From Fleet Management to Business Mobility: the evolution of the fleet manager

posted on November 25, 2014

Take a look back at the past decade and it’s clear that the fleet and leasing environment has changed, and continues to change, at a significant pace. Businesses, politics, culture and values are all constantly evolving. Competition for capital, energy, resources and sustainability require new approaches. In addition, people now live, work, communicate and travel in new ways, so businesses need to compete by becoming smarter and more efficient where their employees are concerned.

Traditional leasing, fleet and travel solutions also need to adapt. They were developed in an era when resources were plentiful and inefficient use of assets was acceptable, simply because there was no alternative. Today, with time, money and resources at a constant premium, organisations need to work their fleet assets harder. As a result, the fleet marketplace is now seeing traditional fleet strategies give way to approaches that emphasise flexibility and efficiency. The term used to describe these cost-effective, integrated fleet and travel solutions is ‘Business Mobility.’

Broadening the job spec.

The role of the driver can vary greatly: some visit multiple sites every single day, others simply drive to and from a fixed office location, and many aren’t even able to drive at all, so need alternative modes of transport. This means that the role of the fleet manager can also vary greatly. Whereas traditionally fleet managers were solely responsible for managing a fleet of cars and those cars only, now we’re seeing a combination of responsibilities from more areas than just HR and finance such as travel, logistics and procurement.

As well as the merging of disciplines, we’re also seeing the scope of the traditional fleet role broaden significantly. Many employees now work longer and more flexible hours 24/7 and across multiple locations, so to ensure organisations move with the times, fleet managers now need to take a 360 degree approach and look at business mobility as a whole and not just leasing, fleet and travel solutions in silos.

Today, mobility for businesses and their employees is no longer merely about company cars and their financing. It’s about providing a wide range of options for going from A to B, and optimising the total cost of mobility through new, flexible schemes such as corporate car sharing. This not only avoids unnecessary environmental impact, but it saves money.

Which side of the divide?

As the boundaries between fleet management, finance and HR continue to merge, an operational gap is opening up between those with fleets managed by HR departments, and others which sit under the finance umbrella.

The two departments will take very different approaches, with finance focusing primarily on reducing costs. A balance sheet-led approach could lead to a constant switching of leasing supplier, a counter-productive move at a time when the leasing providers’ consultative skills are becoming more important to businesses than ever.

On the other hand, under the guidance of a HR department, a fleet is more likely to be used as a vehicle for increasing employee satisfaction - a key tool for driving retention. So how can organisations ensure that fleet management practices satisfy the needs of both sides of the business?

Where to now?

Having been a fleet manager myself, I made the move to a supplier-side role. It’s an interesting position to be in, because as an external consultant, I am able to use my expertise and experience to help businesses. I also take a step back and offer a 360 degree view of proceedings, this includes invaluable insight into areas such as hidden costs and how to deal with them, new working practices which might not have been previously considered and different technological approaches; for example, corporate car sharing.

In my opinion, the time has come for a new role to rise to the fore - the ‘Mobility Manager’ - a position that is responsible for cars whilst connecting all the dots of employee travel to create a, more economical, efficient, streamlined, cost-effective service.

The good news is that all fleet managers have it within themselves to make this change happen and become mobility managers. In fact, many are already managing multiple supply arrangements, which means they are already undertaking part of the mobility manager role. So this shouldn’t require a large change in roles and responsibilities. To put it into practice, fleet managers need to create a sound business case outlining the benefits of what a more joined-up approach could produce. With a more efficient team, running with a lower CO2 output and increasingly satisfied employees, this will be easily obtainable.

Seize the opportunity.

Traditional leasing has shifted and this trend will only accelerate over the next 15 years, so to provide answers to future challenges, its important that fleet managers start to look beyond current solutions and reaffirm their position and that of business mobility within their organisation.

For fleet managers a shift in focus represents an opportunity to start afresh without any lingering industry myths or misconceptions. A chance to broaden their scope and importance within the organisation, the evolution of the traditional fleet manager role is a great opportunity waiting to be grasped.

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