The most successful shops in town have a robust fleet program. Even small shops in small towns understand the value business fleets mean to their operations. Even though every fleet (especially managed fleets) are driven by cost-per-mile metrics, vehicle safety and time out-of-service are equally important.

What does that mean? For you and your fleet customers, most pricing concerns can be negotiated in advance of the repair visit. After that hurdle, most fleet customers are highly sensitive to how quickly your shop can get their vehicle back safely on the road. This applies to both repairs and maintenance*.

You see, time out-of-service is also factored in a vehicle’s cost-per-mile to own and maintain. Fleets do not consider their vehicles as much of an expense, as they are considered tools with which to make money. Therefore, whenever a fleet vehicle is in your shop, it is not on the road and not making money.

*“Yes, Virginia – Fleets DO perform maintenance on their vehicles.”

Again, scheduled maintenance intervals, processes and pricing are typically negotiated between the fleet and the shop in advance of the vehicle coming into your bays. Very few fleets turn over a vehicle at 30,000 or 60,000 miles anymore. Today, fleet managers and their customers may expect to get 200,000 miles or more out of a vehicle before it is written off and replaced. That means a strong maintenance program is required for keeping that vehicle and its driver safely on the road.

One of the best ways to influence and learn about fleet company thought processes is to become an associate member and participate in one of the more than 32 local North American Fleet Administrators (NAFA) chapters in the United States and Canada. This not-for-profit fleet management association represents more than 4.2 million fleet vehicles. Its members include small, localized fleets to large fleets dispersed among multiple regions or states.

Consider this topic of discussion slated for a recent New York Intercounty NAFA Chapter meeting:

Fleet Maintenance Opportunities

Fleet maintenance spending is a large and universal expense for any organization. It does not matter whether you maintain your own shops or outsource to 3rd parties, either directly or through a fleet management company, there are always ways to peel back the layers and find opportunities. Maintenance requires constant monitoring, adjusting, and collaboration to ensure fleets are not spending more than they have to. In order to take a holistic view of this topic, NYIC NAFA chapter would like to invite you to discuss with our panel of experts consisting of all angles! A corporate fleet manager, a public fleet manager, a parts distributor and a fleet management company will share their stories for what we hope will turn into a healthy round table discussion.

Imagine yourself in that meeting. As a service provider, your voice needs to be heard. You may want to advise fleet managers that many passenger vehicles with cylinder deactivation technology REQUIRE specific engine oils -- and that cheap, bulk oil and filter services may cost them more in the long run. Or, you may want to explain how skipping a brake fluid exchange at 60,000 miles may result in the cost of new calipers or a new ABS pump at 120,000 miles.

Whatever the meeting topics include, it’s more likely that you will meet a fleet manager that is looking for a shop or shops with your expertise to handle their diagnostic, tire, alignment or other service concerns.

Recently, Undercar Digest attended a local NAFA chapter meeting that was associated with the (new car) Auto Show. As part of the meeting presentation, each OEM addressed the audience and touted their new vehicles and new technology offerings.

It was amazing; in 90 minutes attendees received an overview of all the latest Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) available on anything from fleet-grade sedans and executive-level luxury vehicles, to light and medium-duty delivery vehicles. That up-to-the-minute information on new technology was worth the cost of admission. By the way, meeting admission also included a hot meal and a complimentary ticket to the Auto Show. Tech Note from the meeting: Although many new car models offer Automatic Braking, how many – or how few, offer Automatic Reverse Braking?

Fleet managers make buying decisions based on this information and your shop should be aware of the service requirements for vehicles with this feature.

Another great option is for your shop/organization to host a local NAFA chapter meeting. What better way to showcase your capabilities and service offerings to local fleets? It does not have to include anything as enticing as auto show tickets.

I have attended and presented at such a meeting. The hosting shop organization held the meeting inside their tire warehouse during the middle of the workday. Tables, chairs, a media screen and snacks were set-up between a few makeshift walls and curtains in the warehouse.

The background noise from forklifts and workers managing tire shipments (along with that new-tire smell) only reinforced the host’s message that they were ready, willing and able to provide tires for any fleet vehicle they encountered. The attending fleet managers were much more impressed by what was presented than the comfort of the room provided.

For my part, I presented how performing low-cost maintenance procedures at regular intervals was more cost-effective than performing premature repairs caused by lack of maintenance.

Long after the meeting, I was still fielding calls and emails from fleet managers modifying their recommended preventive maintenance schedules for their fleets and their fleet customers.

Maybe you don’t have a parts warehouse handy? You can still host a NAFA Chapter meeting at a local hotel or business conference center. The goal is to interact with as many fleet managers as you can to help grow your own business. To engage with your local NAFA chapter, visit www.nafa.org.