The Fleet Policy Challenge
How do yours compare?
Have you looked at your fleet policies lately? Fleet policy development is one of the biggest weaknesses I have seen in the fleets I have studied. Lack of clarity, subjective enforcement, weak direction and even an absence of any framework are common problems. NAFA Fleet Management Association has sought to address this void through a one-day workshop on policy development, the content of which was reinforced in a four-part series in Fleet Solutions magazine over the past six months.
Best-in-class fleets have a robust policy framework consisting of three documents–the Fleet Policy Manual, Driver Handbook and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Each of these references contains different material (with some overlap) and is aimed at a different audience.
Fleet Management Manual: Describes the guiding principles, responsibilities, and regulations regarding the use of fleet vehicles and is targeted for the use of the Fleet Manager, fleet staff and Department Heads.
Driver Handbook: Provides drivers with their responsibilities, duties, and accountabilities regarding the operation and maintenance of vehicles in their care.
Service Level Agreement: Details the relationship expectations between Fleet and their customers and is targeted at these two groups.
The bigger picture
This framework does not exist in a vacuum but must be nested in an organization’s strategic plan. That strategic plan should include a vision or outlook on whom the organization wants to be and where the organization wants to be at some point three to five years in the future. The building blocks of a strategic plan are purpose, values, vision, mission, goals, objectives, strategy, action plans, implementation, and review. It is in the implementation of action plans where policies come in. The importance of policies that are well-conceived in support of not only the action plan but the overall strategies, goals, and ultimately the very mission of the organization must not be underestimated.
Fleet policies are certainly not ‘one size fits all.’ Industry segment, size, and composition of the fleet, principle functions, and organizational considerations will all influence what needs to be addressed in your fleet policy. Despite these differences, there are core policies related to safety, sustainability and financial management that should be part of ALL policy manuals. The principal sections of a fleet policy manual should include:
- Governance and Administration
- Vehicle Acquisition
- Vehicle Operations
- Financial Management
Educate & enforce
The fact remains, however, that you can develop the best policy framework in the country, but it will fail without an appropriate education program and enforcement mechanism. A formal program to introduce policies to new hires and communicate policy updates to existing employees is an essential part of a successful program. The policy must be communicated through a variety of means, and new policies must be introduced in a way that they are understood and accepted by all.
Policy education does not stop with the initial training gained in new employee orientation. Employees forget and policies change. For both of these reasons, regular updates and reminders are important.
If you follow this advice on policy education, you can be pretty sure everyone knows what they should be doing. What happens when they break the rules? The policy manual must state who is responsible for enforcing policy and how enforcement will take place. The policy on enforcement should ensure that its application will be fair and consistent, and those policy violations will not be overlooked.
Sound easy? Need more help? The aforementioned policy workshop will be held as a pre-conference event at NAFA’s Institute and Expo in Louisville on April 14. For more information visit nafainstitute.org.