Fleet-dependent businesses have unique cost control challenges. Like every company, keeping expenses in check is a major concern. However, when a company depends on fuel, one of its biggest expenses is subject to unpredictable price shifts. Fortunately, there are some great tools out there that can help keep fuel costs and other fleet-related expenses under control.

Purchase controls are a game-changer for responsible and accountable spending. You can set customized parameters for your drivers to help them adhere to your fuel policy.

One of the most used fleet management tools is a fleet card. Fleet fuel cards, or business gas cards, are a method of paying for gas or diesel, and they’re loaded with features that can help keep fleet costs under control.

When used properly, a fleet card can help a company:

  • Save on fuel and other fleet costs.
  • Enforce a fuel policy.
  • Access powerful data and analytics.
  • Optimize routes.
  • Improve driver education.
  • Improve maintenance tracking.
  • Automate fuel expense tracking.

Let’s look at fleet cards and how they work and then explore their role in each of these seven cost-reduction methods.

What is a Fleet Card?

Fleet cards function similarly to credit cards or debit cards but are tailored specifically for purchasing fuel, vehicle maintenance and other fleet-related expenses. Unlike a credit card, a fleet card may be tied to a specific brand of fuel stations or have nationwide acceptance.

Fuel cards are a great way to make payments at gas stations and consolidate fleet expenses. They also have several features that make them remarkable fleet-management solutions.

Key Features of Fleet Cards

Many aspects of a fleet card bring value to fleet managers and business owners. Regarding cost reduction, we will focus on three: data collection, customizable purchase limits and reporting tools.

Real-time Data Collection

Most fleet cards track and record purchase information in real-time. This means the details of every purchase are collected as they happen. Some of the common data points include:

  • Date and time of purchase
  • Amount of purchase
  • Volume of fuel purchased
  • Fuel type and grade

These data points can be put to good use when it comes to reining in your fleet expenses.

Purchase Limits

Fleet cards can be programmed to limit purchases. Fleet managers can set daily, weekly or monthly spending limits for each card. These limits can be set by the number of transactions, volume of fuel or dollar amount spent over a specified period of time.

Detailed Reporting

Fleet card providers usually include a fleet card dashboard as part of the user interface. This dashboard is where all your fleet card data is housed. You can easily view your data within the dashboard and run detailed reports based on the data points and time period of your choosing. It’s simple to run driver-specific or vehicle-specific reports, or you can look at spending or fueling trends over time.

Fleet card reports are a great way to gain insight into fuel consumption, fuel costs, driver performance, maintenance, etc.

Putting your Fleet Card to Work

Now that we understand how fleet cards work, let’s explore their money-saving potential.

Fleet Cards Offer Direct Savings

The majority of fleet card providers offer fuel discounts or rebates and some even have access to savings networks. Both are easy ways to reduce fleet expenses.

Fuel Rebates

Some fuel rebates or discounts are a certain number of cents per gallon, while other rebates are tiered, meaning the more you fuel, the greater the rebate. The money from a rebate is typically applied to your fleet card balance at the end of the month.

With fuel rebates, you can reduce fuel spending simply by paying for fuel.

Savings Networks

Depending on your business fuel card, you may have access to savings networks. The WEX Fleet Card, for example, gives users access to discounts on auto parts, maintenance, hotels and more.

Fleet Cards and Fuel Policies

Establishing clear fuel usage policies is crucial for controlling costs. Make sure your policy outlines acceptable and unacceptable uses of fuel cards and clearly states consequences for misuse.

Fleet fuel cards can help ensure compliance with company policies regarding fleet expenses. Since every transaction is tracked and logged in real-time, fleet managers always have access to up-to-date information for each vehicle and driver. But that’s only the beginning of the fleet card advantage in relation to your fuel policy.

Purchase controls are a game-changer for responsible and accountable spending. You can set customized parameters for your drivers to help them adhere to your fuel policy. With daily, weekly or monthly spending limits, drivers are less likely to overspend. Just make sure the spending parameters you set align with your policy.

The Advantage of Fleet Card Reporting and Analytics

Another key cost-saving feature of fleet cards is their ability to provide detailed transaction reporting for every purchase made using the card. Fleet managers can access comprehensive reports that outline fuel consumption, mileage and maintenance expenses for each vehicle in the fleet. This granular level of data allows managers to track spending trends, identify cost-saving opportunities and analyze the efficiency of fleet operations. Regularly reviewing this information can help identify patterns, such as excessive fuel consumption, unauthorized purchases or potential fraud.

Optimized Routing

Getting your fleet vehicles from point A to point B requires thoughtful planning. When vehicles travel all day, even small inefficiencies can add up to major costs. Basic fleet card data can help with effective route planning, and with the addition of telematics, fleet managers have even more insight.

Leveraging these tools helps create routes that provide the most direct path to each destination, reducing unnecessary mileage and fuel consumption. Remember to consider traffic patterns, peak traffic times and construction when route planning. This is crucial for maintaining a cost-effective fleet operation—fewer miles, or in some cases, fewer hours, mean less money spent on fuel and maintenance.

Train Drivers for Efficiency

Techniques such as minimizing idling time, maintaining steady speeds, avoiding rapid acceleration and limiting harsh braking are all proven to improve fuel economy and reduce vehicle wear.

Educating employees on these driving habits gives them the knowledge needed to improve efficiency and reduce fuel costs.

While fleet cards aren’t directly tied to driver training, the information they provide can be beneficial. Driver-specific reporting offers insights into how different drivers handle the same routes, and telematics provides information about idle times, speeding, and aggressive driving incidents.

Sharing this information with your drivers is a great way to reinforce the benefits of safe and economical driving practices.

Maintenance Tracking

Regularly-scheduled maintenance keeps your fleet running smoothly and helps catch potential issues before they become more costly problems. Proactively replacing parts, tuning up engines and monitoring the overall health of your vehicles reduces your fleet maintenance expenses.

For example, regular check-ups, oil changes and fluid top-offs might seem like minor expenses, but neglecting them can lead to worn-out engines and expensive repairs.

Fleet cards are a great way to monitor when vehicles are due for maintenance. You can use the odometer reading, hours of use or months in the field. Fleet managers can even set alerts for when regular maintenance is due so nothing is ever missed.

Automated Fuel Expense Tracking

With real-time data collection, fleet cards automate the entire fuel expense tracking process. The details of a driver’s fuel purchases are logged, so there is no need for receipts or fuel expense reports. This saves drivers time, allowing them more time for driving.

With real-time data collection, fleet cards automate the entire fuel expense tracking process.

Fuel cards also save your accounting department time. Since fleet card dashboards seamlessly communicate with most bookkeeping and accounting software, fleet managers can send all purchase details directly to accounting. There is no manual reporting and no risk of error.

Increasing Cash Flow with Fleet Cards

Fleet cards are powerful tools for controlling and reducing fleet costs in various ways. Whether you want to spend less at the pump, enforce your fuel policy, or analyze spending trends, fleet cards can help. With better route planning, more efficient drivers and reliable maintenance tracking, the savings are spread across every aspect of your fleet. Automated fuel expense tracking even helps your accounting department. Everything is made possible because of fleet card data.

A fleet management tool this powerful should not be overlooked. Is it time for your business to embrace a fleet fuel card or switch to a better one?