Your transport manager is arguably the most vital role in your fleet business: the glue that binds your operation together; the conductor of your orchestra; the shepherd that herds your sheep.

The transport manager in your business sets the standard for how work is done. Whether you like it or not, the person fulfilling the TM role  sets the expectation for how your fleet is managed and maintained and how your drivers perform.

Once upon a time I used to work as a service manager at a main dealer.

I always knew which TM had his finger really on the pulse of his fleet.

He knew the outstanding defects, what needed doing, repairing. He was planned in advance, making sure MOTs were booked in plenty of time and the workshop was notified the service prior so there was ample time. He was the one, or one of his team, who called as soon as the MOT was complete to check a satisfactory first time pass.

If on the rare occasion there was a failure, he would come down on us like a ton of bricks wanting an investigation report, a root cause analysis and future preventative measures. This TM would keep me and my workshop team on our toes.

He or his team would chase service sheets within minutes of service completion and they would be toothcombed for defects, and the decision making of my technicians challenged.

Not many TMs would behave like this, many were indifferent, but a few would and they tended to get the best service. Because they demanded it.

Likewise in the same role, we would hear about TMs from drivers: the good, the bad and the ugly.

This is similar to the role I have played previously in building my Driver CPC business.

Drivers are always keen to share their experience at Driver CPC training. Trainers up and down the country get to hear of TMs and their shenanigans in the way they manage their drivers.

Drivers tend to be honest to a fault. Why not survey them, go and ask them and get some feedback about your TM? Sometimes you may get some bluff and bluster, sometimes you must take things with a pinch of salt. But, overall you will get a feel for the 'culture' in your business.

The 'culture' is that intangible thing that is created on the environment around your business. It is the sum of the interactions of the business and its people. It is about how things 'really happen around here'.

The culture dictates what your driver retention or driver churn will look like. It's what will recruit and keep the best people but also lose them just as quickly if you've got it wrong.

When delivering Driver CPC I am fortunate enough to get around countless businesses and see 'how things are done around here'. I can tell you now the biggest influence in your business and the treatment of drivers is the owner/directors and the TM.

The best TMs nurture relationships with their drivers and they show empathy and humility when things go wrong. They firmly set standards and expectations. They role their sleeves up when the going gets tough and they aren't scared of making decisions or facing facts.

The best TMs will demand high standards of those around them, but most importantly they will walk the talk too. If there's one thing drivers can pick up and that's insincerity.

The worst TMs are apathetic. Treat drivers badly, talk down to them, direct, dictate and always know better. It takes seconds to see and feel this when you go to deliver Driver CPC in house, it's tangible.

So back to the question 'What is your Transport Manager worth?'

Your TM influences everything that goes on in your business.

Directly or indirectly, they set the standard for: compliance amd training; driver attitude and retention; fuel consumption and safety; maintenance standards and your OCRS.

A great transport manager will be profitable for your business, by hiring and retaining the best drivers and demanding the highest levels of compliance and performance.

They will challenge your subcontractors and build lasting relationships to ensure you get the very best service and support too.

Many of these things are intangible but they're also invaluable.

The beauty is that all of this amazing performance and people skills can be learned.

So what should you invest in your Transport Manager?

What if you invested in their skills, their development and ability? What if you nurtured your TM to get the very best out of them? In doing so reaching levels of quality and compliance, beyond what you could dream of.

Peter Rushmer, MD, Flagship Partners

  • Peter will be presenting at next month's Road Transport Expo on the topic of investing in your transport manager. Tickets for thei brand-new three-day industry show are free of charge, so why not book yours today?