Small Fleets – Big Challenges

Encouraging Ownership Among Employees

Managers of small fleets need to encourage greater ownership of operations among team members.

January 23, 2014

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Who shows up at an emergency scene in your community? The easy answer is police, fire, and EMS. If your fleet has public safety equipment, then fleet management also responds to the scene.

The same patrol car that you've invested "sweat equity" in, for more years than was originally intended, is on the scene during a tragic situation. The fire truck that you serviced last week is now rushing toward a horrific auto accident.

I'm a fleet manager of a small fleet, so I know it can be easy for customers to think of the "garage" as somewhere to get their oil changed. What isn't usually addressed is how few people do the service work on equipment. Typically, a small fleet will have fewer people performing more duties, and that requires a staff that understands the magnitude of their responsibilities.

The operator may give little thought to the professional people tasked with maintaining the emergency equipment and keeping it in a state of readiness. Even in the face of all the indifference, I like to make sure I'm promoting the right level of "ownership" to everyone in the fleet management department.

I try to emphasize the unique role of a fleet management employee with statements such as:

  • "You will be the last one who touches this vehicle before it's involved in a high-speed pursuit."
  • "You are the one who checked the brakes on the fire engine that's rushing toward a horrific auto accident on the highway."
  • "You are the one who orders the correct parts."
  • "You are the one who checked the service record and made sure all programs were up to date."

The next time you see your public safety equipment in action, think about your role on the team, and ask these two questions:

  • "Is your fleet management team aware of their responsibilities?"
  • "Are your public safety customers aware of your team's commitment?"

If you can answer yes — and answer without doubt — then you're on your way to a culture of fleet ownership. Fleet ownership leads to a higher professional image, and that's always a plus for a small fleet with big challenges.


  1. 1. ctr [ May 09, 2014 @ 04:51PM ]

    city i live went several years without servicing there fire apparatus in 10 fire stations they only fixed something broken, chief was honored when he retired and no one was fired or even reprimanded,

  2. 2. Steve Kibler [ October 28, 2014 @ 01:55PM ]

    Excellent point Gary! Sometimes "ownership" comes with a price though.Our EVT's carry Fire pagers and are called to support the scene of two alarm fires or bigger. This gives new meaning to the pun "mechanics like to put out fires." When we re-bid and changed battery suppliers, this "ownership" disagreed; "I ain't putting that battery in my fire trucks." Well, I challenged him to test the product and prove that the new battery manufacture was an inferior product, the disagreement was resolved. Ownership is still a very good thing...


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Author Bio

Gary Lykins

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Fleet Manager

Gary Lykins serves as the fleet manager, shop supervisor, and lead mechanic for the Town of Jonesborough. Although he has 20 years of experience in various roles in the automotive and equipment industry, his tenure with the Town of Jonesborough has been the most challenging and fulfilling position of his career.


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