by Pride Transport | Apr 16, 2021
A fleet manager with a trucking company has an essential job. The connection between drivers and fleet manager is vital and, when handled correctly, the operation runs smoothly, and all are happy. That’s no easy task. And it takes a particular skill set to do the job well. Here at Pride, we’re very proud of our fleet managers. They keep our drivers informed, moving, happy, and much more.
A good fleet manager does the job well and keeps the drivers busy when they need to be and home when they want to be. But that’s just boilerplate. That’s the nuts and bolts of what a fleet manager does. Here at Pride, our fleet managers are anything but basic. They go above and beyond, and they do all they can to keep our drivers busy, happy, and earning money they need to support their family and have a good life.
What a Fleet Manager does
If we look at the fleet manager’s basic requirements, we see that their job relies heavily on strong communication skills. That includes listening as well as speaking. Sometimes, it’s more listening than talking. Being a good listener can elevate a fleet manager from good to great. But, what else does the fleet manager do?
A fleet manager helps drivers concentrate on routes and safely deliver cargo on time and correctly.
They coordinate and manage loads to achieve the highest reward at the lowest cost.
They must think quickly and creatively to combine shipments with the best routes while keeping in mind the need to help drivers get the miles they need to support themselves and their families.
A fleet manager must ascertain whether or not there are special needs involved in shipping a load. For example, shipping a load of produce is different from shipping frozen meat, or ice cream. A fleet manager knows the differences and makes sure the needs of the shipment are met.
They help drivers make sure that all documentation is in order and up to date.
A fleet manager rarely experiences downtime. There is always something demanding their attention; coordinating loads, taking calls, handling communication with customers and drivers, as well as managing routes all day.
A fleet manager has to have a good grasp of technology; GPS, satellite tracking, and bypass systems, to name a few.
Lists are a fleet manager’s best friend. They have to maintain a clear schedule and an up-to-date “to-do” list. A fleet manager must learn quickly to make peace with multi-tasking and create a method that works best for them.
And, honestly, one of the primary jobs of a fleet manager is to keep people happy.
And there it is. You have a good idea of what a fleet manager does and they keep their drivers running and happy. But that’s just the textbook definition of sorts. However, we have all experienced situations where the job description is modified to fit the daily requirements. People make adjustments to do the job better and more efficiently.
To find out what the fleet manager’s job with Pride is really like, we spoke with one of our fleet managers to get the inside track.
Meet Justin Healy, Team Fleet Manager
Justin joined Pride in March of 2019; he’s 41, originally from Idaho, and now lives in Utah. He studied geology at the University of Utah, worked in sales for Specialized Bicycles. He enjoyed the job but he didn’t want to move to California to move up in the company. He has a friend who works for Pride, and she told him what an incredible place it is to work and encouraged him to apply.
Justin has no experience driving trucks but that doesn’t matter. He adapted quickly and, in 2020, he was named employee of the year. He thoroughly enjoys the work and thinks Pride is an incredible company to work for.
Justin is sort of an anomaly; when he started, he worked weekends, and then, he was offered his own fleet to run. To get to that point, Justin did his homework and used his past experiences to move smoothly into a full-time fleet manager’s role. His transition was quick. He now runs a fleet of between 38-40 drivers
He was kind enough to sit down with us to talk about his job and answer some questions about being a fleet manager.
What skills did you bring from your previous experience that have helped you here at Pride?
“Communication. As a sales rep listening, talking, really hearing what customers have to say is vital. I listen to my drivers. I really speak with them and get to know them, which makes my job easier.”
“Basically, my job is to keep my drivers happy, and the very best way to do that is to communicate clearly and often.”
Did you get any grief when you started because you’re not a driver?
“I had a few drivers look at me sideways, probably thinking I couldn’t do the job because I wasn’t a driver. But, once they realized that I was paying attention, asking the right questions, and listening, it got better. For my part, it’s important to me to remain consistent; that’s how I earned trust. I worked hard to have the trust of my drivers, so; now it doesn’t matter that I was never a driver; we have mutual respect and trust. My boss wants me to get my CDL, and he’s even offered to pay for it. I am going to do it. I want to do it so that I can be better at my job. So I can have a clearer understanding of what my drivers deal with. I think it will help me serve my drivers and the company better.”
Justin remarks that many drivers are surprised, in a good way, at his level of communication. He relays that drivers coming to Pride from other companies tell him that they never had this kind of relationship with their fleet manager before. At other companies, Justin tells us, the fleet manager is behind bulletproof glass. And there is little to no communication beyond what is absolutely necessary.
“I couldn’t work that way,” Justin tells us, “I need to communicate with the drivers. I want to know what they need, how they drive, their likes and dislikes so I know how to schedule them and which routes are best for them. The more I know about my drivers, the easier it is for me to help them be successful.”
And that’s what makes Justin so good. His communication skills and his genuine desire to help drivers to be successful.
How long did it take you to feel like you are on top of the job?
“It took me the entire summer when I started. There was so much to understand and to know. I did a lot of homework, and I asked a lot of questions. I mean, a lot of questions. Some very patient people around me have put up with my questions, never got upset, and truly helped me be better at my job.”
And how are you doing now?
