AmeriFleet: Revolutionizing the Industry

Gibson_Steve

Steve Gibson

Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, AmeriFleet Transportation

Steve, Amer­i­Fleet con­duct­ed a num­ber of focus group ses­sions at NAFA Insti­tute & Expo this spring. What did you seek to learn?

What we’re doing at Amer­i­Fleet is rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing our indus­try — not just evolv­ing, but real­ly tak­ing a big step for­ward. We feel that we did that about fif­teen years ago when we start­ed as an orga­ni­za­tion. We start­ed a rev­o­lu­tion for what we do – tru­ly pro­fes­sion­al trans­porta­tion ser­vices. We have evolved over that time into so much more, offer­ing many true turnkey ser­vices whether it be asset stor­age, title and reg­is­tra­tion ser­vice; any­thing to real­ly help keep a mobile pro­fes­sion­al pro­duc­tive. 

That being said, we can’t tru­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ize our indus­try unless we under­stand what our cus­tomers want. It is real­ly about the expe­ri­ence that they, their peo­ple and their cus­tomers want to have. One of the things we are doing in order to gath­er that infor­ma­tion is through a “voice of cus­tomer” effort via focus group ses­sions and sur­veys. We start­ed our first ses­sion at NAFA I&E and we had a great group of indi­vid­u­als that had agreed to come in ear­ly to spend some time with us. It was unbi­ased; no one from Amer­i­Fleet was actu­al­ly rep­re­sent­ed in the focus group. Pat­sy Brown­son, who has been a leg­end in the fleet indus­try for many years, has agreed to lead that effort for us and gath­er the voice of the cus­tomer. 

It’s nice to receive a lot of val­i­da­tion of things that we are doing well, but we are real­ly inter­est­ed in the things that we can improve on or some new chal­lenges that our clients can­not find qual­i­ty solu­tions for.

I think it is most com­fort­able to spend time with your clos­est part­ners and your clos­est busi­ness rela­tion­ships to do these types of ses­sions. We enjoy the valu­able feed­back those rela­tion­ships pro­vide; how­ev­er we are real­ly seek­ing out those cus­tomers and those indi­vid­u­als that we real­ly haven’t done a lot of busi­ness with. And there’s usu­al­ly a rea­son for that. We sim­ply may not have con­nect­ed before or maybe they had a bad expe­ri­ence, or maybe they don’t real­ly know what a trans­porta­tion provider like us can do for them.

AmeriFleet’s part­ner­ship with fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies has been sig­nif­i­cant as the com­pa­ny has grown. Tell us about those rela­tion­ships and touch on the remar­ket­ing ser­vices you are pro­vid­ing.

Our rela­tion­ship with fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies is incred­i­bly impor­tant to us and ben­e­fi­cial to our shared fleet cus­tomers. They are a true part­ner.  We do a lot of best prac­tice shar­ing, a lot of give and take and in doing so, we are an exten­sion of those com­pa­nies. 

The fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies do a great job of under­stand­ing their clients and pass­ing that infor­ma­tion on to us. Our field cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives (FCSRs) receive the vital infor­ma­tion about the needs of the cus­tomer at the pick-up point or deliv­ery point.  The sit­u­a­tion may be a ter­mi­nat­ed employ­ee; armed with that infor­ma­tion, we under­stand that we may need to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion del­i­cate­ly. It is a good part­ner­ship with the fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies and some­thing that we will con­tin­ue to val­ue and keep as a top pri­or­i­ty. 

With respect to remar­ket­ing, many times there is neces­si­ty to pick up a vehi­cle that is going to an auc­tion or to a deal­er for resale. We do a lot of that for the fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies today and have pro­grams built to han­dle more in the future.

We will pick up a vehi­cle for remar­ket­ing and we will diag­nose any prob­lems in the pick­up stage so the fleet man­age­ment under­stands the sit­u­a­tion before they send the vehi­cle to auc­tion. Some­times that can change the direc­tion they decide to go. We may need to get the vehi­cle ser­viced before we trans­port it to auc­tion. We hap­pi­ly take care of those ser­vices for them before they send it to auc­tion. Or, if they decide not to repair the vehi­cle, they know where to direct it. We put on our fleet man­age­ment com­pa­ny hat and rep­re­sent them out in the field. 

