Winning Strategies for Managing a Large, Diverse Global Fleet

Kevin Fisher, MBA, CAFM, CTP

Vice President of Strategics Fleet Operations, ARAMARK

Kevin, please give us an overview of your fleet. 

It is one of the most diverse fleets I could have imag­ined. With a staff of six peo­ple, we sup­port nine dif­fer­ent lines of busi­ness. Our pri­ma­ry focus today is in North Amer­i­ca, where we have approx­i­mate­ly 10,000 vehi­cles, but we also oper­ate in 22 coun­tries across the globe. We have vehi­cles that range from Class one through Class eight. We have car­go oper­a­tions, pas­sen­ger oper­a­tions and man­age­ment vehi­cles, so it is quite var­ied. 

What are some of the chal­lenges that you have faced with your fleet? 

With­out good inven­to­ry infor­ma­tion, cost infor­ma­tion, fuel usage, main­te­nance expense infor­ma­tion, and col­li­sion expense infor­ma­tion, it is tough to make the right deci­sions. So, first, the biggest chal­lenge was to build with the right part­ners a prop­er fleet man­age­ment infor­ma­tion sys­tem. That helps pro­vide the prop­er total cost of own­er­ship infor­ma­tion to base vehi­cle deci­sions and more.  

Undoubt­ed­ly you receive tons of infor­ma­tion; how do you like to receive it? 

I like to look for action­able date. It needs to be excep­tion-report based. I don’t want to get buried in minu­tia. I want to under­stand things that fall out­side of the agreed para­me­ters and then we can take action on those. 

You both own and lease your fleet; how do you make that deci­sion whether you are going to lease or buy?

We have a com­bi­na­tion of leased and owned vehi­cles, depend­ing on whether we are in a replace­ment cycle or whether we have acquired a busi­ness. We have a per­cent­age of owned equip­ment based on var­i­ous acqui­si­tions.

Our deci­sion to lease or buy is about cost of funds. Gen­er­al­ly, each time we have had that dis­cus­sion with the trea­sury group we have agreed that leas­ing was the cor­rect choice.

What kinds of ser­vices do you use from your fleet man­age­ment com­pa­ny?

They assist us in selec­tor devel­op­ment. We do a total cost of own­er­ship analy­sis to help us make those deci­sions. They man­age the leas­ing, license and reg­is­tra­tion renew­al, insur­ance card dis­tri­b­u­tion, col­li­sion man­age­ment, fuel man­age­ment, and per­son­al mileage report­ing; all of the sup­port func­tions, main­te­nance call cen­ter, so it is an out-sourced solu­tion from a fleet man­age­ment ser­vices per­spec­tive.

You were a final­ist for NAFA’s 2013 ‘Flexy’ Award for Excel­lence in Cor­po­rate Fleet Sus­tain­abil­i­ty. Tell us about your sus­tain­abil­i­ty ini­tia­tives.

I feel quite hon­ored to have been nom­i­nat­ed. I believe that was a result of the work we did specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed to vehi­cle replace­ment. We made very good progress in con­vert­ing con­ven­tion­al size vans to the small­er, more fuel effi­cient Ford Tran­sit Con­nect. That prod­uct gave us an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dou­ble our fuel econ­o­my and halve our green­house gas emis­sions.

We feel strong­ly about sus­tain­abil­i­ty. Last Octo­ber, our fleet start­ed to par­tic­i­pate in a com­pa­ny-wide sus­tain­abil­i­ty work group. We have an envi­ron­men­tal work­ing group but we are in the ear­ly stages employ­ing alter­na­tive fuel vehi­cles.

ARAMARK recent­ly joined the Nation­al Clean Fleet Part­ner­ship and we work close­ly with Clean Cities.  In part­ner­ship with Greater Philadel­phia Clean Cities Direc­tor Tony Bandiero we have sub­mit­ted mul­ti­ple grant appli­ca­tions. We have been instru­men­tal in get­ting a propane pow­ered bus out in Mesa Verde Nation­al Park in Col­orado. We have a grant appli­ca­tion in Denali Nation­al Park in Alas­ka under con­sid­er­a­tion and we have worked on some oth­er projects.

