GE’s Unique Perspective on Fleet Solutions

Smith_Mark

Mark Smith

Vice President of Strategic Accounts, GE Capital Fleet Services

 Tell us about GE’s cur­rent focus.

Our focus con­tin­ues to be with our cus­tomers. We want to make sure that each and every day we under­stand their needs and that we are deliv­er­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices that will meet those needs. As their busi­ness­es change, and as the indus­try changes, it is impor­tant for us to adapt and change with them to help make them suc­cess­ful and to help them ser­vice their cus­tomers.   

What are fleets telling you about their con­cerns right now?  

There con­tin­ues to be sev­er­al themes as we talk to our fleet cus­tomersWe inter­act with many of the largest fleets as well as many of the small­est fleets in the coun­try. It is amaz­ing how sim­i­lar the themes are when you talk to the fleet man­agers and exec­u­tives at those com­pa­nies. Both are focused on cost sav­ings espe­cial­ly as fuel prices have start­ed to climb again.  

There is also a big focus on safe­ty and look­ing at dif­fer­ent ways that fleets can man­age safe­ty either with onboard tech­nolo­gies, through third par­ty solu­tions, or through dri­ver edu­ca­tion and train­ing. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty con­tin­ues to be a key theme among our cus­tomer and poten­tial cus­tomer base. Anoth­er top­ic that we are hear­ing more about, par­tic­u­lar­ly among the ser­vice and deliv­ery fleets, is dri­ver pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. We work close­ly with our cus­tomers to keep the dri­ver on-road and as pro­duc­tive as pos­si­ble.  

What are some of the GE solu­tions to address these issues?   

In terms of cost sav­ings, we work very close­ly with our Fleet Man­age­ment Solu­tions Team and our Strate­gic Con­sult­ing Teams to engage proac­tive­ly with our cus­tomers to find out what they need to be doing today, but also what they need to do today to posi­tion them for suc­cess for tomor­row. We do a lot of bench­mark­ing with our cus­tomers and then we work with them to help them design the fleets that they need to put on-road. So, design­ing and imple­ment­ing holis­tic fleet strate­gies is one of the ways we address the cost sav­ings piece of it.   

From an acci­dent or safe­ty per­spec­tive, we are work­ing with cus­tomers and part­ners to pilot new tech­nolo­gies that are com­ing into the indus­try. Vehi­cle selec­tion is also an impor­tant part of the process. Many of the fleets that we work with have imple­ment­ed min­i­mum safe­ty stan­dards based on crash test rat­ings.

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty con­tin­ues to be addressed in terms of vehi­cle selec­tion, dri­ver behav­ior and dri­ver coach­ing. From a pro­duc­tiv­i­ty per­spec­tive, we have telem­at­ics and oth­er solu­tions that help keep the dri­ver as pro­duc­tive as pos­si­ble.   

Give us your thoughts on the role telem­at­ics is cur­rent­ly play­ing in the fleet sec­tor.

Telem­at­ics is not a new tech­nol­o­gy but it is becom­ing more wide­ly adopt­ed in the com­mer­cial fleet seg­ment. The trac­tor trail­er car­ri­ers have had telem­at­ics solu­tions for quite some time. We are start­ing to see wide­spread ver­sions of that tech­nol­o­gy specif­i­cal­ly adapt­ed to the small­er vehi­cles for ser­vice and deliv­ery.

You will con­tin­ue to see telem­at­ics play a more impor­tant role in the com­mer­cial fleet man­age­ment space and also to some extent in the pub­lic and the gov­ern­ment fleet man­age­ment space over the next three to five years. What is an option now will become stan­dard in the future. And the way we use data from the fuel cards and main­te­nance pro­grams today; it will be very sim­i­lar in terms of data com­ing off telem­at­ics devices feed­ing into pro­grams to inter­act with and allow fine tun­ing of all aspects of fleet man­age­ment.  

How can we man­age dri­ver behav­ior more effec­tive­ly?  

Dri­ver behav­ior is very impor­tant in terms of man­ag­ing the over­all fleet cost. If you think about it, there are deci­sions that dri­vers make on a day- to-day basis that impact up to 70 per­cent of the total fleet cost. A fleet man­ag­er may choose what vehi­cle to pur­chase or to put into the fleet but the dri­ver takes care of that vehi­cle. If they are hard on that vehi­cle, if the seats get torn up, if they dent it, if it gets nicked, if they bump into things; that all impacts the cost of the fleet in a big way. How they care for the vehi­cle from a cos­met­ic and a struc­tur­al prospec­tive con­tributes in a mate­r­i­al way to over­all fleet costs. Where are they going to fuel and what kind of fuel are they going to put into the vehi­cle? Where do they go for main­te­nance and what kind of main­te­nance ser­vices are they procur­ing? Are they tak­ing a stan­dard tire or are they tak­ing a top of the line tire? Are checks and bal­ances in place using pro­grams like our main­te­nance pro­gram to help con­trol those things?  

One of the best ways to work with dri­vers is to have pro­grams that pro­vide both an incen­tive for engag­ing in the right types of behav­iors and con­se­quences if behav­ior is against fleet pol­i­cy. You want to incent them to do the right things and you also want to make sure from a com­pli­ance prospec­tive you are mon­i­tor­ing and engag­ing where dri­vers are dis­play­ing inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior. For exam­ple, if you are not man­ag­ing over-the-tank capac­i­ty you may end up in fraud sit­u­a­tions. A dri­ver of a vehi­cle with a twen­ty gal­lon tank, for exam­ple, that has put 30 gal­lons into that tank needs to be con­tact­ed to deter­mine what hap­pened. Was it because there was a bad storm com­ing in and they were fill­ing a five gal­lon tank or was it a fraud sit­u­a­tion where they were fill­ing a boat or a four wheel­er?  

