This is part two of a two-part interview with Jen Thomas, Agile Fleet Tech Support & Implementation Lead.
Tech Support & Implementation Lead Jen Thomas formerly worked in the fleet department of Agile Fleet customer, Sound Transit in Seattle, WA. Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and provides services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound and the busy urban areas of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.
If you missed part one of this series, which covered how Jen helped Sound Transit transition to FleetCommander, read it here.
Q: What kind of reaction do you get from customers when you tell them you were once “one of them"?
A: It’s a great ice breaker. Running a fleet offers a great many odd situations that you never expect. Such as having to figure out how to rescue a cell phone from a vehicle without interrupting the next reservation. Or, having to figure out who put the yellow stripe on the side of the brand new white car you just purchased. These sorts of things happen all the time, but they aren’t something you think about when you are looking at the fleet from the outside. So my background has been very useful to customers in many different situations.
Q: What are the top three benefits you see customers gaining from using FleetCommander?
A: It varies from fleet to fleet. With Sound Transit, I would say the biggest benefit was confidence in the fleet. Before FleetCommander, drivers would avoid using the fleet because they just didn’t trust that the vehicle would be there when they showed up to get the keys. After FleetCommander, we actually saw an increase in people using the fleet simply because they knew their vehicle would be there once the reservation was confirmed. People actually told me that they were more willing to attend offsite meetings and events simply because they knew they would be able to get a vehicle.
The second benefit that I personally experienced was having reliable data. I was asked to analyze data for fleet utilization a couple of times before the FleetCommander system was purchased. It was a nightmare. There was very little data to work with, and most of it wasn’t that reliable. It took weeks to put any kind of report together and even then I didn’t really trust it. Once we had FleetCommander in place, I knew exactly where to look for the data. I knew what information was being captured and how often. I had dozens of reports to work with and could take the data analysis even further by pulling a report into Excel.
I think the third biggest benefit was visibility. I could see what reservations a vehicle had on it with a couple of clicks. I could see when a driver was trying to cherry pick their favorite vehicle based on the information in their user profile. And when we received a parking ticket for one of our vehicles, I could figure out who was driving the car within seconds.
Q: If there was one thing you would like a potential customer to know about implementing FleetCommander, what would it be?
A: Pulling together all of the fleet data needed for the import process may be a huge pain, but it is so worth it. Once you have it in the system getting it back out again for reporting is simple. Don’t skimp on your data either. If there is something that you need to track, tell us. We probably have a way of getting it in there for you. Including it in the import will make things so much easier in the long run.
Q: What is your favorite thing about your job working for Agile Fleet?
A: Getting to know fleet staff from all over the place. It is really interesting to see how different fleets are run, but then to see them all have to deal with doing something like rescuing a cell phone for a driver. Fleets vary, but people will be people.
Q: What else would you like people to know about FleetCommander?
A: I don’t think people realize just how flexible FleetCommander is. I had over 200 vehicles in the system at Sound Transit. Only about 25 of them were shared by the entire agency. The rest were assigned to various departments or individuals. However, I was able to set up the system so that each type of vehicle was handled differently. For instance, the key box had the keys for around 40 vehicles. There were agency-shared vehicles, IT vehicles, security team vehicles, and community outreach vehicles. For the agency-shared vehicles, FleetCommander would choose the vehicle for you. For the department-assigned vehicles, the driver needed to be able to choose the vehicle that had the correct equipment in it. I was able to set up the system to allow IT staff to choose the specific IT vehicle they needed without worrying that they would grab a security vehicle or cherry pick their favorite from the agency pool. And, I was able to do all of this from a single key box!
With the personally-assigned vehicles, I was able to configure the system to give the driver access to an electronic mileage log so they could easily report their vehicle usage from their desk. Very different behaviors, but all handled by a single person (me!) who had never considered managing a fleet before she took the minutes at a business efficiency meeting.