Do you have exam­ples of region­al moves and how it works? 

We are actu­al­ly get­ting into relo­ca­tion of cor­po­rate employ­ees. If you have an employ­ee that is being relo­cat­ed with a com­pa­ny car we can cer­tain­ly han­dle that move.  We have pro­grams where we dri­ve the vehi­cle all the way to the final des­ti­na­tion or we use a hub and spoke mod­el.  The hub and spoke mod­el may involve a local, uni­formed employ­ee pick­ing up a vehi­cle and tak­ing it to one of our local hubs. At that point, a truck picks up the vehi­cle and takes it to the region­al office clos­est to the deliv­ery point.  Then you will have the expe­ri­ence on the back end where a uni­formed FCSR brings the vehi­cle to your home. Often we deliv­er a vehi­cle to the res­i­dence so it impor­tant that we are uni­formed and have the prop­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. It’s impor­tant to our cus­tomers that we deliv­er a safe and pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence.

Some of the oth­er sit­u­a­tions that we are run­ning into on the relo­ca­tion side are per­son­al vehi­cles. We may be mov­ing your com­pa­ny car but your spouse may have a vehi­cle or maybe you have chil­dren that have vehi­cles. We are start­ing to do some of that as well. We can han­dle that as an indi­vid­ual trans­ac­tion. 

You were talk­ing a lit­tle bit about tech­nol­o­gy beyond just the straight fleet func­tion. 

I’ve seen a lot of new faces the fleet indus­try. That’s wel­comed and with it comes new expec­ta­tions and new demands for solu­tions that are tech­nol­o­gy based.  We had a con­cert­ed effort to get some of those indi­vid­u­als in our focus groups. They are look­ing to under­stand things and not only to just learn best prac­tices, but to take it to the next lev­el and think about things a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent­ly. 

There are dif­fer­ent uses or dif­fer­ent views on tech­nol­o­gy. Today’s fleet man­ag­er is wear­ing a lot of dif­fer­ent hats and it is our job to pro­vide use­ful infor­ma­tion, but we strive to under­stand how they want that data and how they will use it.  

We spent some time talk­ing to a client who said, “I love your report­ing but real­ly, here is what I need – I just need this eye­lev­el dash­board. If you can just push that to me on a week­ly, month­ly – what­ev­er the inter­vals will be – I can do some­thing with that data and I can show that to this per­son in our orga­ni­za­tion and every­thing is good.” 

We are find­ing peo­ple wear­ing more and more hats and they are look­ing for tech­nol­o­gy to help them make that eas­i­er. We are spend­ing a lot of time build­ing sys­tems that are easy to use and dis­cov­er­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that we can push infor­ma­tion so you just have to tell us just once and we will push it from here on out. It will also give peo­ple an oppor­tu­ni­ty to drill in to some of the data. Most peo­ple in busi­ness enter mul­ti­ple sys­tems dai­ly and they have to remem­ber IDs and pass­words, so we are find­ing ways to make it sim­ple for them so they don’t have to relearn a new sys­tem every time they get infor­ma­tion from us. 

What about safe­ty?  

We pub­lish a safe­ty newslet­ter through Auto­mo­tive Digest to help us pro­mote safe­ty best prac­tices. We are a mem­ber of NETS, which is an employ­ee trans­porta­tion ser­vice orga­ni­za­tion. We are on the Board with that orga­ni­za­tion. We actu­al­ly spon­sor the Novice Dri­ver book­let that was put out by NETS most recent­ly and that is to help new dri­vers with safe­ty tips and tools.

A lot of our effort is real­ly try­ing to help edu­cate fleets on how to per­form safe­ly and pro­tect their employ­ees and assets and pro­vide a good expe­ri­ence – pro­tect those peo­ple on the road. There are thou­sands and thou­sands of vehi­cles out on the road every day and it is our respon­si­bil­i­ty to be safe. There are neg­li­gent entrust­ment issues but more than any­thing else it is the right thing to do. 

