Fleet manager - A job like no other

14. Nov 2022 | By Malena Gärtner

The job as a fleet manager encompasses an extensive catalog of tasks. Due to its multifaceted nature, this job is far from being like any other.

Not an everyday job

The profession of fleet manager is not an apprenticeship with a Chamber of Industry and Commerce qualification, so it is possible to move up the ladder and start a great career even without a specialist qualification. Marc-Oliver Prinzing, Chairman of the German Association of Fleet Managers, says that many careers are launched by taking on additional tasks or by providing special services and commitment.

Inadequate training for 60 percent of fleet managers

Although the fleet accounts for one of the largest parts of a company's costs, Prinzing says that, surprisingly, no trained specialists are employed. Instead, employees learn by performing tasks, step by step. However, this leads to the fact that training, for example on purchasing strategies or financing methods, but also on owner liability, accident prevention regulations and the legal situation, is inadequate for two out of three fleet managers.

However, this basic knowledge is imperative in order to avoid misjudgement in contract negotiations, and thus to work efficiently and save costs due to mistakes. Also, omitted information or failure to observe important regulations can quickly bring a company to court - with criminal consequences.

According to Marita Friedrich, fleet manager at Ruhrverband Essen, issues relating to owner's liability in particular have become more important in recent years. The person responsible for the fleet must be aware of and meticulously comply with the legal requirements, but at the same time ensure effective fleet control and management.

The competition of German companies skilled workers with good training

However, the need for company cars is driven up by the struggle for skilled workers with a good education - and thus the current state of affairs is not permanent.

In connection with this change, salary conversions and models based on the car-cash-allowance principle are becoming more and more significant, and the choice in the area of car policy is also becoming more extensive. Consequently, the fleet manager is faced with more manufacturers and models, and thus more work.

Due to the stricter requirements for sustainability, but also due to the greater cost pressure and requirements for mobility, the topic of fleet management has increasingly become the focus of attention for the heads of businesses and corporations.

And this is where the fleet manager comes in, who has to face up to these constantly changing tasks. Meanwhile, for example, instead of technical expertise for repair control or vehicle selection, the focus is on business knowledge and TCO (total cost of ownership). The total cost at the end of the mileage is what counts - and these costs should be kept as low as possible. This task can hardly be performed without basic knowledge and good training.

Social competence is important

In addition to business knowledge, the focus is also on the social skills of the fleet manager. Jörg Mannsperger, the head of the Dekra Academy, describes that a fleet manager must also have psychological skills, because there are a lot of emotions involved in the allocation of company cars to employees, especially in German companies. This must be addressed.

In addition, it is now no longer enough to simply provide employees with the company car - instead, mobility must be implemented sensibly and efficiently, because, Prinzing says, travel time is working time.

Dataforce conducted a recent survey that showed that economic and ecological aspects are playing an increasingly important role in employee travel time, so that fleet management now overlaps with mobility management - and new travel options should also be considered.


The responsibility of travel managers

The fleet manager must provide an improved modal split of company cars and other company vehicles for all employees, while also taking into account aspects such as car sharing, leasing flat rates, or rental car management. As a result, his area of responsibility overlaps with that of the travel managers, who are now increasingly being called upon to share responsibility for the vehicle fleet. Since the interfaces between the two areas used to be only half as large, the professional field needs new interfaces. In addition, mobility management relies on a clear catalog of tasks and required competencies.

Job and task descriptions, which should be closely reviewed and aligned, depend on the structure and size of each fleet, but job descriptions from literature and online sources can also provide a basis. However, Prinzing says the descriptions should be expanded further to include, for example, organization, goals and pay scales.

The area of responsibility must be clearly defined

A clear area of responsibility, clarification of all liability issues and unambiguous authority to issue instructions are essential to avoid ambiguities that could develop into pitfalls.

Attorney Christian Krumrey of Fleet Advokat advises that whether one is a manager, employee or part-time worker, the employment contract and also the job posting should be put in writing and clearly worded.

In order to meet this need, the Federal Association of Fleet Managers has drawn up a detailed job and task description, even though there can be no universally applicable job description, but each company must define its needs separately.

The aim of this description was the modularization of a reference concept, which defines the task parts, such as driver's license tests, individually and then puts them together. Due to the fact that the topic is quite comprehensive, results can be expected in a year, at least according to the head of the association.

Training to become a certified fleet manager

Dekra Akademie has now changed the training for certified fleet managers to respond to all these innovations. Mobility management and the sustainability of fleet concepts, for example through alternative drives and systems, are now the focus, so that the certificate obtained enables companies to restructure their fleet management on a secure basis.

What fleet managers should pay attention to

The question arises for which companies pool vehicles are worthwhile and at what point the so-called one-percent rule applies. In addition, there is also a need for clarification with regard to liability. In principle, mobility plays a central role in many companies. However, not every employee directly requires a company car. Rather, there is usually only a minor need for a vehicle for most employees. The solution to this problem lies in a vehicle pool, in which the short- and medium-term needs are analyzed. A company pool is only economical if there is a certain minimum utilization. As a rule, this means a utilization of about 80 percent

In addition, vehicle selection is also an essential part of good planning. Many vehicles differ considerably in terms of operating costs. For example, it is certainly considered uneconomical for an employee to use an upper-class car for a short trip. For many errands where the company does not necessarily have to be represented, an inexpensive small car is also sufficient. In addition to the acquisition costs, running costs must also be taken into account here. Tradespeople and entrepreneurs receive heavy discounts anyway. Trips where several employees are on the road at the same time can be carried out cost-effectively using a large-capacity vehicle. Fleet planning should be based on the average utilization rate.

Additional demand can be met via car-sharing methods. This is significantly cheaper because an unused vehicle also incurs costs. Fixed costs such as loss of value, taxes or insurance fees cannot be avoided. Furthermore, financial advantages should also be exploited. If employees are also allowed to make private journeys with the company vehicles, the one-percent rule applies. Here, the state divides the amount due for the respective vehicle among the employees who are entitled to use it. However, if the company vehicle is not used for private purposes, no special taxation is incurred. Even if the employee takes the vehicle home the evening before for a business trip, this case occurs. If the vehicle fleet is larger, suitable software may also be advantageous. From around 20 vehicles in the vehicle fleet, management should be carried out with the help of professional IT software.

If the employee returns the vehicle, the parameters rental period and mileage are then entered. In this way, the price for the respective trip can be determined exactly. Here, a proper calculation must be carried out. In addition to the variable costs such as wear and tear, the fixed costs must also be sufficiently taken into account. These include insurance, taxes and depreciation costs. In addition, for example, an accruing room rental must also be included.


Other important tasks of a fleet manager

A driver's logbook can be used to determine who drives which car and at what time. In addition, employees' driver's licenses should be checked regularly by the fleet manager. Ideally, this should be done several times a year. Finally, it is also part of the pool manager's job to ensure that the vehicles are in a roadworthy condition. Consequently, important components such as the braking system or tires must be checked regularly - even if the TÜV carries out an extensive inspection. Damage can also be caused by employees, so the vehicles must be inspected regularly with this in mind.