The Fleet Management Ladder

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has set a uniform standard of excellence for technicians, certified attainment of that standard through objective testing and recognized their accomplishments since 1972. Likewise, NAFA Fleet Management Association has defined and recognized excellence in the fleet management industry through its Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) program since 1984 with the ultimate objective of raising the level of professionalism throughout the industry.

NAFA's CAFM program is the oldest, largest, most comprehensive, most widely acclaimed and only college accredited professional certification program in the fleet management industry. The term "automotive" in the designation should be construed in its most general sense as self-powered vehicles. The CAFM curriculum encompasses managing fleets of sedans, public safety vehicles, trucks and buses of all sizes, as well as military and off-road equipment. Whether managing a fleet that is public or private, centralized or decentralized, leased or owned, domestic or global, the CAFM curriculum prepares fleet professionals to be successful.


The CAFM program is divided into eight disciplines, covering the essential core competencies of fleet management. The eight disciplines are now grouped into two tiers. The lower-tier consists of Fleet Information Management, Maintenance Management, Professional Development, and Vehicle Fuel Management. The upper-tier consists of Asset Management, Business Management, Financial Management, and Risk Management.

Fleet professionals of all types and college students may enroll as candidates for certification undertaking one tier at a time, or the full program all at once. In either case, candidates review the reference materials provided with the aid of the self-study guide until they are ready to test. They may also attend optional, instructor-led educational seminars and/or conference sessions designed to promote understanding of the more difficult core competencies. Testing is offered at training events but are also proctored wherever certification candidates live so that certification can be attained without ever attending class or traveling to test.

Successfully testing in all eight disciplines while enrolled in the full CAFM program earns the CAFM designation. Successfully testing in all four disciplines of the lower tier during a full CAFM program or lower-tier enrollment period earns the Certified Automotive Fleet Supervisor (CAFS) designation, which is new for 2009. Those who have earned the CAFS designation and keep it active through recertification may subsequently enroll in the upper-tier and earn the CAFM designation by successfully testing in the remaining four disciplines during that enrollment period.


Enrollment periods range from two to five years although some candidates complete the entire program in as little as four months. Current costs include enrollment starting at $349 for CAFS lower-tier only or $595 full CAFM for NAFA or partner association members, $200 per test session regardless of how many exams are taken in a session and $100 to recertify every five years. Enrollment fees are expected to go up slightly in 2009. All totaled, most candidates who pass the CAFM will spend less than $1,200 to do so. Successful CAFS candidates can expect to spend under $800 total. These costs may be tax deductible as a professional expense if the employer doesn't cover it.

For those candidates who want instructor-led training, the best investment is NAFA's annual Institute & Expo which is being held in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 25-28, 2009. Attendees enrolled in the CAFM program are encouraged to study in advance, test on Friday April 24th, attend CAFM Boot Camp sessions on those disciplines they haven't yet passed, and stay to retest on Wednesday, April 29th. The double test at this event is offered for a single testing fee and saves candidates $200. Can't make it to New Orleans this year? The Institute & Expo will be in Detroit, Charlotte, St. Louis, and Atlantic City in upcoming years.

Industry salary surveys bear out that those fleet managers with a CAFM occupy the better compensated positions on average. However, successful completion of the CAFM program is challenging. While more than 450 professionals have been certified over the past 25 years, typically fewer than 12 percent are successful each year. There are now over 500 currently enrolled. The program's curriculum and testing are college level, which makes successful completion a true challenge.

In fact, those completing the CAFM program may apply to Ferris State University (FSU) in Big Rapids, Michigan for 12 college credits at $85 per credit and use that toward a degree there or transfer credits to another school. Those completing the CAFS may apply for six college credits. The college credit is offered through the FSU Colleges of Business and Engineering Technology.

Recertification of the CAFS or CAFM is required every five years through demonstration of continued active participation and education in the fleet profession. Recertification is an administrative process and requires no additional testing.


