Achieving and Defining Fleet Success at Your Operation

By Mary Gerard, Content Marketing Manager

Is your NFL team successful? Well, it likely depends on their record this season, or how many Super Bowl titles they have.

Is your favorite restaurant successful? Sure, if they continue to fill tables, make a profit and serve good food.

Is your family financially successful? It depends on the balance in your accounts.

Is your fleet successful?

Hmm …. It’s not as easy to answer, right? That’s because it’s hard to define fleet success.

“There isn’t really an industry-standard definition of what fleet success means,” RTA CEO Josh Turley on  “The Fleet Success Show” podcast.

We dug deep to find one. We asked our clients. We asked some of the industry’s top fleet minds. No one had a clear definition.

But it’s important that there is one. If you can’t define fleet success, how do you know if you’re succeeding? How do you report your performance to the C-level at your company if there’s nothing to measure your success by? How do you show you’re not just a cost center?

So, we gathered a group of respected fleet professionals and we created one.

The Definition of Fleet Success

After working on a definition of fleet success with experts who have around 100+ years of fleet experience between them, we defined it as:

Achieving a balanced mastery of stakeholder satisfaction, intentional culture, resource efficiency and risk management in your fleet operation.

We believe if you get these four pillars aligned, it can result in success in your fleet operation.

You’ll notice there are some common themes missing from these pillars – like sustainability and safety. We debated adding those, but then we realized they’re actually covered in the four pillars.

Sustainability requires Risk Management to identify potential problems, Resource Efficiency to  buy and maintain green vehicles, Stakeholder Satisfaction to connect with your community and explain the benefits your program has for them, and Intentional Culture to shift to a green, conservation-focused fleet.

Safety would also be covered under these pillars.

Doing this test, we felt good that Stakeholder Satisfaction, Intentional Culture, Resource Efficiency, and Risk Management were the right pillars needed to achieve Fleet Success.

Stakeholder Satisfaction

Living up to the expectations of those who depend on the job you do.

Who is your fleet working for? What is its purpose? Why does it exist?

To ensure you are meeting your customers’ needs (both internal and external), you need to identify who your stakeholders are, and what they expect of you.

To identify your stakeholders, we recommend doing this exercise.

Draw two circles. In the first circle, think about the people who are immediately impacted by the job you do. What is it, who are they, what job are they in, what role do they serve? In the next circle, think about the people who depend on them to do their job.

Doing this exercise helps you determine your primary stakeholders (people whom you immediately impact), and secondary stakeholders (people who are impacted by the people you impact).

  • Primary Stakeholders: Some examples of your primary stakeholders can include technicians, drivers, fleet managers, and others in the organization. For government fleets, police officers and department heads could also be included in this group.
  • Secondary Stakeholders: Included in your secondary group could be your customers (although they could be primary, depending on your operation), or taxpayers for a government fleet.

You may also have a third layer. The tertiary level could include your employees’ spouses and families, or anyone else who is affected by your operation’s performance.

Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, the next step is to figure out how to make them happy.

To start, you need to talk to them. Ask them what’s important – and really listen. Every person has their own objective and goals, so it’s up to you to ask them questions and figure out how to help them achieve it. When they provide feedback, listen, and let them know that they’ve been heard. This will help improve communications between you and your stakeholders.

“Most things that go wrong happen because of a lack of communication, or a misinterpretation,” Jeff Jenkins, a former trucking executive and current VP of Sales at RTA, said on “The Fleet Success Show.”

Once you figure out what your stakeholders need, you then need to determine how to measure if they are satisfied.

One way to measure their satisfaction is by establishing an advisory committee. Establish a group of stakeholders you can talk to about issues and problems and get their input on new policies, procedures, and other decisions.

Another option is to survey your stakeholders to see how you’re doing. At RTA, we send a quick survey after every support call so customers can rank their service from one to five stars. The RTA support team averages 5-star service, which motivates them to continue to get high scores.

Taking these measures will help you get a better understanding of who your stakeholders are and measure their overall satisfaction so you know if you need to take action.

Intentional Culture

Purposely deciding the type of environment you want at your fleet, and taking ownership to shape that identity.

While almost every workplace will say they have a culture – and in a job posting they might even boast about having a “great” one – it’s important to be intentional with your culture and not end up at one accidentally.

This pillar requires your fleet operation to purposely live out your company’s values. If not, you could end up with a certain company culture unintentionally, based on the types of employees you hire and the atmosphere of your fleet operation.

Having an intentional culture should make your employees happy at work, which then trickles down to how they treat your customers.

Intentional Culture Vs. Accidental Culture

You might be thinking, “my operation has a good culture.” OK, but is your culture an intentional one that you worked to achieve, or is it an accidental culture that just happened over time?

There is a huge difference between having an intentional culture and an accidental one.

RTA used to have an accidental culture.

“We had an established culture, but there was no set form, there was nothing typed out. We had accidental values,” Turley said on “The Fleet Success Show” podcast.

The culture just happened without intent or purpose. Everyone was nice to each other and was very family-oriented, and that became the accidental culture.

Unfortunately, in some organizations, an accidental culture can create a poor work environment.

“If you’re not intentional about it, then the lowest common denominator sets the tone,” Turley said.