We have been award­ed ACT13 fund­ing in Penn­syl­va­nia for con­vert­ing route vehi­cles to CNG pow­er. We start­ed “spec’ing” gaseous prep last year in all of the vehi­cle con­fig­u­ra­tions that we could to pre­pare for the even­tu­al con­ver­sion to CNG or propane where it makes sense finan­cial­ly.

Hav­ing a very diverse fleet com­pli­cates mat­ters a bit but we are look­ing wher­ev­er we can to make our envi­ron­men­tal goals with the prop­er ROI.  If that hap­pens, we pull the trig­ger. We have about a dozen propane pow­ered vehi­cles deployed and they are work­ing out quite well, 

ARAMARK is prob­a­bly like every oth­er com­pa­ny that wants to reduce costs. How do you take costs out of your fleet?

As a result of hav­ing the fleet man­age­ment infor­ma­tion sys­tem in place, and with the sup­port of my fleet man­age­ment ser­vices provider and their strate­gic con­sult­ing group, we actu­al­ly did a vehi­cle replace­ment analy­sis last year. My team pre­sent­ed the results of our life­cy­cle rec­om­men­da­tions to each of the busi­ness units. Every busi­ness unit CFO signed off on those rec­om­men­da­tions and we are in the process of replac­ing our oper­a­tional fleet at a rate of more than 50 per­cent. It is a huge devel­op­ment. 

What are some of the ini­tia­tives that you have going for the next year or so? 

In addi­tion to the vehi­cle replace­ment ini­tia­tive, which is mid­stream, we are revis­ing our com­mer­cial motor vehi­cle pol­i­cy and over­all vehi­cle pol­i­cy at this time. We are rolling out new dri­ver-focused safe­ty train­ing and we are look­ing at a total cost of own­er­ship for mak­ing deci­sions for the replace­ment of equip­ment. 

We are also lin­ing up and show­ing the order­ing man­agers the dif­fer­ences between the con­tin­ued use of con­ven­tion­al fuels, con­sid­er­ing a down­sized vehi­cle and the ben­e­fits of that, con­sid­er­ing a propane con­ver­sion, con­sid­er­ing a CNG con­ver­sion and giv­ing them the total cost of own­er­ship pro­jec­tions for each of those options. I am hope­ful that this will dri­ve some green­er deci­sions by virtue of edu­cat­ing the man­agers in the field. 

Dri­ver behav­ior is a hot top­ic. Is ARAMARK using telem­at­ics?

We are in the midst of a 180 vehi­cle, four ven­dor telem­at­ics pilot start­ed in Jan­u­ary, so we are right in the thick of it. My require­ments for a telem­at­ics solu­tion had to include in-cab dri­ver feed­back to influ­ence dri­ver behav­ior, the tra­di­tion­al mon­i­tor­ing of speed­ing, idling and hard break­ing events to help influ­ence dri­ver behav­ior. And then we also need­ed a solu­tion that could sup­port reg­u­la­to­ry com­pli­ance. We cur­rent­ly man­age hours of ser­vice report­ing, dai­ly vehi­cle inspec­tion report­ing in a man­u­al process, and it is time to auto­mate that. 

Tell us about your rela­tion­ship with NAFA.

NAFA is a great resource. I came in to ARAMARK and was asked to join the NAFA Philadel­phia Chap­ter. You know, you get out of an orga­ni­za­tion what you put into it and this has been very help­ful to me. I was pre­vi­ous­ly affil­i­at­ed with the Nation­al Pri­vate Truck Coun­cil; I am a Cer­ti­fied Trans­porta­tion Pro­fes­sion­al, so I focused on the CAFM and used that to get immersed in the auto­mo­tive side. My back­ground pri­or to join­ing ARAMARK was more on the Class 8, heavy duty trans­porta­tion side. So it was very help­ful to me and the con­tacts and the net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties were invalu­able. I just learned so much. 

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