In the increasingly complex global business terrain, fleet managers, also known as transportation managers, play a pivotal role in any industry that moves people or manufactures, transports, or warehouses products. In addition to optimizing transportation operations (which may include selecting vehicles; hiring, training, and scheduling drivers; and overseeing vehicle maintenance and regulatory compliance), they work closely with other key departments to support the company's mission. Becoming a successful fleet manager requires a robust combination of education, experience, skills, and knowledge.
Fleet Manager Duties & Responsibilities
Fleet managers are usually in charge of all facets of the transportation activities of an organization, including:
- Maintain departmental compliance with company policies and procedures.
- Ensure departmental adherence to applicable laws and regulations.
- Manage other employees.
- Schedule, route, maintain, and track transport vehicles.
- Negotiate with suppliers.
- Resolve disputes.
- Analyze the effectiveness of operations.
- Implement and enforce transportation scheduling and policy changes.
In the process of discharging their overarching duty to maintain and enhance customer relations through on-time, safety-conscious, budget-friendly transportation of people, products, or raw materials, fleet managers are also accountable for staying abreast of federal, state, and local regulations affecting their operations; registering and licensing vehicles and keeping inspections up to date; developing procedures to maximize productivity, cut expenses, and minimize mistakes and waste; and working with other managers to meet organizational and budgeting priorities.
Fleet Manager Salary
A fleet manager's salary may vary widely depending on the industry, where the job is located, experience, and education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups transportation, storage, and distribution managers together in terms of salary:
- Median Annual Salary: $94,730 ($45.54/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $158,370 ($76.14/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $56,050 ($26.95/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training, & Certification
A high school diploma or equivalent or a two-year associate degree, along with relevant experience, is needed to acquire an entry-level transportation job. A managerial position in transportation typically requires at least a four-year degree.
- Education: A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a major in business administration, accounting, logistics, or a related field is needed to move into a management position. Some employers may require a postgraduate degree such as an MBA or a master's degree in supply chain management.
- Experience: A bachelor's degree plus five years of successful transport management experience—ideally including two to three years as a supervisor—will position a candidate for many of the top fleet management jobs.
- Certification: Certification isn't required to enter the field, but an employer may have its own certification requirements. For example, an employer may require certification by the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) Fleet Management Association, which offers two certification programs in a range of disciplines.
Fleet Manager Skills & Competencies
You'll need a number of hard and soft skills to perform this complex job effectively:
- Communication and interpersonal skills: A fleet manager is a skilled negotiator, an active listener, and an agile speaker and writer where vendors and all levels of employees are concerned. They report to a few, collaborate with some, oversee others, and negotiate deals with suppliers.
- Computer and software skills: In addition to email, instant messaging, spreadsheet, and word processing apps, they are familiar with fleet-specific programs like route navigation software and logistics and supply chain software.
- Finance and accounting literacy: A fleet manager needs to understand how to read a balance sheet and how to establish a departmental and fleet budget.
- Ability to supervise staff: Whether they're in charge of a transportation segment or transportation is the company's core business, they supervise and critique the work of other employees in a variety of roles.
- Understanding of what's under the hood: A fleet manager needs to understand vehicle systems, mechanics, and technology sufficiently to authorize repairs and accurately evaluate the work of employees involved in maintenance and repairs.
- Knowledge of applicable laws and regulations: They are well-versed in the environmental and safety laws, regulations, and rules that are relevant to their department.
According to O*NET OnLine, employment in the field of fleet or transportation management is projected to grow between 5% and 9% during the decade ending in 2026, which is about the same as the average for all occupations.
Depending on where fleet managers work, they may split their time between an office environment and the shop in varying proportions, or they may spend most of the time in an office working at a computer, talking on the phone, and meeting with other managers or staff. In some jobs, fleet managers work outside at least part of the time and may be exposed to inclement weather, high levels of noise, and vehicle fumes in the course of doing their job.
Fleet managers generally work Monday through Friday, starting work early in the morning around 7 or 7:30 a.m. and leaving between 5 and 6:30 p.m. They may also be on call during weekends and holidays to handle emergencies.
How to Get the Job
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CareerOneStop, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, is a great place to start your search for a job in transport management. You can also search the well-known job boards such as Indeed and Glassdoor.
Comparing Similar Jobs
Related occupations, along with their median annual salaries, include:
- Logistics Manager: $94,730
- Purchasing Manager: $118,940
- Truck Dispatcher: $39,470
- Truck Driver: $43,680
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018