Aidex Voices

Fleet Forum is an association focused on road safety, green practices, and fleet efficiency for humanitarian aid and development organisations across the world. Over the past few years Fleet Forum has developed practical, hands-on training to increase the knowledge and skills of field staff. They will be hosting the annual AidEx-Fleet Forum Fleet Excellence Training at Brussels Expo.

Two of this year’s training participants are Frédéric Urlep, Global Fleet Manager for the World Health Organisation, and Tadesse Alemayehu, Logistics Coordinator for GOAL Ethiopia. We caught up with them to learn more about their training needs.

Can you each tell us a little about your current role and what your responsibilities include?
Frédéric: Since April this year, I have been the WHO’s Fleet Manager, a newly-created position designed to help us be fully operational within 21 days of an emergency. With the support of Fleet Forum, I’m currently preparing a major change of global fleet management strategy for the WHO.

Tadesse: I am Logistics Coordinator for GOAL Ethiopia. My role encompasses transport, procurement and warehouse/stock management, as well as safety and security. This includes fleet management, vehicle procurement and maintenance, and vehicle safety. 

What are you hoping to take away from the AidEx Fleet Forum 2016 training programme?

Frédéric: As a first time visitor to AidEx, I’m hoping to increase my network, share fleet management best practices, and discover new technologies and innovations.
Tadesse: Vehicles can be a scarce resource for any organisation, and my role is to use them in the most efficient way without impeding programme implementation. I’m hoping to learn additional management skills, and lessons in the area of economic fuel usage and cost-efficiency, safety measures, and vehicle procurement. 

What kind of challenges do you face when it comes to fleet management? 

Frédéric: Until recently, very few WHO country offices had dedicated fleet managers. But this creates problems in emergency situations. By creating my position at a HQ level, and kick-starting the recruitment of professional fleet managers for any country team with over 30 vehicles, the WHO aims to tackle this issue. In the long-run, we want national fleet managers for every country office with over 20 vehicles, as well as designing and implementing a dedicating training programme.

Tadesse: With vehicles as scarce as they are, forward planning is essential. It’s hard to get programme members to submit their movement plans in advance, so we can allocate the necessary fleet resources. 

How do you ensure local feedback is taken into consideration at a global decision-making level? 

Frédéric: Unfortunately, under the current system, there is no global strategy – it is completely decentralised. Part of my job is to prepare and implement such a strategy. This will include integrating local feedback and experience, as well as setting benchmarks for assessment in line with Fleet Forum recommendations. We want to reach the same level as other agencies such as the UNHCR and WFP.

How do you think the challenges vary between global and local fleet managers’ roles? 

Frédéric: At this point, we have completely different activities. My challenge is to convince senior management to adopt a new global fleet management strategy and policy. Local acting ‘fleet managers’ need to deliver an efficient and cost effective fleet management system, but at the moment they lack adequate top-down support.

Tadesse: Local fleet managers have to deal with more day-to-day issues such as vehicle consumption rate or driver behaviour. It seems to me that global fleet managers are more focused on strategic questions, such as implementing guidelines, cost-benefit analysis, and environmental impact.

What are the most pressing challenges facing fleet managers of today and tomorrow?

Frédéric: There is a constant need to adapt – to changing operational contexts, new technologies, and the need to remain cost-efficient without compromising services. This can be complex.

Tadesse: Lack of focus on fleet management by senior organisational management is a real issue – sometimes it just isn’t a priority. As mentioned before, lack of internal planning to make use of the vehicle resources is also an issues. Finally, vehicles are getting increasingly expensive to acquire in Ethiopia – this means organisations are sometimes forced to keep working with vehicles which are un-roadworthy. This is dangerous, detrimental to the environment, and in the long-run, can seriously impede project management.