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.
Fleet Strategies: Pivot with Minimal Disruption
The Covid outbreak threw a wrench in many fleet leaders’ agendas. Suddenly, plans such as business expansions, burgeoning client relationships, vehicle acquisitions and hiring have been put on hold… or suspended altogether. It can be challenging to pivot business plans unexpectedly, while simultaneously minimizing business disruption and pushback from staff. Ideas can suddenly be upended by shifts in the economy, global issues, or even movements within the organization itself. As regulations around business openings and operations are changing almost daily, organizations have been called upon to pivot more quickly than ever before. And the threat of government fines and pathogen spread looms large for fleet agencies that have managed to remain operational.
So, how can fleet agencies turn small defeats into long-term success and pivot quickly, while still being responsible to their staff and clients in the process? We spoke with two fleet leaders and NAFA members to find out.
The Pivot from Seat Covers to Facemasks
In March 2020, the reality of a worldwide pandemic began to take hold and the ripple of uncertainty spread out across nearly every industry. Organizations were flooded with questions: what was essential/nonessential; how to manage a tele-workforce; how to manufacture a product that may not be in great demand in the short-term; and how to keep staff active during a shutdown? Everyone needed answers, and fast.
TigerTough Group is a manufacturer of seat covers; their way forward came when medical professionals on the frontlines put out an urgent call for personal protective equipment (PPE). The company was uniquely suited to make a contribution and fill this great need.
Risk Management for Fleets: New Mobility and Covid-19
Implementing new mobility options comes with great potential benefits: increased efficiency of operations, reduced costs, reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and perhaps improved employee satisfaction. As a result, and prior to Covid-19, many fleet managers will have been considering their approach to risk management with respect to new mobility – electrification, automation, and sharing. Clearly, a pandemic temporarily alters priorities; safety of staff and the resilience of the business have priority. But we shouldn’t take our eye fully off of the longer-term view: managing the potential of alternate mobility solutions. We may even find some solutions in our short-term challenges.
It’s become an adage that the fleet manager is becoming a mobility manager. In terms of risk, the consequence is straightforward: as you add responsibilities across the spectrum of new mobility, so too will the list of risks you will need to manage. Connected and electric vehicles each bring a new set of responsibilities, from the batteries and charging infrastructure, to the data compiled by the vehicle and the telematics.
Navigating the New Normal
Fleet managers – both those still running essential fleets and those who have dealt with closure obstacles – have been navigating “the new normal” for more than two months now. Likewise, the companies that serve these fleets with products and services have been figuring out how to keep staff on track, even as clients have other concerns in mind.
A national pause as we are experiencing offers the unexpected opportunity to replace old, ineffective practices with new ideas and operations. Corey Woinarowicz is Director of Business Development at NOCELL Technologies, and he is using this time to enhance his firm’s expertise in combatting the deadly and costly distracted driving habit.
Innovating During Coronavirus
We are all living in a time warp as our collective confinement continues, but let us reminisce a moment back to Q1 2020. In January, California residents gained the right to wrestle back their user data from the tech platforms and other companies that had captured and exploited it. In February, Senator Josh Hawley posited that the FTC should take over Google, and Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced an antitrust modernization bill as a cudgel against big tech. The country was speeding toward a new era where the big technology companies would be reined in and privacy protections would soon sweep the nation. Instead weeks later, what nearly swept us under was a global pandemic.
We are looking for a way out and it is those same big tech companies we complained about that are helping us get through.
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.”
Fleet Protocols for a Post-Covid World
The federal government is pushing for states to reopen. Certain states––such as Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, and Montana, among others––are slated to resume business before May 1st (while others––such as Arkansas and Florida––never officially shut down in the first place).
Each state will open slowly and with restrictions prohibiting large gatherings. With that said, it’s beginning to look like the U.S. is on track to gradually return to an active economy.
While commerce will eventually recommence, it will hardly be “business as usual” for a nation brought to its knees by the Covid crisis. School and universities are shut down for the foreseeable future, so fleet agencies that cater to this sector will need to find new purposes for their drivers. And the way we do business will never be quite the same. Let’s take a look at how organizational protocols in fleet need to be altered to reflect what we’ve learned from coronavirus.
2020 Flexy Winner: Stewardship, Change, and COVID-19 (Flexy Winner Interview)
We caught up with 2020 FLEXY Award Winner Steve Larsen, Director of Procurement and Fuel at Ruan Transportation Management Systems to discuss crisis management. Everyone working at Ruan has been charged with helping minimize the impact on operations that the coronavirus has caused.
