Fleet Managers Need Solid Grasp of Technology as Well as Knowing How to Fix Trucks, Exec Says

Darry Stuart, CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

ATLANTA — Whether part of the older or younger crowd, today’s fleet maintenance managers and executives must have skills that blend the essential, basic knowledge of fixing trucks with a solid grasp of technology and data in order to survive and thrive, an industry executive said. 

Darry Stuart, president and CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services, told Transport Topics that he’s concerned about some people who are 50 and older. If they’re not careful, they could “wake up” and find they haven’t adapted. “Even though they fix trucks, they are not adapting to today’s needs,” he said. Technology, data, charts and “all of those things that are really important, they could find themselves after working in their career for a lifetime, essentially out of a job.”

Stuart was one of the panelists who spoke on a session on the topic of “Evolving Career Pathways for Today’s Fleet Maintenance Executives” at American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual meeting held recently here. He spoke with TT after the event.

Stuart said there are challenges with the younger generation as well, noting they’re all about the technology and data. 

“It’s so exciting to have an app for a phone that we lose sight of the most basic principles, which is that we still have to fix trucks,” he said, noting this basic element is not to be forgotten even as this generation isn’t necessarily looking to be a “doctor of iron.’” They don’t consider it “sexy,” and it’s not what they’re being pressured to provide answers to, Stuart said.

Elaborating, he said that someone creates an Excel spreadsheet, and says that costs are too high, noting this usually comes from a fleet’s staff in accounting. “The numbers that are always being complained about are coming from a higher level,” Stuart said.

When the numbers show something is wrong, the younger generation is interested in defending it with more numbers instead of going to the root cause, Stuart said. However, “you can have all the data but if you can’t fix it, you still have the costs.”

Meanwhile, Stuart, a past general chairman and treasurer of TMC, dubbed as “salt and pepper” the fleet maintenance executives in their 60s who will retire in the next three to five years. This key group can help with the transition of the younger crowd, who “can tap into TMC, tap into us as mentors to make sure that they don’t lose sight and just be data crazy,” he said.

And finally, will the industry ultimately be able to attract young truck maintenance technicians and managers? Stuart said the industry will but cautioned again they will be “more number crunchers.”