve into some of the benefits and obstacles to electrification, as well as what it will take to move this sector forward in the coming years.
How Can Fleet Leaders Create and Enforce Safety Culture?
The Covid pandemic put fleet safety at front and center of the consumer zeitgeist of 2020. Nonessential business has resumed across the U.S., which means fleet leaders are hashing out what the “next normal” is going to look like for their business. The smart fleet management market is poised to grow by $153.63 billion between 2020 and 2024, with some variance for the impact of Covid-19. But as the demand for last mile delivery continues to grow, expectations for fleet safety are also on the rise. Suddenly, everyone from product manufacturers and the CDC, to the end consumer has a guideline about how fleet agencies should operate––and whether they should be operating at all.
Although Edelman found that 75 percent of consumers feel CEOs should be conservative in resuming normal operations post-Covid, the demand for last mile delivery has never been stronger. Let’s explore how fleet agencies can ease back into operations without compromising the health and safety of staff.
People, Profits and the Planet
What are you doing to improve the environment? Wise elders inspired “The Seventh Generation Principle based on an ancient Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations (140 years) into the future.”
Sustainability is becoming embedded into business models and smart leaders recognize that sustainable business practices can improve profits as well as the brand image among all stakeholders. In a customer-driven marketplace, innovation and forward-thinking strategies are key to the long-term sustainability of the business as well as stewardship for the long-term health of the planet.
The Big Picture on Fleet Sustainability
Sustainability is quickly becoming a moral imperative in the fleet industry. We’ve been operating as if earth itself was a renewable resource. But air pollution, water contamination and the consumption of natural resources now pose a tangible, detrimental impact to the quality of human life. A whopping 44 percent of the U.S. population now lives in areas that do not meet the requirements for the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Air that doesn’t meet these standards can lead to health issues such as lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and emphysema.
Only 38 percent of respondents in Edelman’s most recent study felt that organizations were “putting people before profits,” meaning consumers feel organizations have a long way to go before consumers perceive them as taking environmental concerns into account. With that as a prelude, let’s delve a little deeper into sustainability strategies for fleet leaders.
Fleet Trust and Resilience in a Covid-19 World
Fleet is operating in the wake of a pandemic, economic crisis and civil unrest, and trust has become a core issue. According to the global research firm, Edelman, which has been monitoring consumer trust for over two decades, only 47% of consumers say that business has done a good job of ensuring that products and services have been readily accessible during the Covid-19 outbreak. Additionally, 44% say that businesses have done a good job of protecting essential employees whose jobs require them to work outside their home, and even fewer consumers believe businesses are looking out for their employees or partners--only 38% believe they put people before profits, 39% believe they protect employees’ financial wellbeing, and 38% believe they are helping smaller suppliers and partners stay in business by extending them credit or giving them more time to pay.
CAFM: Keeping Up and Staying Ahead
The CAFM program can become your essential tool for maintaining high standards and being up to date on best practices and operational procedures. Brandon Wilkins, CAFM, Fleet Management Parts Lead for Orange County, FL's Sheriff’s Office says, "In speaking with other fleet professionals, the overwhelmingly positive feedback about the CAFM program made my decision to pursue this very easy.” He adds, "When I saw CAFM was listed on the Monster.com 'Top Certifications for 2019,' I knew it was a resume-builder. What I did not know was how many gaps I had regarding comprehension of various fleet disciplines, along with common fleet practices. I did not realize how much knowledge I was lacking until digging into the first CAFM module."
The Value of Lifelong Learning
It’s easy to talk about lifelong learning in an abstract sense. Nobody would argue that, as a fleet leader, you should continue educating yourself as the field evolves. Continuing education has proven to boost confidence and credentials in managing a team. A whopping 63% of adults in the U.S. have taken a professional class or training in the past year. Earning and maintaining certification is both a professional responsibility and a personal commitment. With the convenience of online learning platforms, it’s easier than ever to certify and recertify the essential skills needed to lead fleet.