As many reports and first-person accounts can affirm, many stores are faced with shortages due to supply chain issues as a result of panic buying. At times like these, the role of the trucking industry charged with getting the merchandise to our stores cannot be underestimated.
Larsen spoke to NAFA from his home where he and his wife are working remotely. What follows is a wide-ranging discussion about current needs, how Ruan is stepping up to the challenges at hand, as well as the efforts that gained him his Excellence in Corporate/Private Fleet or Mobility Management FLEXY.
Growing Tomorrow: Lessons from the Coronavirus
Of course, tcommunication 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.
Firefighting Fleets: Managing Data and a Pandemic (Flexy Winner Interview)
The national coronavirus crisis is affecting fleets in unique ways, principally from being labeled essential to being temporarily shut down. FLEXY winner Brad Smith, Fleet Maintenance Supervisor for Poudre Fire Authority in Fort Collins, CO manages an absolutely essential fleet.
NAFA caught up with Brad, winner for Excellence in Public Fleet or Mobility Management, to dig deeper into the challenges of the moment which make firefighting administration even more challenging.
“Fire fleets have situations where some houses contain several functions and multiple assets running out of one place,” Smith explains. “The trucks stay at the station and crews are rotated every 48 hours, so we ensure that quality pass-on is done between the shifts. Lingering non-safety issues are monitored. I have currently halted all non-essential shop activity to include preventive maintenance actions that are not more than 500 miles or 30 days overdue. The goal of that is to keep as many reserve firefighting apparatuses at the ready in the event of major breakdowns and supply chain issues. We have six reserve apparatus with one currently in service.”
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.
2020 Flexy Winner Interview: George Hrichak
2020 FLEXY winner George Hrichak shares strategies for success. This is not the way George Hrichak imagined he’d be celebrating his 2020 Fleet Excellence Award (FLEXY) win, with most of the United States in a virtual standstill because of Covid-19. “My family is following the precautions everyone else is, washing hands, using hand sanitizers, social distancing, that type of thing.”
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.
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.”
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.”
Inside the Fleet of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Very few fleets can have a major impact on worldwide air traffic from the ground.
According to a December 2018 report compiled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Aviation Department, over 1.3 million flights and nearly 20.5 million passengers were handled by airports controlled by the agency last year.
Without the Port Authority’s Central Automotive Division supplying the necessary ground vehicles to keep runways clear and passengers moving, those planes would never get off the ground.
The Finer Points of Fleet Data
The fleet management industry has seen an evolution in recent years centered on information technology (IT) and vehicle data. With the advent of telematics devices and vehicle tracking systems, fleet managers are utilizing IT more than ever. The statistics provided by these tools can be used to reduce vehicle downtime, keep up with preventative maintenance, improve driver safety, make informed decisions when selecting new vehicles, and more.
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.
Predictive Analytics: Get the Most Out of Your Data and Your Vehicles
When it comes time to replace certain vehicles in your fleet, many organizations use mileage and/or months in-service to determine when to cycle their assets. This method, however, doesn’t take into account the great variation in vehicle usage that can occur across a fleet or how the vehicle may have been driven.
This is where predictive analytics and leveraging big data can give fleet managers a clearer picture of the condition of their vehicles by using a model that incorporates factors like maintenance history, driver behavior, age, and mileage.
NAFA Member Bob McElheney, CAFM®, Director, Vehicle and Equipment Services for the City of Newport News, Va., said his team bases many replacement decisions on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis by examining the type of asset and what it is used for.
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.
Diesel and Defeat Devices
Experts have never disputed the efficiency derived from diesel fuel or the additional number of miles-per-tank that “burning oil” offered. What was always a sticking point was the long-held perception of diesel as a dirty fuel belching out dark soot -- a stigmatization that caught hold in the U.S. during the 1970s oil crisis. U.S. consumers moved to diesel technology to beat the high price and low availability of gas but were disenchanted by noisy equipment and pollution. That wasn’t necessarily the case on European roads where diesel had been a mainstay.
Vehicle Miles to Replace Fuel Tax?
Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a funding mechanism that charges drivers according to how many miles the vehicle has been driven, as opposed to current point-of-purchase fuel taxes. The primary beneficiary of the fuel taxes, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), struggles annually to stay solvent and continue to pay for projects to build and repair the country’s roads and bridges.
Additionally, alternate fuel vehicles and more efficient gas and diesel engines make fewer trips to the station to pay fuel taxes, and some vehicles don’t visit gas stations at all.
Sam Graves (R), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 6th congressional district, serving since 2001. He is a leading proponent for VMT as a funding source for the Highway Trust Fund, and in a one-on-one interview outlined his reasons for pursuing this funding mechanism.