Once dri­vers know that you are active­ly man­ag­ing, they behave in appro­pri­ate ways. There are things that we do on the front-end with help­ing our cus­tomers in man­ag­ing their fleet pol­i­cy in terms of train­ing, set­ting expec­ta­tions and there are things that we do on the back-end in terms of mon­i­tor­ing pol­i­cy com­pli­ance that help us and our cus­tomers engage with their dri­vers.  

Dri­vers are not the prob­lem, they are the solu­tion and so our abil­i­ty to dri­ve change across the indus­try with GE’s cus­tomers and with our customer’s cus­tomers is to engage them, to edu­cate them, to help them under­stand why we are doing what we are doing and to get their buy-in.  

Let’s talk about sus­tain­abil­i­ty.  

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty con­tin­ues to be a key focus area for many pub­lic and com­mer­cial fleets across the coun­try. As fuel prices climb that becomes cen­ter stage, again, but it has become a pri­ma­ry focus for many exec­u­tives, both in terms of what they are doing with their fleets, but also in terms of how they man­age their company’s pub­lic image. For exam­ple, in the past you may have had a util­i­ty or ser­vice fleet that pulls up with a medi­um or heavy truck in a res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood or even in a com­mer­cial neigh­bor­hood. That truck may idle all day long while repairs, main­te­nance, or new con­struc­tion activ­i­ties are being under­tak­en and nobody thought twice about it. Today if you pull up into a neigh­bor­hood or com­mer­cial dis­trict and leave that truck on all day some­body around you is going to be pick­ing up a phone and call­ing that com­pa­ny and reg­is­ter­ing a com­plaint say­ing — I live here, I work here, I have been walk­ing here and you have a truck that has been idling for eight hours and nobody is in it and that is not accept­able.  

Com­pa­nies need to man­age sus­tain­abil­i­ty ini­tia­tives not only because it is the right thing to do from an envi­ron­men­tal prospec­tive and from a cost per­spec­tive, but also from a brand per­spec­tive. The expec­ta­tion in the com­mer­cial and retail mar­ket­place is that com­pa­nies are behav­ing in sus­tain­able ways. They need to doc­u­ment, com­mu­ni­cate and show that it is not just talk. There is an expec­ta­tion for action and results.  

We have sev­er­al dif­fer­ent types of ini­tia­tives that we have under­tak­en. We rec­og­nize that with over 17,000 vehi­cles, our inter­nal GE cus­tomer fleet is one of the largest in the coun­try so we need to be a leader in terms of how we man­age our own fleet. We also need to be a leader in terms of being a fleet man­age­ment com­pa­ny and bring­ing thought lead­er­ship and exper­tise to the mar­ket.   

As you know, last year in May we opened our Vehi­cle Inno­va­tion Cen­ter and our Learn­ing Cen­ter specif­i­cal­ly designed to help com­pa­nies learn about alter­na­tive fuel vehi­cles, elec­tric vehi­cles and the dif­fer­ent options that are avail­able to them. At any giv­en time we have 10 to 15 vehi­cles from a vari­ety of domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al man­u­fac­tur­ers avail­able for our cus­tomers to dri­ve in one loca­tion. It makes it quite con­ve­nient for them to come in and expe­ri­ence those tech­nolo­gies.  

We are also work­ing proac­tive­ly with third par­ty solu­tion providers and our cus­tomers, to devel­op plat­forms that will enable their fleet on a case-by-case basis. And then last­ly we have deployed tech­nolo­gies across our GE fleet like the Chevy Volt and the Ford C-Max.

What do you believe sets GE apart from its com­peti­tors?   

GE is sim­i­lar to our com­peti­tors in many ways but we are also very dif­fer­ent. Our focus on the cus­tomer is num­ber one and the expe­ri­ence our cus­tomers have when they are with GE is phe­nom­e­nal. Our abil­i­ty to ral­ly around them, to help them solve and achieve their busi­ness goals is unsur­passed in the indus­try when we bring to bear the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence of our sales team, the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence of our Fleet Man­age­ment Solu­tions team, the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence of our Strate­gic Con­sult­ing team and the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence of our remar­ket­ing team. We have a very strong val­ue propo­si­tion that res­onates with our cus­tomers and they like the fact that we have 17,000 vehi­cles with the GE brand on them. They like the fact that we have to solve prob­lems for our own fleet and that we can lever­age the solu­tions to those prob­lems to help them man­age their fleets more effec­tive­ly. 

BIO

Mark Smith is VP of Strate­gic Accounts at GE Cap­i­tal Fleet Ser­vices. Since Mark joined GE in 2003, SCS has saved com­pa­nies in a vari­ety of indus­tries over $450 mil­lion by cre­at­ing and imple­ment­ing fleet strate­gies, trans­form­ing fleet oper­a­tions and improv­ing fleet process­es. Pri­or to join­ing GE, Mark was a Region­al Oper­a­tions Direc­tor for Elec­tron­ic Data Sys­tems, Solu­tions Con­sult­ing divi­sion. He has an MBA in Finance from Brigham Young Uni­ver­si­ty. His high­ly suc­cess­ful career includes posi­tions in finance, oper­a­tions and sales as well as inter­na­tion­al assign­ments in New Zealand and South Korea. Mark con­sults reg­u­lar­ly with man­agers and exec­u­tives at all lev­els to cre­ate and imple­ment fleet strate­gies based on cur­rent macro-eco­nom­ic and fleet indus­try con­di­tions.

[email protected]

 

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