It can lead to gossip, poor work habits, a lack of accountability, and can cause everyone to go in their own direction. This creates a negative place to work.

Leader’s Role

An intentional culture starts at the top of the organization. It’s up to the leader to set the vision for the company — to determine what direction the company needs to go in, and most importantly, why.

“People get confused as to where they are going and why they’re going there,” Jenkins said. “They need to know this is what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

Listen: How To Create an Intentional Culture

Once the vision is set, then it’s up to you to communicate it over and over again to the staff. As Turley said in the podcast, you might have to say something six or seven times to get people to hear it.

“When your team can do a good impression of you saying it, then you know you’ve done your job,” Turley said.

Reinforce the Vision

Once you establish your vision and you’ve overly communicated it, the real work begins to build an intentional culture.

You need to take actions to reinforce the vision. This can include putting new policies and procedures into place, and even hiring and firing based on the vision and core values.

Resource Efficiency

Making the best use of your two most finite resources – time and money.

No fleet operation has an unlimited amount of time and money. If we did, you could buy as many vehicles as you need, or hire as many technicians as you wanted to make sure all of the work orders got done on time.

However, this is not the reality we all live in. If you’re like most fleet managers, you are always struggling to find more money in your budget, or time in your day. Because of this, you need to learn how to get your job done with the resources you have.

You can do this by becoming more efficient.

Listen: Breaking Down Resource Efficiency

RTA’s founder, Ron Turley, did a study at UPS to track technician efficiency. Their fleet operation needed about 12 hours to rebuild an engine on their UPS trucks. Ron wanted to figure out how they could become more efficient to trim that time.

One of the things he did was observe people working in the shop. He watched a technician work on a truck and watched for inefficiencies. Some things he noticed were he kept forgetting parts, and then each time he walked back to the parts room someone stopped him to talk. He also saw that people kept taking his air hose, so he’d have to spend time trying to locate another one. The wash bay was around the corner, so he needed to take time to walk over to it.

He used these observations to look for more efficient processes. What steps could they cut out to save time? How could they rearrange the shop to make key items and locations closer to the technicians?

Making small changes and eliminating inefficiencies let Ron save UPS $100 million.

You can also use new technology to make your fleet more efficient. Technology, like fleet management software, can help eliminate time-consuming tasks by letting you automate information and processes. This can include automatically getting your fuel information through an electronic fuel interface, or easily tracking your parts inventory through the software instead of having to go to the parts room to check how many parts you have in stock. It can also eliminate paper forms that need to be manually entered into the system and then filed away.

Making positive changes at your fleet operation, both big and small, can help you save valuable amounts of time and money.

Risk Management

The proactive process of identifying, assessing, and controlling the threats to your organization and stakeholders.

While you will always have to take some risks at your fleet operation, it’s important to identify these and determine how you can prevent the ones you can.

Be Proactive vs. Reactive

The most important word in our risk management definition is the second one – “proactive.” The key to preventing some risks at your operation is to get ahead of them and address them proactively instead of reacting to issues after they occur.

Some proactive measures you are likely already taking at your operation are preventative maintenance services and pre-trip vehicle inspections. Doing these allows your operation to find vehicle defects and issues early, before they cause breakdowns or result in costly road calls.

Know the Risks

It’s also essential to know what risks are threatening your operation. If you don’t know what threats you are facing, you can’t prevent them.

Jenkins worked at a trucking company where they spent $20 million a year in rear-end accidents between the repairs, insurance costs, lawsuits, and other expenses. To prevent these, they purchased collision-avoidance software for their trucks. It was a large up-front expense – it cost around $8,000 per truck – but it paid off. With the software, they were able to reduce their rear-end expenses to $1 million.

Take Safety Precautions

Another important way to prevent risks in your operation is to take safety precautions. With new technology available, there are countless measures you can take at your operation.

Listen: Importance of Risk Management

Jenkins put cameras in the trucks at the operation he ran. It was a large expense, and his drivers hated it, but it helped his operation identify risky driver behaviors. And, it helped the operation reduce their safety costs by 20%. While this was a large savings, the even bigger benefit was the prevention of countless accidents the cameras helped drivers avoid.

Another example Turley gave was being OK to let unsafe drivers go – even during a driver shortage. It can be tempting for operations to hang onto drivers, even if they pose safety risks, just because they are afraid they won’t be able to replace the person. But, think of it this way – on average a driver might make the company $200,000 a year. However, one bad accident can cost the operation millions of dollars. So, is it really worth it to keep the driver on your staff?

Achieving Fleet Success at Your Operation

We believe that by achieving Stakeholder Satisfaction, Intentional Culture, Resource Efficiency, and Risk Management, your fleet can be more successful. These pillars can help you prioritize customer satisfaction, ensure your employees are happy, establish a culture at your fleet operation, make your technicians more productive, help you save money, and keep your vehicles and your staff safe, amongst numerous other advantages.

To learn more about Fleet Success, check out our book, “The Fleet Success Playbook,” and listen to our weekly podcast, “The Fleet Success Show.”

How successful is your fleet? You can actually measure it with our Fleet Success Scorecard in our fleet management software. Check out our FMIS with a free demo!

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