Where do key trade associations for public fleet managers turn when they need independent, unbiased fleet management advice and expertise? Mercury Associates Inc., the largest dedicated fleet consulting firm in North America. This case study examines how Mercury’s unique partnerships with the National Property Management Association and the National Conference of State Fleet Administrators benefit the organizations and their members.
The Problem: Public-Sector Fleet Managers Lack Focused Training & Benchmarking
The U.S. government operates the largest civilian fleet in the world. After working with federal fleet managers and being deeply involved in the business of public and private-sector fleet management for more than 40 years, Mercury Associates’ Gary Hatfield, CFFM, recognized the need for a training and certification program developed specifically for federal employees.
“In an era of restrained spending on federal conference events, yet increased demands on federal fleet managers, we saw a real need for a federally-focused training and certification program,” Hatfield said. “New laws and regulations relating to inventory, cost, reporting and sustainability have subjected federal agencies’ fleets to increasing levels of scrutiny and accountability.”
Hatfield saw the National Property Management Association (NPMA) as a perfect vehicle for providing professional development services aimed at equipping federal fleet managers to meet these challenges.
“Gary Hatfield approached us in March 2015 and we quickly recognized the need for special training and certification for our federal fleet members,” said Marcia Whitson, CPPM, CF, Certification Governing Board Director of Accreditation and former NPMA President. “The exchange of knowledge is NPMA’s primary focus, and we already had similar programs for professional property managers. Our goals were to elevate professional standards and enhance individual performance in the practice of federal fleet management.”
At the state government level, the National Conference of State Fleet Administrators (NCSFA) had similar needs for education and benchmarking to help drive best practices among members representing very diverse fleet environments.
“Our organization was founded in 1986 to promote communication, fleet management education and individual growth among professionals involved with the management of state and university fleet programs,” said Scott Edwards, NCSFA President and Fleet Manager for the State of Colorado. “We concentrate on building both the professional and management skills of our members and come together to learn what is available and new to make the fleet job more effective and efficient.
“We sought a partner with the expertise and in-depth state fleet knowledge needed to conduct a benchmarking survey, including collecting data, analyzing results and communicating those results to our members. We interviewed a number of consulting firms, but Mercury was the clear choice,” Edwards said.
The Solution: Mercury Provides Training and Research, Associations Provide Structure
In August 2015, Mercury and NPMA introduced the nation’s first certification program for federal fleet managers at the organization’s National Education Seminar in Ft. Worth, Texas. The training program, consisting of nine courses developed and written by Mercury consultants, offers three levels of increasingly detailed information, progressing from Federal Fleet Specialist certification to Administrator to Manager certification.
“Mercury conducts the training and the NPMA brings the structure,” explained Tara Miller, NPMA Vice President of Professional Development and Program Manager at Apache-Logical. “We administer the program and provide the testing and certification. We hold three major training events each year and schedule regional training sessions as member needs dictate. Adding Federal Fleet Management to our course offerings has been a very big plus.”
Whitson said the NPMA’s ongoing relationship with Mercury has been excellent. “An important aspect of fleet management is understanding that federal regulations change frequently, which can be challenging for fleet managers. Mercury consultants stay on top of those changes and update course content and exams to reflect the latest developments. I continue to be impressed with their vast knowledge of both public and private-sector fleet management.”
In 2018, NCSFA partnered with Mercury to develop and administer a survey of state government and state university fleet management organizations. The survey was designed to collect information to better understand current industry fleet management practices. Topics covered in the survey included fleet demographics; business practices in areas including asset allocation and utilization management, asset acquisition and disposal, fleet maintenance and repair, fleet safety management, fleet fueling, fleet replacement, and fleet cost charge-back; and key industry trends challenges, and opportunities.
The Result: New Training, Insights Boost Association Membership and Member Effectiveness
“Getting this program started was a major undertaking but, thanks to Mercury, it all has gone very smoothly,” NPMA’s Whitson said. “The Mercury team is very service oriented and cares a great deal about helping customers and advancing the practice of fleet management. It’s not all about profit. They do things that help the discipline which they don’t even get paid for like speaking at conferences, conducting webinars and live workshops, and writing articles.”
Whitson also credits Mercury’s fleet education program with increasing the Association’s membership. “The Federal Fleet Managers Certification Program draws members to our organization,” she said. “I know that we have increased the number of members interested in fleet management and raised awareness among others who were not familiar with our property/asset management certification programs.”
The report based on the results of the Mercury benchmarking survey has helped create a better understanding within NCSFA of state government and state university fleet management practices, challenges and concerns, according to Edwards. “With the rapidly changing industry disruptors, it is extremely important for us to gather practical, real- world information to guide our members. Our collaboration with Mercury Associates represents the most in-depth review to date of our members’ current fleet conditions and fleet management capabilities and needs. This information serves as one of the key building blocks for future NCSFA training and strategic leadership initiatives.
“Mercury consultants are very strong communicators,” Edwards continued. “Mercury went above and beyond to pull actionable information from the 2018 survey. Our members were impressed with their ability to quantify results and put them into a single resource. They answered questions from members and provided industry-wide perspectives drawn from their consulting work that our internal team could not match. They also shared the raw survey data, which is incredibly valuable as we move forward.”
With more than 3,000 members, the National Property Management Association (NPMA) is the leading membership association for personal property and fixed-asset professionals. NPMA serves as a center of excellence, education and evolution for the profession. Recognized as world-class professionals, members benefit from the finest products, programs and services that promote professional development. https://www.npma.org
The National Conference of State Fleet Administrators (NCSFA) is a non-profit organization with approximately 200 dedicated fleet professionals. The goal of NCSFA is to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of its members through education and ongoing peer-to-peer networking opportunities. The professional organization serves the needs of members who manage fleets of automobiles, SUVs, trucks and vans, and a wide range of specialized mobile equipment for customers in many of the state and university owned fleets throughout the United States. NCSFA provides its members a range of products and services, including member surveys, website, sharing of statistical information, benchmarking, best management practices, fleet professional recognition award program, and annual conference and trade show. https://www.ncsfa.net