The fleet manager role changed in 2020 like never before. COVID-19 presented a challenge to businesses the likes of which nobody had seen – and fleet managers led the way.
New safety measures, new training approaches, and fresh considerations for physical and mental health were just some of the innovations they pioneered. With brand new technologies on the horizon in 2021 and beyond, the changing role of the commercial fleet manager is about to become even more interesting.
This is our take on how the fleet manager role is changing, and what you can expect to see from the role in the very near future.
First, a caveat: while the changes below might make the future role of a fleet manager sound unrecognisable to some, the basic skills and knowhow involved are always likely to be important on some level.
The need to understand your fleet’s vehicles, purchase options, value and maintenance challenges are never going to go away. That’s just the nature of the role. So when we talk about the changing role of fleet managers, you can feel relieved that not everything will change.
But that does bring us to ask: just how exactly is the role of fleet managers changing?
The number one thing that will affect how the fleet manager role is changing will be the introduction of new fleet technologies, and the subsequent challenges of managing the information from multiple systems.
In truth, technology like modern telematics systems has already changed the role, allowing fleet managers to track their vehicles and drivers, and issue driver training in response to data provided.
That’s just the start. 5G networks are rolling out; electric vehicles are becoming more commonplace; and assistance from Artificial Intelligence (A.I) is on the cards over the next decade.
Further down the line, you can expect to see further advancements in telematics, and even some level of vehicle automation (i.e. driverless transport). It’s therefore clear that fleet managers will need to either need to adapt, or get left behind.
As businesses grow ever more technical, so too does the changing role of the commercial fleet manager.
Where once the role was primarily focused on vehicle management, fleet managers can now find themselves making strategic decisions on other company assets. These can include plant and IT equipment, power generators and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems – alongside the buildings that house them.
We’ve even seen instances of fleet managers getting involved with wider projects, like Cycle 2 Work schemes, and facilities-driven ones like charging point installation!
We expect this trend to continue, and the list of responsibilities in a fleet manager’s job description to grow and grow.
These more diverse responsibilities within the changing role of a fleet manager also impact on, and extend to, a certain amount of people management.
The fleet managers’ accountability for making their fleet roadworthy no longer just extends solely to the vehicles, but now also to their drivers’ welfare. That means making sure drivers are appropriately trained; that their working environment is comfortable and safe; and that mental health considerations are taken into account.
As part of managing drivers’ welfare, fleet managers are also likely to take an increasingly keen eye on journey plans. Expect them to ask questions like: ‘Is this journey necessary?’ ‘Are there alternatives?’ And ‘what are the implications to the driver?’
Looking further ahead, as new technologies like A.I. and certain levels of optional vehicle automation come into effect, fleet managers will also be forced to consider how they implement those advancements into their operations.
Another aspect already impacting the changing role of fleet managers is sustainability. The UK’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 100% of 1990 levels by 2050, along with the Road to Zero strategy, mean fleet managers will need to factor increasingly environmentally friendly strategies into their business’ long-term outlook.
Factors for consideration here might include home-charging; having the right vehicles and products to fit the fleet’s mileage portfolio; and how drivers can rapid-charge while still keeping up with operational demands. (Not to mention how to solve the problem of drivers carrying numerous cards for various charging providers!).
Whether by switching to electric vehicles; changing delivery routes; doubling down on feet fuel performance with ongoing maintenance; or rolling out new working practices, fleet managers are going to need to juggle more considerations than ever before in the years ahead.
As businesses have become ever more multifaceted and technical, so too has the changing role of a fleet manager grown to involve extra financial responsibilities.
Running a fleet is often one of a business’ largest expenditures – and as the fleet business continues to grow, fleet managers will need to take more time to focus on improving operational efficiencies, reducing financial risks, and managing lifecycle costs.
All of that will be on top of more typical responsibilities, like managing their fleet’s general budget, and working with procurement experts to make sure they invest the business’ funds wisely.
With the implications of Brexit in particular still becoming clear, fleet efficiency is going to be a particular concern in 2021 and beyond. Thankfully, that’s an area we at SG Fleet will be well placed to support you on as the year progresses.
As you can see, the answer to ‘is the role of fleet managers changing?’ is a resounding yes. Thankfully, that change isn’t happening all at once. Instead, the role looks set to evolve gradually over the years ahead, so there’s time to prepare ahead.
It therefore might be helpful to ask yourself two questions: Which areas have you accounted for already? Which ones does your business still need to prepare for?
If you need help planning for the future, please get in touch – we’ll happily set you on the right road. Call us on 0844 854 5100, or email CSalmon@sgfleet.com.