The Best Fleet Partners Convert Data into Intelligence

By Wayne Smolda, CEO and Founder

A few months ago, Automotive Fleet magazine ran a story with the heading “Too Much Information? The Dangers of Data Drowning.” It said that since the 1970s, fleet managers have seen data about their operations increase “from a trick to a torrent,” and asked how they can separate useful data from noise.

It’s true that fleet managers are drowning in data and that fleet services providers are responsible for generating more if it every day. But it’s important to acknowledge the strides that a number of providers have already made to resolve the problem, and that more efforts are in the works.

For example, at CEI we’ve made a significant investment to recreate ClaimsLink™, our core online accident management application. We’re also preparing to create the next generation DriverCare™, our fleet safety and risk management application. The current releases of each have helped turn fleet data into actionable information for years, but the new versions will mine that data in new ways, providing drivers and managers with more robust information. Both projects are the result of close cooperation with our customers, who communicate with us on issues like the ones raised in this article, as well as many others.

It’s to the mutual advantage of providers in this industry and their fleet customers to work closely together to identify what data is actionable, and how that data should be presented to get the maximum value out of it.

Training Alone Doesn’t Make a Safety Culture

We heard this story a few years back from a safety consultant:

A company that moved into new offices found that its maintenance people were having an unusual number of accidents changing light bulbs. Since they were falling off ladders, the company decided to give them all additional training in how to use ladders.

But after the training sessions, too many of their maintenance men were still falling off their ladders. After looking into the problem more closely they discovered the problem. In the new offices, the ceilings were higher and the ladders were too short. They bought taller ladders and the accident rate quickly went back to normal.

The safety consultant we heard this from said that training is the most frequently suggested solution to reducing accidents, but that many times is not the answer.

We know that driver safety training has its benefits. CEI has heard from more than one driver that one of our lessons taught them something that enabled them to avoid an accident. But we also know that a lack of knowledge isn’t the only reason people have accidents. The main reason is bad driving habits.

So the real way to reduce fleet accidents is to break those habits and change driver behavior. And it can be done. CEI’s DriverCare Risk Manager is a tool that many fleets have used to drive down their accident rates by as much 20 to 30 percent. Training is one component. But there are others, including maintaining current files on driver behavior (for example, their recent history of accidents and motor vehicle violations), scoring them on a scale of risk according to that behavior, and automatically delivering consequences when their score breaks pre-defined risk thresholds.

One of the consequences, by the way, is training – either online, behind the wheel, or both. But fleet and safety managers can also assign training pro-actively, to remind drivers both that safety matters and the right way to drive.

Companies that have low accident rates often have in place a strong “safety culture.” That’s a company-wide value system in which safety is a way of doing business. It starts with commitment from the top levels of management, and it’s reinforced by successive levels all the way down, in both face-to-face communications and every other communication mode. Safety training is a part of a safety culture, but adding training alone to a company with a weak safety culture is probably not enough to make a serious and sustained difference.

Old-fashioned Subrogation Haggling Goes Hi-Tech on the Web

subrogation is a cost savings for fleets

By Wayne Smolda, CEO

In the past month, CEI has been promoting the efficacy of successful subrogation activity. At the end of October, CEI sponsored an Automotive Fleet webinar called “Getting More from Your Subrogration Program,” and then, about a week later, I was a panelist at the National Association of Subrogration Professionals annual conference in Orlando, Florida, talking about the use of the latest technology in the subrogation process.

Subrogation is an obscure, off-putting name for a legal process with a very simple goal: collecting damages from third party drivers who cause accident damages to fleet vehicles. But it’s one of those processes that sometimes gets under-emphasized in fleet operations. It’s been estimated that, in the aggregate, fleet operators fail to collect millions of dollars in recoverable funds every year. Among the reasons is that it’s either a forgotten task on the “to-do list” or, done the old-fashioned way, it’s a tedious and exhausting process of postage, paperwork, phone tag, haggling and chasing that is abandoned. [Read more...]

International Fleet Management for the World We Live in Today

NAFA holds first multinational fleet managers conference

By Wayne G. Smolda, CEO


I attended NAFA’s first conference on international fleet management in Jupiter, Florida, last month, and I’m pleased to say I think it was a success.  From my perspective, it underscored the need for all of us to become better schooled on global fleet market and practices.


We launched CEI Europe in 2003 after a year of research in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain. We did make a go of it, but we faced a surprising number of obstacles.  I might have been better prepared to deal with them had someone offered back then the kind of exposure to international  fleets as NAFA  just did.  The conference not only validated much of what we learned at CEI about European fleet markets, but explained the reasons for the differences between fleet practices here and there.


I was surprised by the number of people attending the conference, but while it was a small group, it made for a fine day-and-a-half of fellowship, group thinking and dialogue. Our conference leaders were perfect, with Hans Damen from Belgium and Peter Egan, a seasoned fleet professional in North America who also has global work experience.  In addition, we heard from Joe LaRosa, NAFA’s new chairperson on international fleet practices.   [Read more...]

Fleet Sourcing Decisions: It’s a New World

fleet managers face difficult choices

By: Wayne G. Smolda CEO

After my first blog, somebody asked me to think about what was the biggest change I’ve seen in the fleet services industry in my career. There have been huge changes in the way fleets do business over the last three decades, from the use of increasingly sophisticated fleet management technology, to a greater emphasis on accident prevention and experimentation with alternative fuels. But from my perspective, the biggest change has been in the way fleet suppliers are evaluated and selected.

When I started the accident management business at CEI, and for a long time after that, the single most important factor in gaining or keeping a customer’s business was the quality of the relationship you had with the fleet manager. He or she was the buyer, and the relationship reflected their trust and confidence that whatever unforeseen challenges might arise, as the supplier you could be counted on to meet them. It was something that couldn’t be quantified and documented in a proposal or agreement, but fleet managers knew it had value.

[Read more...]