This interview was first published in the IPWEA newsletter in October 2015.
Tweed Shire Council Operations Coordinator – Plant and Materials, Thomas Brayley discusses how fleet has changed and what it takes to get to the top of the profession.
Q. How has fleet management changed in the time you have been in the industry?
Fleet management has changed dramatically over the years I have been in the profession. The ‘new age’ fleet manager must now be in tune with compliance, safety, quality, sustainability, accountability and accreditation requirements.
Q. Are these changes for the better/worse? Why?
Managing fleet in local government is always challenging. I have found that in recent years the public sector fleet manager has had to adapt to the political arena as more transparency in processes, practices and reporting is requested at a high level. For a passionate and committed fleet manager this can be quite restrictive, but it has to be done.
Q. Has the route of progression to become a fleet manager changed? If so, how?
It has come to be expected that the fleet manager should have an engineering and business background. This is not so. Business, engineering and design is not compulsory and/or can be completed on the journey to becoming a fleet manager.
The progression route of the fleet manager, in my experience anyway, is developed from a mechanical trade background. This is followed by a desire to do more in the profession of asset management. This can mean skipping the role of workshop supervisor to follow other opportunities in leadership, management or business studies of some form or another.
One can find themselves lost for a period of time in their career. This is good and a character building stage of life. I did. I travelled many countries returning back to study greenkeeping, amenity horticulture and golf course design [to allow me to do] more travelling and work in other countries. [During this time] I gained valuable knowledge and experience [that I have applied in] my current role.
Materials, agricultural machinery, quantity surveying, man management, costing and design [are all skills that] play a part in forming who I am and what I can offer to the industry.
Q. Do fleet managers have greater responsibilities/pressures today?
Without doubt fleet managers have had to become more responsible for themselves and their organisation. Again, compliance and safety factor hugely in running a large fleet.
When I managed a fleet contract for the rail industry in the UK, safety and compliance were paramount to operations. One serious incident or death would lose you the contract and could see you facing corporate manslaughter charges. The same goes for fleet operations here in Australia. You are responsible for the equipment that you build, supply and manage and also the people that you manage.
Q. Does anything need to be done to change the fleet industry? If so, what and why?
More administrative support would be up there. The fleet manager has evolved, yet the support required to manage and maintain a successful, cost effective, safe and compliant fleet is not readily available or budgeted for.
Q. What advice would you give to people starting out in fleet?
My advice for people starting out in fleet is don’t run, walk. Becoming a fleet manager is a long road, but a rewarding one. Gain valuable experience and accreditation in a relevant trade.
As I said before, don’t be put off by the perception that you have to have diploma or degree – it helps but is not compulsory. Some of the best and most respected fleet managers I am privileged to know are trade qualified and have worked their way up with real-life experience that equal these qualifications and more.
Take on any acting supervisory roles whenever possible to see if people and asset management is enjoyable and rewarding for you. If it isn’t, well, try something else. If it is, you will flourish and the world is your oyster.