So, you want to be a Certified Public Fleet Professional

Bill Ramsey, Project Manager, Bucher, Willis & Ratliff Corporation, Leawood, Kansas; member, APWA Fleet Services Committee
Ann Daniels, Director of Technical Services, APWA Kansas City Office

Much has been spoken and written about the upcoming release of the Certified Public Fleet Professional certification. More exciting details will be released at Congress in Kansas City so watch for that information.

However, you don't just "start" a certification program. Knowing what the core requirements are for any job is the first step towards success. This was even more important as APWA began the process of assessing if there was a need for the certification program among our members and, if so, what the "core" requirements for that certification should involve.

In January 2005, APWA appointed an expert panel to provide oversight for the comprehensive job analysis of public fleet management. Specifically, the study was conducted to determine and comprehensively describe the public fleet manager's job, to evaluate the description through the rating of job incumbents, and to define areas that should be assessed in the examination.

After determining the needed knowledge base, the areas were identified and given relative weights. The weights were assigned after a survey was sent to a number of fleet industry experts, both public and private, and APWA and non-APWA members. Based on the survey results, it was determined that:

  • 20% of the questions needed to address Operations: maintenance of vehicles, equipment and fixed equipment, parts, facilities management, fuel and lubricants management, and repair policies and strategies.

  • 17% of the questions should address General Development and Business: developing credibility/marketing (both internal and external), strategic and business planning, customer service and collaboration, emergency preparedness, and ethics.

  • 16% of the emphasis should be directly related to Asset Management: needs determination, research acquisition, utilization, replacement and disposal of vehicle, equipment and fixed equipment, and parts.

  • 14% of the questions should address Financial Management: budgeting, cost recovery, fleet operating purchasing, vehicle replacement funding, and record keeping.

  • 13% of the basic information should be related to Human Resource Management: staffing, work environment, employee training, policies and procedures.

  • 8% of the questions should involve Risk Management: workplace safety management, vehicle damage, contract compliance, regulatory compliance, and security.

  • 7% of the knowledge base should be Environmental Management: Shop Best Practices and Regulatory Compliance.

  • 5% of the questions should cover Information Management and Technology Systems.

If this sounds like a daunting amount of information to be recalled as part of the examination, it is. And, rightly so. For a certification program to be worthy of the APWA brand, it must cover the duties and knowledge necessary to operate a successful fleet department in a public agency. Wouldn't mean much if you could buy it from a vending machine, would it?

Does it sound like too much is being required? If you are the Public Works Director or City Manager with oversight of the Fleet Department, what would you expect from your Fleet Manager when it comes to operating a successful department? Ask your Fleet Manager. Since the survey data came from his/her peers, it should be pretty much on target.

After the "core" requirements were determined, the next phase of the certification process was to begin "item writing," which is a fancy way of saying "writing examination questions." If you think determining what should be included on the examination was difficult, try sitting in a quiet room and determining how to write a multiple choice question that is not so obvious that you don't need background knowledge or so difficult you can't determine what the question really is, let alone what the answer should be.

All of this preparatory work has been completed. As we speak, the examination questions are being refined by the professional testing company that prepares and validates the exam. The launch of the program will be announced in Kansas City during Congress and applications and detailed information will be available there.

It hasn't been easy and it hasn't always been fun but the final product will produce a valid and meaningful certification for public fleet managers that will stand the test of time and comparison with any program in the nation for this topic. The first testing date will be part of the Snow Conference in the Spring of 2007. Don't let your Fleet Manager miss out on being among the first to qualify and sit for the exam.

Success is much more meaningful when it has standards set to reach and you know you have put forth your best effort to attain it. Here's a great opportunity to succeed. Are you up for the challenge?

Bill Ramsey, a member of APWA's Fleet Services Committee and a former member of the Finance and Nominating Committees, can be reached at (816) 363-2696 or; Ann Daniels, staff liaison to the Fleet Services Committee, can be reached at (816) 595-5223 or