What are the best ways for fleet man­agers to deal with the chal­lenge of dri­vers with poor dri­ving records? 

I think the best way to do it is have a strict pol­i­cy. No tol­er­ance is the best approach because when you open the door to excep­tions then you open the door to a lot of poten­tial issues. What we found is to con­tin­ue to talk to your peers and con­tin­ue to talk to com­pa­nies that are experts in that area and get best prac­tices to put togeth­er a real­ly sol­id pol­i­cy. Do up-front, in-depth vet­ting of the employ­ees. It is more than just run­ning an MVR; maybe take a look at the crim­i­nal back­ground. With social media today, you can get a lot of infor­ma­tion on indi­vid­u­als to deter­mine if this is the right pro­file for a dri­ver that we want to rep­re­sent our orga­ni­za­tion. 

We take a lot of time and effort to do that in our own com­pa­ny. All of our FCSRs, our dri­vers, our employ­ees of the com­pa­ny; they are uni­formed and they have to pass a very vig­or­ous test. They get test­ed annu­al­ly to keep cer­ti­fied with us. We also make sure that every­body has a DOT cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. You don’t need a DOT cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to move a sedan or an SUV but a DOT cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is some­thing that we can use for best prac­tices and to help enforce the safe­ty side of things for all of our dri­vers. I would encour­age peo­ple to have your dri­vers DOT cer­ti­fied, as well. 

That is CDL that you are talk­ing about? 

That is actu­al­ly not CDL. DOT cov­ers vehi­cles that are below 26,000 GVWR but over 10,000. A CDL is usu­al­ly the big­ger 26,000 plus trucks. The DOT is a good best prac­tice because you can apply it to sedan and SUV dri­vers. It is just typ­i­cal­ly used for ser­vice vehi­cles where you have some­body that is going to be car­ry­ing some sort of car­go. We require all of dri­vers to be DOT cer­ti­fied just as a best prac­tice. I would encour­age peo­ple to check that out. Maybe there will be leg­is­la­tion one day with a require­ment for busi­ness dri­vers.  

You were elect­ed Vice Pres­i­dent of AFLA at the recent Annu­al Con­fer­ence. Tell us about your role and give us some idea of what you are focus­ing on next year.

I’ve thor­ough­ly enjoyed being both a mem­ber of AFLA and a vol­un­teer on the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mit­tee, and I’m equal­ly excit­ed about fill­ing my new lead­er­ship role and help­ing to shape the future of the orga­ni­za­tion.

Among oth­er duties, my new role includes co-chair­ing the Spon­sor­ship Com­mit­tee. In order to con­tin­ue attract­ing new spon­sors, as well as moti­vat­ing cur­rent spon­sors to con­tin­ue pledg­ing their sup­port, we plan to add new spon­sor­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties. We’ll try to find even more nov­el and unique ways to pro­mote our spon­sors. We’ll reach out to a broad­er range of spon­sor can­di­dates, includ­ing those that aren’t direct­ly relat­ed to the fleet indus­try but may pro­vide influ­ence or sup­port. We’ll also con­tin­ue to deliv­er a pos­i­tive ROI to spon­sors and pro­mote that to prospects we iden­ti­fy.

The entire lead­er­ship team will con­tin­ue to assist in dri­ving mem­ber­ship growth by a respon­si­ble num­ber — not just growth for the sake of growth. We’re espe­cial­ly inter­est­ed in attract­ing proac­tive indi­vid­u­als who will com­mit to the edu­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment of our entire mem­ber­ship.

BIO

As part of AmeriFleet’s senior lead­er­ship team, Gib­son is respon­si­ble for new busi­ness devel­op­ment, sales, client rela­tions, and mar­ket­ing. Pre­vi­ous­ly, he served as direc­tor of fleet admin­is­tra­tion at Ser­vice­Mas­ter where he over­saw man­age­ment of more than 15,000 vehi­cles. Gibson’s back­ground also includes the posi­tion of region­al sales man­ag­er at Wheels, Inc. and as finan­cial solu­tions man­ag­er with GE Cap­i­tal Fleet Ser­vices.

[email protected]

 

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