NAFA is committed to pursuing agreements with other fleet industry associations, trade groups, and universities in order to build the strongest fleet certification alliance possible. In addition to Ferris State University, other partners already include the National Conference of State Fleet Administrators (NCSFA) and the State of Ohio. NAFA is in discussion with several other prominent fleet associations, which will likely grow the alliance further.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the CAFM program for test fee reimbursement. ASE promotes and cross-markets the CAFM program. The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA), International Automotive Remarketers Alliance (IARA), Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), Mercury Associates and other fleet consultants, and Bobit Business Media all have graciously contributed to NAFA education references used in the CAFM curriculum.

Every partner in the CAFM fleet certification alliance brings additional support to it. Each also broadens the perspective of the CAFM program by helping to identify the needs of their members or students and the future direction of the fleet management industry so that the curriculum continues to proactively evolve to meet those needs.


The content of the CAFM curriculum is regularly updated to keep it current and relevant. It is in its fourteenth revision since its inception. There are four new, expanded or updated references in NAFA's education development program recently completed which will become integrated into the CAFM curriculum in 2009. There are at least six others under development for publication in 2009/2010 which will be integrated into the CAFM curriculum in 2010/2011.

Excellence is a much overused term, but it is nonetheless applicable to those fleet professionals who undertake and succeed at becoming Certified Automotive Fleet Managers. It isn't easy to attain, nor should it be or it would not be worth the effort of challenging one's self. Yet, rewards in the form of versatile, practical knowledge for the individual and dividends from application of that knowledge to employers make it a worthwhile undertaking. CAFM is the standard of excellence in fleet management.


NAFA Fleet Management Association is a not-for-profit, individual membership professional society serving the needs of members who manage fleets of sedans, public safety vehicles, trucks and buses of all types and sizes, and a wide range of military and off-road equipment for organizations across the globe. NAFA is the association for the vehicle fleet management profession. NAFA's Full and Associate Members are responsible for the specification, acquisition, maintenance, and remarketing of more than 3.5 million vehicles. NAFA's brand promise is "Fleet Solutions for Fleet Professionals." For more information visit

CAFS Curriculum

Asset Management

In a very real sense, Fleet Management is asset management. Fleet assets are a subset of the real properties owned or leased by an organization. Fleet managers, like managers of those real properties, are responsible for the selection, procurement, use, care and disposal of their employer's fleet vehicle and equipment assets. Sometimes fleet managers are also responsible for nonfleet equipment and infrastructure. These assets are quite often a significant segment of a company's (or agency's) total net value and they represent a large portion of the total organizational operating expenses. How well these assets are managed can have a profound impact on the profitability of a company or cost effectiveness of a public agency.

  • Vehicle Selection & Acquisition--Vehicle acquisition and selection is the process of choosing and procuring the most appropriate vehicles or equipment for the defined needs of the organization.
  • Vehicle Remarketing & Disposal--Vehicle remarketing and disposal is the process of considering the most relevant factors and methods of removing fleet assets from the organization while maximizing the return on the investment.

Fleet Information Management

Even though many organizations have an information technology (IT) staff to assist fleet managers, there is significant value to fleet managers understanding the basic IT issues. With a general knowledge of IT, fleet managers can then intelligently interact with their support staff to solve problems and enhance IT functionality. The purpose of this module is to provide fleet managers with the tools they need to function in a data-rich, information-poor work environment by better using the technology tools available. Typical fleet organizations have an abundance of "data" stored in computer systems or published to hard copy reports sitting on the corner of a desk or in a drawer or cabinet somewhere, but very little of it is translated into usable "information" to help manage the fleet. By reviewing this material, you will be introduced to technical concepts that will enable you to use them in higher-level applications. In turn, this knowledge will allow you to utilize your fleet's "data" and harness it in useful reports that will aid in various decision-making processes.

