Utility fleet managers face a unique set of challenges. Their fleet assets tend to vary greatly and can be highly specialized to serve specific functions. These functions are often critical to the continued operations of the public’s utilities, such as electricity or cell service. And even though these vehicles serve critical needs, utility fleet managers often face inconsistent funding leading to aging fleets. Fleet managers also struggle to find new talent. As a generation of specialized utility fleet technicians ages into retirement, fleets lack applicants to fill their positions. These two major challenges can be difficult to overcome, but they are not insurmountable. In this blog, we will discuss and provide tips on how utility fleet managers can overcome the challenges of funding and recruitment.
The First Challenge: Inconsistent Funding
Most fleet managers are all too familiar with the rise and fall of capital funding for procuring assets. During times of an economic downturn, fleet replacement schedules can be slowed or even interrupted as they become an easy target for budget cuts. The short-term cuts may ease immediate cash flow concerns, but the long-term result is an aging fleet that costs more capital to keep in operation. Aging fleets are also less reliable, and this can have a negative impact on customer and operator satisfaction.
Overcome Inconsistent Funding with the Operating Lease
Fleet managers may choose to lease fleet vehicles to overcome the challenge of funding inconsistencies. Why? Because an operating lease can be treated as an operating expense versus a capital cost. The result can be a more stable and consistent source of funding, which comes with a myriad of benefits. One immediate benefit is a more predictable replacement schedule. A more predictable replacement schedule means a newer fleet with lower operating and maintenance costs. A newer fleet typically requires less downtime for maintenance resulting in fewer business interruptions, which translates to happier customers and operators. However, there are many complex considerations when it comes to leasing over buying, and it may not be for everyone. To learn more information about choosing an operating lease over owning for utility fleets, click here for an informative article from FleetFinancials.com.
The Second Challenge: Recruiting Utility Fleet Technicians
As the baby boomer generation ages into retirement, utility fleet managers find it increasingly difficult to find experienced and reliable technicians. According to Jennifer Maher, CEO and Executive Director of TechForce Foundation, one contributing factor has been a major cultural shift of our education system away from vocational degrees in favor of four-year degrees:
“Our school systems…have abandoned working with your hands as a viable career path, which is absurd not only because of the tech shortage, but also because a tech career offers a solid, middle-class lifestyle.”
Overcome Labor Shortages with Proactive Recruitment
Instead of hand wringing and waiting, utility fleet managers need to be proactive. Fleet managers can proactively recruit by approaching trade and vocational schools with compelling arguments in favor of a career as a utility fleet technician. Some utility companies bring in fleet vehicles and equipment into neighboring trade schools to demonstrate how the equipment works “That builds excitement, and then we have the candidate pool,” says Matt Gilliland, director of transportation and facilities for Nebraska Public Power District.
For more tips on overcoming utility fleet recruitment challenges, read this helpful article from Utility Fleet Professional on attracting talent.