12 Mar 19

US companies move to centralize fleet policies

Businesses operating vehicles across the US have made concerted efforts in the past five years to centralise their fleet policies. While state-level taxes and regulations can influence strategies, head offices are looking to set a framework within which their fleets should operate.

Natalie Sievert, managing director, global, Element Fleet Management, said that at least 95 percent of the company’s clients maintain a country-wide policy.

“Over the past 3-5 years, there has been a deliberate shift away from decentralized fleets to centralized ones—allowing for a comprehensive and strategic view of behaviors and cost,” she said.

State-by-state benchmarking of fleet performance

Detailed benchmarking of KPIs across states and divisions, has given fleets more control and precision of their budgeting, and greater potential to reduce waste and cut downtime, added Sievert.

This umbrella view of national fleet performance is providing head offices with the tools to improve their operational efficiency and enhance productivity, although it’s still vital to understand the nuances of certain states and divisions, said Sievert.

“Although it is important to recognize where state regulations demand adjustment to their overall policies, the management of those policies should be centralized—and this is the practice that we see for most fleets,” she said.

Respect local differences

In a country the size of the US and with significant local differences, establishing a countrywide fleet policy is a challenge, said Greg Raven, director, account management, ARI.

He encouraged fleets to set national best practices, while also taking into account specific state or provincial regulations, in the same way that an international fleet policy should respect national differences.

“Initially, the policy should be crafted at a global level to serve as an outline for regional customization,” said Raven. “This creates a baseline of content which must be uniformly covered to ensure compliance and governance. There should be specific details associated with the responsibilities of the company (provide a vehicle that meets functional job requirements, provide reasonable safety features, etc.) as well as the driver (safety training, adhere to standard service schedule, etc.).

“You also need to give special considerations for state/provincial/territory specific requirements that may be influenced by local legislation. In addition to local regulations, your fleet policy should account for other protocols related to driver/employee data privacy, personal use/taxation, and broader organizational policies related to drug testing, to name a few.”

Tariffs and trade wars

Looking beyond US borders, the prospect of trade wars and automotive tariffs, and how these might impact fleet operations, is of particular interest for the American fleet industry.

“Right now, there’s far too much uncertainly to realistically predict the long-term impact of these tariffs. Recognizing that, as legislation continues to unfold, it is certainly a subject that is top-of-mind for many businesses,” said Mike Bryan, department head, Business Intelligence & Analytics, ARI.

“Legal and policy changes have been a particular area of focus for ARI and we continue to monitor all tariff-related news. As with any other economic shift, in the event that tariffs (or other economic factors) are poised to impact our customers, ARI will continue to support our through cost control measures and productivity initiatives.”

Authored by: Jonathan Manning