What makes a successful fleet manager?
By David Howe, Head of Commercial, Goodyear
Working in an industry which is constantly looking for greater efficiency, cleaner operations and reduced expenditure can be challenging. Here at Goodyear, we work with some of the biggest commercial operators in the UK, and we know that fleet managers play a vital part in handling these evolving demands and challenges.
To better understand the work involved, I spoke to three of our partners about what challenges they’ve faced in their careers, their biggest successes, and what advice they would give to new fleet managers, or those who are simply new to the industry.
What are the biggest challenges fleet managers face?
According to Lee Downer, Fleet Manager at TJ Transport, the biggest challenge in terms of goods and services is getting value for money; a test that many fleet managers face. However, he has learnt to live by the mantra that “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
Working in such a rapidly evolving industry can undoubtedly come with challenges, but it’s important to be able to embrace change. This is particularly true of embracing developments in technology. For Paul Rymer, Fleet Manager at ECM (Vehicle Delivery Service) LTD, “working closely with all the manufacturers, sharing information and implementing new technologies and innovations to make sure we are getting the best from every product,” helps with the incorporation of new processes and technologies.
As an Engineering Fleet Manager, Gary Archer from PD Ports feels that “keeping up with legislation and compliance” is the most challenging part of being a fleet manager, while Paul speaks about “dealing with day to day problems such as breakdowns and serious incidents.”
There are a growing number of solutions to help managers tackle challenges like these, with our own Goodyear Total Mobility offering providing access to TruckForce, a 24/7 commercial support network that can carry out proactive maintenance and support fleets when tyre-related breakdowns occur. Gary believes that getting the whole team involved in these kind of new processes will make changes and improvements easier to implement, with the need for flexibility and patience from fleet managers becoming more important than ever.
As Lee says, “every day’s a school day!”
What makes a successful fleet manager?
Lee believes that what makes a successful fleet manager is building a sense of equality – “from the directors to the drivers” – which is something he frequently reminds his team of. Making them feel valued and part of a unit is something that will pay off. “It’s amazing how much more productive they become when you do,” he says.
But it’s not just about having a strong relationship with drivers. Lee also believes that “having a good rapport with service providers is key to getting a good service.” Whether it be by making regular contact or finding time for workshop visits, building strong relationships with external supporters can make life much easier. He says that “even taking the odd box of cakes along” is something that can help to establish a “firm, but friendly” working relationship. It’s “the team ethos that makes the success.”
Paul agrees that above all else, you have to be “supportive of the whole team.” In his 25 years’ experience, he has seen many changes within the industry, but credits keeping up with ECM’s ever-expanding fleet and workforce as one of his biggest successes.
What advice would you give to new fleet managers?
“As a fleet manager, it’s important for respect to be earnt, not commanded”, according to Lee. Manners play a big part, with simple things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ going a long way. When he was a young lorry driver himself, Lee recalls being asked, just as he was finishing his day, if he could take a lorry back out for just “one quick job”. Despite the horrible weather, he duly obliged, but always remembers his Transport Manager coming out in the pouring rain to say thanks and tell him that he appreciated his help. He says it’s something “I have never forgotten to this day.”
Making your staff feel fulfilled is an important part of managing a team. Lee says that “members of a team – drivers in particular – should always be listened to, as they are the ones out there trying to get the job done.” As such valuable assets to a transport company, helping out and going the extra mile for them can really pay off. Even if it’s just in small gestures, like helping to find a postcode or a petrol station.
Gary believes that your reputation is “your currency in this business.” It’s important that a manager takes care to uphold it. He also says that, ultimately, you “have to delegate, as you can’t do everything.” So, getting into the habit of managing your own time and that of others will help in this role. Having been in the transport industry for 42 years, he says that “I look forward to passing on my knowledge and experience to the younger generation.”