  • Information Infrastructure--Sufficiently understand computer hardware and operating systems and communications hardware, mediums, and protocols to enable efficient gathering, storage, transmission, and use of fleet data.
  • Information Systems Selection & Implementation--Accurately determine fleet data requirements and specify, select, and implement an information management system sufficient to meet asset management and decision making needs.
  • Data Collecting & Processing--Optimize the myriad of manual and electronic data streams available to gather, organize, process, and present critical information in a meaningful format.
  • Fleet Communications--Implementation of fleet information exchange means to benefit operators, dispatchers, fleets customers, and intra-fleet functions.

Maintenance Management

Vehicle maintenance directly impacts productivity, driver satisfaction, corporate image, safety and environmental compliance, and the financial bottom line. This module's competencies will enhance understanding as well as communicating essential maintenance principals to either in-house or outsourced maintenance personnel, drivers and management.

  • Vehicle Maintenance--Maintenance management impacts all aspects of fleet management. Its decisions have the potential to affect not only the financial and safe operation of a fleet, but also the end user's productivity. The Fleet Manager must have a clear understanding of this competency to make informed decisions and recommendations.
  • Shop Operations--Operating an efficient and effective maintenance facility does not happen by chance. The knowledgeable Fleet Manager must be able to assess their operation to determine optimum staffing levels and advantageous outsourcing opportunities.
  • Environmental Issues--Environmental regulations touch all Fleet and Fleet Maintenance operations. Environmental regulation requirements ensure not only a clean and healthy environment, but also employee safety. It is the Fleet Manager's responsibility to know and adhere to these ever-changing regulations.
  • Inventory Management--A fleet maintenance operation must have professionally managed parts support to operate at peak efficiency. Inventory management is a critical contributing factor to the success of a maintenance facility.
  • Benchmarking--Benchmarking staff performance is a key function to maintain productivity and efficient maintenance operations. Benchmarking involves proper data collection, comparison, and analysis to determine performance status and standards.
  • Outsourcing--Outsourcing maintenance activities occur in most fleet maintenance operations. The decision to outsource activities depends on numerous factors, but ultimately is determined by what is most effective and efficient.

Professional Development

Fleet managers, like most professionals, need to continuously educate themselves, not simply to maintain their position but to stay ahead of the curve and demonstrate true leadership. Knowledge is an asset to be cultivated and developed. In order to manage this asset, a fleet manager must sharpen the skills of leadership and the habits of self-discipline. The Professional Development module emphasizes leadership by example, ethics, personal growth and development. Understand how to write a formal report, suitable for submitting to senior management.

  • Leadership--Leadership is the discipline of influencing and directing the performance of employees towards the achievement of organizational goals. Personal development is the concept of self-improvement through setting and achieving goals and career planning.
  • Ethics--Ethics involves the study of values and customs and covers concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and responsibility. Ethical decision-making assists managers in making decisions that are "right" and "good."
  • Business Writing--Business writing is the concept of properly using writing techniques and tools to communicate and disseminate information effectively through the written word.

CAFM Recertification

CAFM graduates must submit to the Recertification process every five years to maintain an active CAFM status. CAFM graduates are notified in writing of Recertification requirements a few months prior to due date. CAFM graduates must complete and return CAFM Recertification Guidelines along with $100 Recertification fee to NAFA Headquarters by formal due date to maintain the CAFM designation. While early submissions are appreciated, they will not be processed until the month recertification is due.

CAFM graduates who have reached the age of 60 or are formally retired, may submit for a Lifetime certification. Simply fill out the form below with proof of age or retirement and the Certification Board will review your request. A $ 100.00 payment is required for this recertification submission also.

Individuals who do not acquire sufficient CAFM maintenance points for recertification by formal recertification date will be notified in writing of suspension from using the CAFM designation and will no longer be recognized as a CAFM in any NAFA publication and, therefore, must resubmit to the entire certification process. Extenuating circumstances will be reviewed on an individual basis.

The Certification Board suggests that CAFM graduates keep a designated CAFM file to collect and document all professional education and community activities. You may also want to review your file and accumulated points annually to assess remaining points needed to successfully meet your Recertification requirements.