A Playbook to Optimize Remote Work
Covid-19 has forced many of us to make changes – almost on the fly. Many organizations are just emerging from shelter-in-place and have reassessed their work from home policies. The recent shift to remote work has affected nearly every industry and put everyone’s abilities to the test. Mobility managers for many fleets have taken on increased responsibility and workload with the federal regulation for daily driving hours being temporarily suspended in mid-March 2020. The sudden shift to remote work left some scrambling to adjust and find ways to productively cope with the new situation. Now, nearly three months later, the way people work has been revolutionized, so it’s time to revisit best practices for this new work style.
How to Achieve the Top Ranking in 2020 100 Best Fleets
“This is not a secret and by no means are we trying to keep it that way,” says NAFA Member Jeffrey A. Hawthorne, CAFM, B.S.B.A. He is the Division Manager for Fleet Management for Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (PBSO), in Florida. His fleet tied for the top spot in the 100 Best Fleets rankings for 2020 announced in April, and he is only too glad to share the methods that got PBSO there.
Evaluating Your Risk Exposure
People who live by the power of positive thinking may be great assets for a team, but it’s not the most important professional attribute for your risk manager. Effective risk management requires that an organization identify, then separate manageable and unmanageable risks. Fleet risk-management decisions rely on a wide range of stakeholders including department heads, mechanics, human resources and top management. NAFA recommends looking at risk management holistically by bringing these stakeholders together and ensuring they have a common vocabulary and the tools to properly evaluate and manage risks.
A Risk-Averse Fleet Makes A Bold Decision That Pays Off
All fleets are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and each organization is dealing with circumstances unique to them. Such is the case with the fleet of 2020 Fleet Excellence Award Winner Chris Schaefer. Schaefer won in the Excellence in Corporate/Private Fleet or Mobility Management category.
“Every fleet needs to be mindful of risk, but we’re an insurance company,” Schaefer says. “We are naturally risk-averse. We have to protect our drivers, employees, and customers, but also set the example based on the services we provide.” Schaefer, Fleet and Travel Manager for Westfield Insurance, has been working from home along with his team members. “We have roughly 1,500 people who work at our home office, so that is a large population to move to work-from-home setups, but we implemented that quickly.”
Growing Tomorrow: Lessons from the Coronavirus
Of course, communication is always a good idea – but during (and after) a crisis, this is even more essential, as it presents a learning opportunity for leadership. Collect your anecdotal and analytical data now to create your playbook.
How did staff get around during self-isolation?
Did they park their vehicles and use a bicycle, or even an e-scooter to maintain physical distancing?
What apps were they using to stay informed – and can these be integrated in company software?
For city-based employees: are they still comfortable with using public transport for commuting or making customer-visits, or should you implement a mobility allowance for ridehailing and carsharing?
For essential services employees, were current fleet vehicles fit-for-purpose during the crisis?
Countries around the world have undertaken different mitigation measures during the Coronavirus Crisis; globally operating fleet and mobility managers should reach out to their international teams to exchange best-practices once time permits.
Together We Will Prevail: Insights on the Impact of Coronavirus in Fleet
The fleet industry has been through economic downturns in the past, but those have developed over time. The coronavirus pandemic, on the other hand, hit the industry within a matter of weeks…and there’s no definite ending to the crisis. As such, fleet managers have found themselves without a clear set of guidelines to follow to navigate their businesses during the outbreak.
We interviewed NAFA board members to get their insights on how fleet professionals can best contend with the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, to emerge stronger (and more resilient) on the other side.
NAFA Board of Directors Secretary/Treasurer Kathy Wellik, CAFM, is Director for Iowa State University Transportation Services. Wellik––like all of us––must face this pandemic head-on in every level of her personal and professional life. She says that Iowa State University Transportation Services is taking a few key actions to move forward at this crucial moment.
Mitigate Now: Nine Lessons from the Coronavirus
Challenging times call for operational strategies that can evolve as the situation unfolds.
Maintaining the operations of a business in a simultaneous health and economic crisis is a critical concern for every leader today.
