As we get older, we realize that we are all creatures of habit. Without thinking about it, we do the same things each and every day. These days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months, and the months into years. Soon, we’re ingrained in the habits that we have developed over time.
While we all have habits we know we should break, we rarely give thought to developing good ones. The right habits will not only make our lives better but can also improve the lives and productivity of our employees.
Let’s discuss five habits that every good fleet manager needs to develop.
1) Staying Informed
We all study the same trends every day, cost per mile and why do we still have trucks sitting empty. As a fleet manager, I liked to know what’s going on. I hate surprises.
When arriving at the office at 6:15 every morning the very first thing I’d do is check my nightly run report. I wanted to know two things: Who ran all night, so my dispatchers will know who not to try to dispatch? Secondly, did any of my trucks have a problem that would delay them from pick up or delivery?
No one likes walking into the big office without the answers to satisfy the big boss when they want to know why their favorite driver isn’t where they’re supposed to be (and heaven forbid they pick up the phone and ask them directly I’m sure that would cause a rip in the very fabric of time).
Get yourself into the habit of knowing the answers to questions before they are asked. Make use of your Pedigree Technologies’ Fleet Management, talk to your employees, and keep up-to-date on what’s happening at headquarters. Being seen as the guy with all the answers is a great place to be.
2) Expecting the Unexpected
As I’ve said before, I hate surprises. Even so, I came to accept the fact that I’d get a phone call about an issue that either could have been avoided or to find we were just victims of circumstance. I needed to develop the superpower of always expecting the unexpected.
“Of course I knew that blow out would put me four hours behind and no I didn’t notify anyone.” That’s always a favorite line for fleet managers to hear. Over the years I’ve learned to not only accept unexpected problems, but I can often see them as a nice reason to take a morning walk.
Remember that each one of your drivers are humans first, so mistakes are going to happen. If you don’t waste time pretending that problems weren’t ever going to come, you can get the right to responding effectively.
3) Staying Flexible
Have you learned to stretch? As managers, we have to stay flexible. Okay, maybe we’re not running to the gym every evening at 7, but we do have to stay flexible. I had to learn to accept the human element of my drivers. Sally calls on Tuesday morning requesting to be home on Friday for her son’s prom, and Tony calls on Wednesday because heaven forbid he miss the Minnesota fishing opener.
Are either of those my problems? No. However, it’s easier to keep a great driver than it is to hire a good one. Sure, dispatch has loads preplanned. But as a fleet manager, that’s not the primary issue. The goal is taking care of your team while ensuring that the job gets done right.
Your drivers aren’t robots, and neither are you. When you stay flexible and make adjustments as you go, you end up with happier employees and a more efficient operation.
4) Standing Firm
If you say no, then keep your answer no. Don’t let the owner change your mind. Remember, there is a reason you were hired as a fleet manager.
You didn’t get to be where you are by being lax in your work or by being a pushover. If the gut says no, then no is probably the right answer. Maybe that load you were offered pays great, but if you’re pushing the compliance line, don’t do it.
This doesn’t mean that new information can’t help you make a better decision. The point is don’t develop the habit of second-guessing yourself every step of the way. Make a decision and stay firm.
5) Staying Positive
The final habit you must develop is the ability to stay positive. While drivers and the dispatchers hardly ever see it, fleet managers are often the whipping boys and girls when things go wrong.
When fuel prices go up, it’s our job to pull down the fleet idle time or reduce out of route miles. When freight gets slow, it’s our job to explain to the drivers why we’re down on miles. That’s just the nature of the job.
The trick is to stay positive and keep your perspective through it all. Don’t let the day-to-day aggravations and challenges get you down.
Remember, it’s all a big cycle. While it may take a little longer for the cycle to be completed, rates will go back up, fuel will come back down, and Tony will inform us a few days before the fishing opener next year, too.
These are a few of the habits that fleet managers should work on developing in their career. These habits served me well as a driver, fleet manager, and as an owner of a small fleet. I’m confident that these can also help you to be more efficient and effective in your own operation.
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