Market Trends

10 Traits of Successful Commercial Fleet Managers

April 21, 2009

by Mike Antich - Also by this author

By Mike Antich

Show me a well-run fleet and I will show you a top-notch fleet manager. Although each fleet is unique, there are common traits found among successful commercial fleet managers. These management traits ensure a fleet is operating at the optimum level.

Here are my observations as to the 10 traits they have in common.

1. Goal-Oriented Fleet Management

These fleet managers are goal-setters. They are goal-oriented in all aspects of fleet management, including driver productivity, safety, accident management, and so forth. They strive to reduce not only hard costs, but also soft costs. They link fleet to the corporation's overall mission and then keep management informed as to how fleet is helping improve the corporate mission.

2. Focus on the Internal Customer

These fleet managers have established a cooperative, working relationship with all internal corporate functions associated with fleet operations. They keep senior management informed on fleet performance, budget requirements, new products, and programs. These fleet managers keep the company's interests foremost in all fleet management decisions.

3. Develops Partnerships with Suppliers

These fleet managers work with suppliers and other partners to optimize performance. Some employ supply-chain management techniques, such as bringing suppliers together as a team to facilitate communication with each other to provide efficient, low-cost service to the fleet. Just as important, these fleet managers never stop learning and confer with suppliers to be on top of the latest products and services in the market.

4. Practices Strategic Fleet Management

Strategic fleet management stresses the importance of achieving objectives and the use of metrics to benchmark progress. It recognizes the strategic aspect to fleet management and views vehicle acquisition, replacement planning, funding alternatives, and sourcing alliances with manufacturers and suppliers as high-level strategic corporate decisions.

5. Ability to Implement Effective Fleet Policies

These fleet managers use a strategic perspective to control costs by implementing the right fleet policies and selecting the right vehicles and suppliers. A fleet manager who reduces annual fleet expenses by $100,000 generates the equivalent of $1 million in sales, if a company operates at a 10-percent net profit margin.

6. Expertise in Cost Containment

A successful fleet manager uses a strategic and proactive management style to run the corporate fleet. These fleet managers proactively seek to maximize the productivity and revenue-generating capacity of each company driver at the lowest possible cost to make their fleet operations more efficient.

7. Management's Encouragement to be Innovators

These fleet managers have autonomy to implement innovative initiatives to drive cost out of their fleet operations. Senior management recognizes the fleet manager as the in-house expert on all matters dealing with fleet management. These fleet managers have the full backing and support of senior management when decisions are implemented. These fleet managers are valuable members of the company's management team, managing a multi-million dollar asset. Fleet is viewed as a critical revenue-generation component of a company's business plan.

8. Knowledge Transcends Fleet Management

These fleet managers rise above the level of simply managing day-to-day fleet work. Their understanding of the company's business must transcend fleet management. Besides having fleet management expertise, these fleet managers are intimately aware of their company's product line and services, marketing objectives, corporate culture, and user group needs. They are proactive and anticipate changes in their corporate environment. These fleet managers implement fleet programs that contribute to the achievement of overall company goals.

9. Manages Fleet with a Long-Term Perspective

It is impossible to run a fleet without long-term planning. In addition to producing both fleet and departmental budgets each year, these fleet managers develop strategies for cost containment and reductions. They employ the critical skill of turning strategies into tactics. They set strategic goals and develop the tactics to implement them.

10. Excellent Communicator with Sound Judgment

Fleet managers interact with more people in more areas of the company than just about any other department head, and good judgment is the foundation for such interactions. These fleet managers have excellent communication skills and sound business judgment. Their credibility with management is due to demonstrated fleet management expertise, which allows them to work within the organization to implement new programs.


Fleet Leadership

A commercial fleet manager validates his or her importance day-in and day-out by cost-effectively managing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars of corporate assets and controlling the expenses associated with operating these assets. Each year, commercial fleet managers save their companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

To all fleet managers, I salute you for a job well done.

Let me know what you think.

[email protected]



  1. 1. Randy Shadley [ April 21, 2009 @ 08:42PM ]


    Kudos on a well-written, comprehensive blog/article. Aspiring fleet managers could use your observations as a checklist for their own fleet's strategic development plan. I can't think of a single trait that you overlooked, although I would suggest that you could have expanded the "never stops learning" comment in section 3 to be a trait worthy of its own section: Notwithstanding the obvious merits of learning from your suppliers the latest and greatest products and services they offer, I firmly believe that we need to "keep the axe sharp" by also continually learning through ALL available methods (conferences and seminars, certification programs, networking events, trade journals, newsletters, e-community discussions, and sure, industry blogs!) to make sure we are keeping up with our ever-changing industry.

    And finally, thank you for saluting us. I in turn salute YOU for providing a valuable source of information for as long as I can remember. Keep up the good work!

  2. 2. Rita Knoll [ April 22, 2009 @ 06:35AM ]

    Wow! This is a great testimonial to our profession. Your article illustrates, in articulated words, the overall passion and dedication which supports our day-to-day functions. We are ambasadors in the finest sense of the word. Thanks....

  3. 3. Dave Cuomo [ April 27, 2009 @ 07:04AM ]

    this is really good summary and could be the "cliff notes" to successful fleet management

  4. 4. Bruce Trzepacz [ April 29, 2009 @ 04:41AM ]

    Great Article, we tend to be looked at as a loss by some. You are right learning is a ongoing part of our life within fleet. This is a challenging time for all fleet managers as we strive to cut cost without cutting safety.

  5. 5. Kirk Herniman [ April 30, 2009 @ 09:28AM ]

    Thanks once again Mike for another insightful article about our profession. I have been in fleet Management since 1973 and always enjoy reading what you have to say. Your knowledge about what we as Fleet Managers do is outstanding. I think I will have to share with senior mgt. Keep up the good work.

  6. 6. Richard Battersby [ May 01, 2009 @ 01:46PM ]

    The industry is truly fortunate to have such an intelligent, eloquent, and reasoned advocate.

    Mike, will you please run for office?

  7. 7. Mike Antich [ May 01, 2009 @ 02:53PM ]

    I’m happy to get your endorsement, Richard!

    However, if an election were held today, in all likelihood, the only votes I’d get would be you, my wife, and my mother.

    Unless we’re in a very, very small jurisdiction, I ought to stick to my day job.

    Plus, I think the dog catcher position is already filled!

    Mike Antich

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