APWA developing Public Fleet Manager Certification Program

Larry W. Frevert, P.E., Assistant Engineering Director for Planning, Design and Construction, Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation Department; APWA Director-at-Large, Facilities & Fleet Services
Karen Bloodworth, APWA Technical Services Program Manager; Staff Liaison, Fleet Services Technical Committee

For the past several years fleet certification has been a primary focus of the APWA Fleet Services Technical Committee. Public fleet managers are responsible for billions of dollars in government assets and the committee recognized the need for a professional standard for the hiring, promotion and professional development of this industry. A credentialing program will encourage competent, experienced and well-trained managers that will in turn lead to the improved management of assets and delivery of services.

The project began with a survey of existing national fleet certification programs in search of potential partners. While there are a few national programs, and some are very good, none of these programs focused on the "public" fleet manager. Those of us in the industry understand the very specific budget, purchasing and chain-of-command issues that public fleet managers must deal with every day.

Phase I
Next, the committee recommended that APWA conduct a feasibility study to determine the demand, market size, and support for a public fleet manager certification program. A consultant was retained to conduct the study, along with input from an advisory committee (AC) of subject matter experts and APWA staff. Committee members represented public fleet managers and public works directors across North America. The AC supervised the study which was conducted in phases that included survey development, distribution, and response analysis. Phase I was undertaken to provide the following deliverables.

  • The program value to fleet managers
  • The program value to employers
  • Market size and demand
  • The identification of appropriate pricing for the certification credential
  • Measure the willingness of supervisors to base hiring and promotional decisions on an APWA public fleet manager certification credential

The survey was circulated to APWA members and nonmembers with a responsibility for public fleet management in North America. We appreciate the hundreds of you that responded to the survey. The study's key findings indicated strong support for a public fleet manager certification program, particularly from public works directors.

Phase II
With the successful outcome of the feasibility study APWA next undertook Phase II, the first comprehensive job analysis of public fleet management. The outcome of this study included identification of the specific duties and responsibilities of a public fleet manager, and the major content areas for an evaluation instrument or examination. This phase ensures that exam content is linked to actual practice and provides evidence of content validity. It also provides guidance for test question writers and direction for continuing education for public fleet managers.

Once again an expert panel was assembled to oversee the project. The methodology included a national literature review, development of a comprehensive list of job attributes and skills, a validation survey to collect input from public fleet managers and public works directors, and data analysis. Job analysis surveys tend to be very long, requiring a minimum of 30 minutes to complete; we thank our public works colleagues for coming through again to provide more than 800 responses.

The outcome of the job analysis survey validated the work of our subject matter experts, with 99.5% of respondents indicating that we adequately covered the duties and responsibilities of a public fleet manager. Both Phase I and Phase II surveys also produced excellent demographic data about public fleet managers that will allow APWA to effectively customize the program to the public fleet industry.

The results from the job analysis provided the following key public fleet management knowledge areas listed in order of importance.

  • Operations
  • Asset management
  • Financial management
  • General management and business
  • Human resource management
  • Risk management
  • Environmental management
  • Information management and technology systems

Phase III
We are currently moving into Phase III, the final phase, which will include examination development, a legal review, and the formation of a fleet certification governance body that will provide continuous program oversight. Phase III will begin this summer with planned completion in early 2006.

Credentialing programs can provide a strong benefit to the public works industry and ultimately to our communities by providing recognized hiring and promotion standards that will lead to an improved workforce and improved delivery of services. Certification supports the mission of APWA and provides increased national recognition/branding of APWA and public works.

Certification directly addresses the follow three strategic goals of APWA:

  • As the primary gateway resource for education, knowledge exchange and service; APWA has a greater opportunity to provide training, workshops, reference books and manuals, and other services directly related to the improvement of our members' skill levels.

  • As the public policy advocate for public works; APWA certification helps validate our members' credibility when speaking on behalf of their agencies or public works in general as we attempt to influence public policy and funding.

  • As the brand name for credible information on public works and the preferred choice for professional membership; certification places APWA at the forefront in the eyes of practicing professionals who seek to improve their skill levels and be recognized, and makes APWA more attractive to them as their professional association of choice.

Certification for individuals is much like accreditation for agencies. Just as accreditation sets apart those agencies that evaluated and improved their service delivery across all public works disciplines, so too does certification set apart the individuals who have been evaluated and improved the level of professionalism they contribute to their organizations.

Larry Frevert, Board liaison to the Fleet Services Technical Committee, put it very well when he stated, "I am proud of my professional engineer registration. It tells citizens that I have achieved a level of expertise recognized by education, experience and testing. I believe the same holds true for our professional fleet managers. Certification will allow them to be recognized for the professional expertise they have achieved."

Certification as a professional fleet manager tells citizens that the fleet manager, through education, experience and testing, has the capability to manage the public fleet in a responsible, economical, efficient and professional manner. APWA and the Fleet Services Committee look forward to launching the public fleet manager certification program and accepting our first candidates in 2006. You can receive updates and follow our progress reports in the APWA Reporter, at www.apwa.net, and through direct e-mail updates to our members with a direct responsibility for public fleet management, and to public works directors and our members in Canada.

Larry W. Frevert, P.E., can be reached at (816) 513-7652 or larry_frevert@kcmo.org; Karen Bloodworth can be reached at (816) 595-5220 or kbloodworth@apwa.net.