As the coronavirus crisis rages, fleet and mobility managers have a specific responsibility to act swiftly – to ensure the safety of employees, to assist the business in staying flexible, and where possible, to support efforts to save lives.
How to Maintain a Fleet During the Coronavirus Shutdown
The government is calling for the shutdown of “non-essential” fleets in response to the widespread Coronavirus epidemic. However, for fleets that do deliver products that are considered “essential,” such as food, medication and pet supplies, demand is skyrocketing. Suddenly eCommerce companies like Amazon are being called on to deliver essentials to a country in quarantine.
Michael Woronka, Chief Executive Officer, Action Ambulance Service Inc., reports, “The importance of moving product and people by land, sea, air, and rail cannot be underestimated and will be the cornerstone of the foundation of working our way back to ‘normal’ as this pandemic subsides, and it will.”
Fleet managers are responding quickly to the outbreak: Airlines have put workers on furlough. Navy bases have had to quarantine fleet staffers in response to two workers testing positive for coronavirus. Yet amid this massive restructuring, there has never been a stronger focus on the supply chain. While auto manufacturing plants such as Toyota, VW, Honda, Volkswagen are suspending operations, vehicle rentals are experiencing an uptick as rental demand from courier and delivery companies increases.
Preparing for Natural Disasters in Uncertain Times
According to Patti M. Earley, CAFM, Fleet Fueling Operations Supervisor at Florida Power & Light and President of NAFA, after a disaster, the most important mission is getting people’s lives back to normal as quickly as possible. “For most organizations,” Earley says, “restoration or continuity of daily functions doesn’t happen without the fleet. While there may be some advanced warning with hurricanes, most disasters don’t necessarily give you notice before they strike.”
Succession Planning is Key to Professional Continuity
Everyone wants to think they’re irreplaceable. Yet when the lottery hits new heights, the lines are long—with many dreaming of quitting their day job. Retirement parties come around frequently. And no one likes to think about it, but people die every day—and many of them are still in the workforce when it happens.
Then there are happy things: marriages that take someone out of state, or a promotion that leaves the role vacant.
In a world in which vacancies may mean the full-time equivalent shifts to another department or in which a fleet professional suddenly juggles additional responsibilities, having the next hire identified makes sense. And it may prove more valuable than simply filling the job.
Data Safety: How Do You Protect Your Fleet from Hackers?
Today’s increasingly connected vehicles provide a trove of data and insight, but that brings with it another worry, especially for law enforcement fleet professionals: the valuable data also might be of interest to criminals.
What about a terrorist attack response that is dramatically slowed down because police vehicles are remotely disabled, wherever they sit?
Officers are sitting in an undercover police car, staking out a drug kingpin. Out of nowhere, the car is surrounded by armed men, because the bad guys hacked into the police network to find out vehicle locations.
Navigating Fleet Staff Conflict
Workplace relationships can be the most difficult kind. They are as close as family ties, and frequently, one will see their co-workers more than spouses, children, and so on. The key differences are that your livelihood depends on your ability to work and interact with your colleagues, and the quality of your organization’s efforts can suffer greatly if you don’t.
Therefore, fleet and mobility professionals can find themselves in the position of mediator and conflict mitigation manager , with two employees on either side and at odds with each other.
“At its core, fleet management is a resource management discipline and the most important resource we have are our employees,” said NAFA Regular Member and Past President Christopher D. Amos, CAFM, Commissioner of Equipment Services, St. Louis, Mo. “Workplace productivity is negatively impacted by anything that distracts from people doing their job.”
Is Green the New Gold?
Investing in a new technology or initiative for the sustainability benefits alone is a noble idea with long-term benefits—but not necessarily one that upper management will gravitate toward. These days, with budgets being crunched to squeeze out every dime, those efforts might also require cost savings.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever, fleet professionals say, to find vendors who will offer solutions that support sustainability. Increased competition, naturally, means better solutions—and better results. So yes: “green” can add up to “gold,” but it will take some work.