“Now? I’m still learning, and that’s great. I love a mental challenge, and this job offers that every single day. No matter how much I think I’ve learned, I know there’s more to come. That’s why communication is so vital. I keep trying to have better communication with my drivers—all the time. I have, on average, 38 drivers. That’s 38 different, unique personalities. Drivers tell me that at other companies, you’re just a number. I don’t think I could work that way. I see the drivers as people. Special, unique people who all want something different from the job. If it was just numbers, not people, I don’t think I could do the job well, and I wouldn’t be as interested in it.”
Justin explains that some drivers just want to make as much money as possible. Some want to be home more often and some, just want to see as much of the country as possible. He listens, talks, and gets to know his drivers personally, which allows him to help them achieve their goals.
“In other companies, drivers tell me the relationship between fleet manager and driver is almost adversarial. With me, the better I work with my drivers, the easier my job is, and the better it all works out for Pride.”
Do you speak with all your drivers every day?
“Not everyone. I don’t bother my drivers on their home time unless there is an emergency or they call me. But, yes, I check in with my drivers, see how they are, find out how they’re feeling and that allows me to communicate with them better. We talk about the route, the load, and just general life stuff. I care about my drivers, and I want to know how they are so I can know how best to communicate with them.”
What do drivers talk to you about when they are on the road?
“Everything. They want to know about the weather, road closures, they missed a fuel stop and need a fuel stop, all sorts of things. Sometimes they just need to hear a voice; they want to hear a joke or just gripe about the day. Now and then, they will complain about the job or get complacent when they are about to have hometime. In those cases, I really listen to what’s underneath the complaint, the complacency. There’s always a reason. So, I listen, and we figure it out, and usually, they feel better. They just need to be heard and be understood, and I’m happy to do that.”
It sounds like your job is part therapist.
He laughs at this, agrees but goes on.
“I’ve never taken any psychology courses, but, as I said, the listening part of the past job was a great experience for this one. I like people. I like to help, and I don’t see my drivers as a number. I want to hear what they are thinking and what is troubling them, and that way, I can help them find solutions and; I know I’ve said it already but, I can help them be more successful in the job. I’m not a therapist; I just know how important it is to listen and listen well.”
What’s your least favorite part of the job?
“That’s hard to say because I like the job so much and, if anything is going wrong, it’s usually me. Bad days or bad moments are usually about my attitude on the day. If I let life stress or a bad situation influence my day, then things seem bad. But, if I keep my attitude in check and pay attention to what I need to do for my drivers, there’s really nothing about the job I don’t like. Wait, that’s not 100% true. I have to do temp checks of every trailer. I don’t know why; I just hate doing it. It’s not difficult; I just check to make sure the refrigerator trailers’ temp is correct and write it down. It’s simple, but I hate doing it. Sometimes I check in the morning, and I won’t file the report until 4:55 ...I really cannot explain why I don’t like it but, that’s about it. That’s about it. The rest of the job, I really like.”
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a Fleet Manager?
“Advice? Okay, two things, two simple things, really. One, don’t take work home with you. Some days are just going to suck; some days, you won’t have any victories. You won’t have the right solution, or you won’t be quick enough, and you’ll have to lean on those around you, that’s ok. But, leave it at work. Don’t take the bad day home with you because you’ll get into a rut of not being able to put some distance between you and a bad day. I can tell you; it feels super cool when you come up with the solution when you have the right answer at the right time. That’s great but, some days, that doesn’t happen. It’s ok, tomorrow, you’ll have a victory. Just don’t take it home. And, the second point, really, the most important piece of advice, know your drivers. Listen to them, learn what makes them tick, what they want from the job and how best to communicate with them as individuals. They aren’t just “drivers,” they are people, and knowing those people, understanding those people is going to help you to help them to be as successful as they can be in the job. One of the key parts of the job is to make people happy. Be that customers or drivers. With drivers, you work with them all the time, and it just makes life easier for everyone involved if you take the time, put the effort in, and really learn your drivers. Once you know them, you can earn their trust, and once you have that, the rest of the job should be easy.”
Do you like working for Pride?
“Yes, I do. Very much. I like the way they treat everyone; as I said, in other places, there’s no effort made to forge relationships between fleet managers and drivers; that’s not the case here. I feel encouraged to get to know my drivers. And, the open-door policy, that’s real. I can go and sit in the owner’s office and just talk to him. No problem, he’s there, and he’s always willing to meet with people. And, sometimes, he drives too.
I like the way everyone is treated like family. We are connected, and everyone is respected for what they bring to the company. I really don’t think I could do this job anywhere else; it wouldn’t be the same. It’s a great place to work. I’m very happy here.”
“I can’t think of anything. If you’re thinking about being a fleet manager, it’s a great job. It will keep you on your toes constantly, no two days are ever the same, and you learn a ton about people and the industry. It’s really a great challenge, and I look forward to coming to work every day.”
Thank you, Justin, and we look forward to seeing you at work every day. We appreciate Justin taking time out of his challenging day to chat with us. It was exciting and informative.
Are you interested in working for Pride? There are a lot of opportunities for non-drivers and drivers. Check us out online and give us a call; we’ll answer all your questions, and who knows, maybe start you out on the path to a new and exciting career.