Changing Faces of Fleet
With younger fleet professionals joining the more mature amongst us, now is the time to share our knowledge and experience with the up-and-comers.
It’s about time I got around to recognizing the many accomplished people who make up the fleet management community served by this magazine. I also see new folks coming into fleet management and recall my own start many years ago.
I went to my first NAFA meeting in Toronto, which was held in a hotel near the airport. I was working for a leasing company focused on corporate fleets, a rare thing for the time. I was in awe of the titans of the Ontario chapter in the room: Don McCallum from Imperial Oil, Jack McVicar from Gulf Canada, and Wally Jemmett from Philips Electronics. I thought, “I will never make it as far as those guys.”
Those guys turned out to be generous with their time and advice. When I got my first job as a “real” fleet manager, with a fleet of 300 cars spread across Canada, I started to go to NAFA meetings regularly and make a point of having one-on-one conversations with the older hands.
The affiliates (suppliers) always had important news to share. NAFA’s Ontario members at the time were given a lot of attention from the Ontario Government when fuel prices skyrocketed to unheard of levels. The University of Western Ontario School of Business (now Ivey) was also interested in fleet managers and began writing case studies for their MBA program based on some of our actual experiences.
Corporate fleets, and a few utilities, dominated the fleet management community then. As time passed, many corporations closed their Canadian head offices and transferred their fleet management to a U.S. office.
Two new trends appeared in the fleet management community: Leasing companies grew rapidly and were managing tens of thousands of vehicles and offering many fleet services, such as maintenance management programs and fuel cards. Government fleets began to centralize fleet management and create new fleet managers.
These people were mostly new to fleet management, and it was an opportunity to return the favours given to myself and my newer fleet colleagues a decade earlier. My own career path was shifting to fleets with more heavy trucks and equipment and their own maintenance facilities—an area in which I had more curiosity than knowledge. I got to know a new branch of the fleet management community that was often too busy to go to fleet events (golf excepted).
I then entered the public service and began learning about another side of fleet management, one that deals with unique challenges and where I have seen some of the most daring turnarounds—from fleets that were failing to fleets that are the solid foundation of their agencies.
Some things change… and some don’t. Tesla opened a new supercharger station just two blocks from my home last month. It is one of the largest in the country, with no sign, or convenience store, or car wash— just an unobtrusive row in the parking lot of a retail power centre next to Highway 401.
Also last month, musician Gordon Lightfoot had another performance, this time at a coffee house near Toronto. To all of you that I have met since I first heard of Gordon Lightfoot… thank you.