Fleet Management in Emergencies – Preparation is Possible and Necessary

image005Preparation of fleet management activities, especially during the initial phase of the response, can make a difference between a successful and unsuccessful response. Fleet Forum, with the support of USAID, is developing training materials for fleet managers who operate in emergencies, including e-learning modules, workshops and support materials.

One of the first steps is to reflect on the experiences of those who have responded to emergencies, understand what was done to prepare from a fleet management perspective and what impact it had on the way organisations responded. These lessons learnt can then be translated into relevant training materials for fleet managers who will operate in emergencies in the future.

Workshop in South Sudan

With that purpose, on 14 June, Fleet Forum facilitated a workshop in Juba, South Sudan. Over 22 participants were present ranging from Vehicle Fleet Managers, Logistics Managers, Programme Managers and Heads of Mission.

Prior to facilitating the workshop, Fleet Forum conducted a survey and it emerged that:

  • 45% of the participants somewhat agree that preparation activities were conducted before the emergency
  • Approximately 30% disagree or neither agree or disagree that their fleet management was satisfactory
  • 51% have not had a fleet management evaluation since the start of the crisis in 2013

A large number of organisations were represented at the workshop, further highlighting the need for such a training module. These organisations included Medair, Norwegian Church Aid, World Relief, IOM, Norwegian People’s Aid, GOAL, Samaritan’s Purse, South Sudan Red Cross Society, Joint Aid Management International, Premiere Urgence Internationale, Malaria Consortium, ACF, UNIDO, Mercy Corps, ICRC, Danish Refugee Council, CARE, Handicap International and Food for the Hungry.

South Sudan Crisis

The humanitarian operation in South Sudan is one of the largest in the world, with multiple crises affecting vulnerable communities in all ten states. In December 2013 an internal conflict escalated leading to an increased number of refugees and as a consequence increased pressure on humanitarian organisations to respond to the crisis. South Sudan is an extremely challenging vehicle operating environment with only 300 kilometers of paved roads, a low staff skills base as well as poor vehicle maintenance and repair infrastructure. These challenges are compounded by a very complex security environment, in which there is high risk of loss of vehicle assets to looting by the numerous armed factions involved in the conflict.

A few peace agreements have been signed over the course of the war, but these have fallen apart and the situation continues to be extremely volatile.

Outcome of Workshop

During the workshop, lively discussions took place around the differences between fleet management in emergencies and non-emergencies, the challenges presented by the South Sudan crisis and the preparation activities that did or could have improved the response of organisations.

All participants agreed that while responding to an emergency requires a certain level of flexibility and creativity in the identification of fleet management solutions, there is definitely a need to prepare in advance. Preparation activities can include but are not limited to:

  • Mapping scenarios of a crisis an identifying the challenges that can emerge
  • Conducting a high-level risk assessment and determine which risks will affect the ability to meet transport needs
  • Setting up framework agreements with commercial transport providers, rental companies and maintenance providers that will take effect in an emergency
  • Expanding the database of qualified drivers known to the organisation
  • For smaller NGOs, approaching other NGOs and agreeing to have joint fleet manager services on a temporary basis
  • Ensuring there are a set of emergency-specific fleet management SOPs, that maintain a level of safety while allowing the organisation to respond faster
  • Determining the lines of communication to be used by fleet managers and programme staff in emergencies, to ensure smooth communication (for example, daily briefings)

Call to Action – Workshop in Nepal

Fleet Forum will be conducting a similar workshop in Kathmandu on 29 June to gain insights into the fleet management practices of crisis in Nepal. For more information, please send an email to Nikita.Udhwani@fleetforum.org