Secrets of Best-in-Class Fleet Leaders

It’s not easy being a fleet manager. Once upon a time, if you were a top technician who was good with people and competent with numbers, you might find yourself in a manager’s seat. Now your job is a lot more demanding.

Today’s fleet leaders must be data-driven, appeal to a half dozen stakeholder groups, manage risks, foster positive cultures, and even think about reducing environmental impact. Plus they have to manage these big strategic objectives with a growing list of day-to-day responsibilities. 

Fleet managers are in charge of:

  • Managing the logistics of running the fleet.
  • Overseeing the maintenance program.
  • Building and managing the organization’s budget.
  • Controlling fuel, maintenance, inventory, and asset costs.
  • Preparing performance reports for upper management.
  • Developing staffing plans and recruiting strategies.
  • Creating plans to transition the fleet to electric vehicles.
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance. 

How can one person do all of this well?

5 Traits Top Fleet Leaders Have in Common

We talk a lot about fleet success. Fleet leaders have been using the Four Pillars to Fleet Success framework to manage and measure their fleets’ performance. If you’re not familiar with the pillars yet, here they are in a nutshell:


  • Stakeholder Satisfaction: Living up to the expectations of those who depend on you and your fleet.
  • Intentional Culture: Taking steps to create the internal culture they say they want.
  • Resource Efficiency: Efficiently using the organization’s time and money.
  • Risk Management: Proactively identifying, assessing, and controlling potential threats to the organization.


Not only do these pillars provide a clear measurement of success—they’re also a good indicator of the traits the fleet leaders need to hone if they want to build a top-performing organization.  

1. Fleet leaders are accountable.

Anyone in a fleet leadership role has to appeal to multiple stakeholder groups: customers, executive teams, shareholders, employees, and regulatory bodies. Accountability goes a long way toward building trust with these stakeholders. 

An accountable fleet manager: 

  • Clearly defines goals and KPIs that matter to each stakeholder group.
  • Has a process to regularly pull and review data.
  • Transparently communicates and shares progress towards goals.
  • Develops plans to optimize performance.

2. They’re smart with their resources.

Public fleets are under particular pressure to be efficient with their resources. This is about more than just reducing fuel and labor costs. It includes:

  • Controlling the total cost of asset ownership through preventive maintenance programs and long-term replacement strategies.
  • Optimizing fleet size and composition to meet their communities’ needs.
  • Developing succession plans to protect the future health of the organization. 
  • Being a good steward of natural resources by leading sustainability and zero carbon initiatives.

3. They care about their people. 

A fleet is only as good as its people. Top fleet leaders invest in taking care of their teams through:

  • Ongoing training, leadership development, and professional development programs.
  • Fostering trust and inviting feedback from across the organization
  • Actively encouraging (and even incentivizing) collaboration and creativity.
  • Shouting the accomplishments of hard-working team members from the rooftops.

4. They embrace technology. 

Today’s fleet leaders aren’t new to technology. The industry has evolved well beyond handwritten work orders and maintenance logs. But top fleet leaders go further than just using an FMIS solution to operate their fleet. 

  • They use their FMIS’s analytics to manage and optimize performance.
  • They’re testing innovative new technologies like advanced telematics and artificial intelligence.
  • They have a clear vision for their organization’s future tech roadmap.

5. They know when to partner with outside experts. 

Fleets have faced some seemingly insurmountable challenges in the last several years. Between the advancements in automotive technology, evolving regulatory requirements, and a senior workforce that’s aging out and taking precious knowledge with them, today’s leaders must adapt quickly. But they don’t always have the knowledge to do so. 

Leaders know their organization’s strengths and weaknesses. And they know when to bring in experts from the outside—whether it’s specialized technicians for obscure issues or fleet management consultants who can do things like develop EV transition plans or conduct KPI assessments.     

Taking Your Fleet to the Next Level

Chances are, you have some big initiatives in the year ahead. If you need advice on transforming your fleet into a high-performing operation, check out these resources:

  • The Fleet Success Show: A podcast dedicated to talking about the fundamentals, standards, and best practices that empower today’s fleets to achieve fleet success. >Subscribe to the show.
  • 100 Best Fleets in the Americas: A program that identifies and recognizes the ever-increasing performance and innovation in the fleet industry. >Watch for the 2024 winners.
  • NAFA’s Institute and Expo: The premier fleet event bringing together thousands of professionals from every segment, including corporate, government, public safety, utility, education, and more. >Mark your calendar.
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