The Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM®) is a self-study program certification program that has been the role model for fleet standards for over 35 years. With up-to-date fleet management education, everything you need is included in the Reference and Study Guides that you can also access though three to four hours of recorded webinars (slides and audio) for each of the eight modules. Successful completion of the CAFM program requires passing all eight disciplines within a three-year period.
Read all about how CAFM certification has helped three veteran NAFA professionals. Alexis Reece, Fleet Analyst for Ferguson Enterprises, in Newport News, VA, has worked in the fleet industry for over 17 years in various fleet-related roles and is a recent Certified Automotive Fleet Management (CAFM) 2019-2020 graduate. Even with a secure career in the field, she says she earned her CAFM now because, “Even though I have over 17 years of experience in the industry, CAFM certification opens up more opportunities to advance within it.”
The challenge of expanding on her knowledge base was a major part of Reese’s decision, “The investment in this program not only helps you understand varying aspects of the fleet industry but is a great resource that you will be using in managing fleet tasks and responsibilities. I know that I consider myself very blessed to work for a company that continues to support my education in the fleet industry as well as other opportunities that help me develop professionally. I have taken the lessons from the guides and study materials as a resource for order replacement strategy and a recent RFP that I have been developing,” Reece says. “I am also looking at how we can improve our emergency response plan within the company.”
Lifelong Learning Pays Off
Reece says that attaining CAFM certification is a serious process requiring your full attention. “However, celebrate the little accomplishments along the way and enjoy the journey. It took time and dedication, but I felt a great sense of pride with each section I passed.” She encourages those who take the next step to partner with someone that is also pursuing the CAFM to motivate and drive each other on. “My co-worker and I continued to support each other to not give up. Furthermore, know that those who have passed are here to support you in your pursuit of the certification. Always continue to challenge yourself and know that no matter what you have the strength and drive within yourself to make it happen.”
Reece says she recommends other fleet professionals pursue CAFM certification, regardless of how long they may have been in the industry. “Even if you are just beginning a career in the fleet industry, there is so much data to work through in this field. CAFM is such a great resource that you will learn and grow regardless of breadth in the industry.”
Cayla Gutierrez, CAFM, Operations Specialist for RS&H (a national architecture, engineering, and consulting firm) in Oviedo, FL, says she attended NAFA's 2019 Institute & Expo conference and, "I watched the Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) graduation ceremony and noticed there weren’t as many women graduating from the program as there were men. I was already interested in the program, but it was a no-brainer once I saw the group on stage."
Gutierrez holds a bachelor’s in business, a master’s degree in hospitality and event management, and is an Operations Specialist with RS&H. She is presently in the process of training her operations replacement so she can focus solely on the fleet.
During the CAFM program, Gutierrez says she became such a nerd. “I loved learning all the intricate details that involve fleet. I signed up in hopes of a promotion and a salary increase but going through the program also solidified to me that fleet is where I’d like to grow my career.”
The most important lesson learned, according to Gutierrez, is that there is an entire organization in the form of NAFA Fleet Management Association available to help. “I’m the only fleet manager. I landed in my position quite by accident and a lot of the times I’m learning as I go,” she says. “NAFA is an incredible organization full of valuable resources with people always willing to lend a hand when you need help.”
“I was able to apply a lot of what I was learning to my fleet,” she says. “The day after I realized our company didn’t have a driver handbook, I went to management and presented why I think we needed one, immediately. It was also really powerful to learn about ways to improve things we already had in place like fuel management, data analytics, and telematics.”
She adds, “I would recommend other fleet professionals to pursue CAFM, yes, absolutely. I learned so many things through the program that I did not think pertained to me but have helped me in my role. For instance, we have a pretty ‘vanilla’ fleet, 90% light duty pickup trucks. We do not have in-house maintenance, as we have our trucks serviced at many different locations. During the Maintenance Management section of the program, I learned how pricing is determined for fleets like mine, and because of this, I have been able to get better rates for our vehicles at local shops.”
Gutierrez offers advice to potential CAFM students to maximize their CAFM experience: “Know your learning style before you decide which course option is best for you,” she advises. “I ended up purchasing the boot camp version of the program and am so thankful I had the videos to refer back to during my readings. I’m a visual learner, so having slides and someone talking me through the material was so helpful.”
“When I started with my company, we had about 100 company vehicles. We’ve grown to almost 400 vehicles in the five years I’ve been with the firm." Because of her studies and advanced fleet education with the CAFM program, Gutierrez is confident that she can handle anything her fleet experiences as it continues to grow.
Online Learning a Game Changer
Stewart Taylor, Fleet Manager at Coachella Valley Water District, CA (CVWD) adds “Just completed the CAFM certification. I love the online testing, you do it right from home!” His enthusiasm is even more impressive given that he has been in the automotive and fleet industry since 1985.
“I was a Fleet Manager for FedEx Express for 15 of the 18 years I worked there,” Taylor says, adding that today, CAFM graduates are preferred for the job he now holds with CVWD. “I was hired without it because of my many years of experience as a Fleet Manager with FedEx Express. I wanted to earn the certificate as a matter of professional pride and to show commitment to my employer.”
Taylor signed up for the 2019 CAFM-U event (now CAFM Live) and attended the boot camps at the 2019 Institute & Expo conference. “This gave me almost a year to go through the study guides and then do the boot camps, which I think are critical to success in this program. I probably studied two hours per week during that time with a goal to review each study guide. After the boot camps, I took all eight tests at the end and passed six,” Taylor says. “I took a bit of a break and then got back to studying the last two guides and took the remaining two tests online.”
Taylor refers to CAFM online accessibility as a game changer, “One can access the study guides and other information on the NAFA web site, download, and print the information. The biggest thing for me was being able to test online. It makes obtaining the CAFM much more achievable for many people, in my mind.”
The study time and preparation, Taylor suggests, brought him back to the basics of fleet. “With that said, the information learned from the study guides can have a significant positive impact on your fleet operations if you apply the principles.”
CVWD supports and endorses CAFM and recognizes its value. However, Taylor realizes that it might be a challenge to convince employers of the program’s impact. He encourages others to go for it, “If you experience resistance to this type of pursuit, meet with your management and show the benefits of the program. I would also suggest if there is continued reluctance, there are many benefits that organizations have realized from the program and those folks are usually happy to share those results.”
Taylor is a CAFM fan explaining, “I have three of my employees in the program and am mentoring them so we have a strong pool of leaders in our organization to lead us into the future and who will be ready to take over when I retire. This process will make you a better fleet manager and a more critical thinker. The benefits are long-term.”
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