As a crucial part of the global supply chain, it's important the trucking industry runs as smoothly as possible.
For this to happen, fleet owners need to ensure their rigs are powered and they have quick and reliable access to fuel. This is easy if you're dealing with one or two semis, but it becomes more complicated the larger the fleet gets.
With everything that goes into tracking fuel usage, fleet managers could find themselves overwhelmed, and that's where fuel cards come in.
In this article, we'll delve into what fuel cards are, how you can use them to streamline your trucking operation, and how to make hauling easier for your drivers.
What is a trucking fuel card?
A trucking fuel card, also called a fleet card, is a company card whose balance truck drivers can use to cover work expenses such as gas and auto service.
Fleet managers can keep a closer eye on them by integrating a fleet telematics application designed to build even further on top of their utility.
Pairing the two will expand real-time visibility fleetwide and improve managerial oversight by introducing a wide variety of functions, as we'll look into below.
How do fuel cards work for truckers?
For truck drivers, the right expense payment program is their ticket to smooth sailing on the open road because it can be set up to seamlessly cover various job-related expenses.
Due to the unique aspects of the freight industry, several fuel card companies have expanded their offerings to appeal to trucking fleets, with features that go beyond simply controlling employee spending.
They target this market through strategies such as partnerships with truck stops and providing packages that automate tax reporting for large fleets. As a result, fleet and maintenance managers can realize several novel advantages by making the switch.
What are the benefits of a fleet card?
Integrating a prepaid fuel card system into your business can provide a host of positive results.
Let's take a look at what you could expect:
1. Increased efficiency
A study into digital maturity in the workplace found that 51% of workers say they spend at least two hours a day on repetitive tasks — that's a quarter of the standard workday.
Arguably the biggest benefit you can expect by using these payment cards is in accounting, where they supersede traditional bookkeeping practices through automated activity tracking and reporting.
Trend reports give you detailed fuel usage statistics collected over a long period that you can use to make smarter, more informed decisions.
The ability to adjust daily transaction limits and review expenses by driver means you can make decisions and implement changes on the fly.
You can also export the figures to PDF, Excel, or CSV formats to do different things with the data, like create presentations or aggregate financial records.
Use the time you free up as a result to channel your focus into other areas of your trucking business.
2. Improved security
Corporate fraud is a serious problem, with an estimated 40% of companies engaging in accounting violations.
Whether you suspect it's going on in your company, or you simply want to be ready in the event of an audit, issuing each driver a fuel card gives you the spending control you need to ensure integrity from the ground up.
You can enforce spending limits and set exception rules that'll flag any suspicious activity, such as a driver attempting to go over their daily limit, with real-time alerts.
Study comprehensive reports on the first few months of activity after introducing the program and take note of any significant differences between figures from both systems. You just might uncover some fraudulent transactions and give yourself a chance to take action before the situation worse.
Additionally, if a card is stolen, you can cancel it immediately to prevent it from being misused.
3. Savings and rebates
Almost every fuel card will have financial incentives such as discounts and rebates, and it's only a matter of picking the one that works best for your current setup. Most of these perks are designed to scale upward, meaning you can lessen the blow of rising costs of fuel sweeping across the globe.
For example, if you're running a large fleet, you could reap more benefits from a plan that gives you discounts on fuel when you buy it in larger quantities.
4. Flexible access
Digital fuel expense tracking means you can stay on top of employee spending 24/7 from wherever you are, as long as you have an internet connection.
Even on the most basic plans, you're going to get access to a web portal where you can track activity, load up balances, set budgets and more.
Integrating a telematics service extends functionality across devices and between locations, because most providers have mobile-friendly apps and cloud-based operations.
5. Reduced stress for drivers
It's no secret that truck drivers are prone to a lot of stress on the open road, and anything that can take some of the load off their minds is a win for the business.
The ideal fuel card will keep your drivers happy so they don't need to worry about:
- Manually logging their fuel spend
- Traveling with physical cash that'd make them a target
- Finding gas and service locations if you get a plan that preloads in-network stations to their GPS
- Their upkeep on the road if you get a plan that caters to truck stop visits, where they can shower, eat and more
Which fleet card is best for truckers?
When assessing different fleet fuel cards, we ranked them based on their ability to address the following:
- Network locations, including both gas and service stations for uptime
- Data management, e.g., tax reporting
- Ease of use in how well they handle third-party integrations (like telematics and accounting software), network locations, customer service, etc.
- Cost effectiveness via rebates, discounts, low to no recurring fees, etc.
- Additional perks, i.e. what else they offer besides covering fuel costs
1. WEX FlexCard
The WEX FlexCard stands out from other offerings due to its massive network of fuel locations and service stations. It's accepted at 95% of all gas stations in the United States and 45,000 service locations.
With these many network sites, fleet and maintenance managers can rest easy knowing they are in a better position to sustain systemwide uptime.
It also offers a rebate of 3 cents per gallon and doesn't charge any annual, setup or card fees.
2. Comdata Fleet Card by FLEETCOR
The Comdata Fleet Card from FLEETCOR is attractive because, alongside coverage at over 8,000 locations, it goes the extra mile towards promoting driver welfare.
With the Comdata Hotel Network program, drivers can get at least 20% off the lowest advertised price at over 15,000 participating hotels.
FLEETCOR's partnerships with Pilot Flying J and Love's give drivers access to truck stops where they can shower, get food and engage in other recreational activities, all covered by their card.
3. Shell Fleet Navigator
Shell's Fleet Navigator card works at the company's 13,000 fuel stations and an additional 95% of gas stations across the US.
It also offers a rebate of 5 cents per gallon of fuel and discounts at participating Jiffy Lube service centers.
It also has a dedicated app you can use to manage operations if you want an alternative to the online portal.
4. ExxonMobil BusinessPro
The ExxonMobil BusinessPro card is accepted at over 12,000 Exxon and Mobil stations, as well as 95% of all fueling locations all over the country.
If you choose to buy fuel at gas stations owned by ExxonMobil, you can get monthly rebates at the following rates:
- 1 to 500 gallons - 1 cent per gallon
- 500 to 3,999 gallons - 3 cents per gallon
- 4,000 to 6,999 gallons - 4 cents per gallon
- 7,000 to 9,999 gallons - 5 cents per gallon
- 10,000 gallons and above - 6 cents per gallon
This card also provides tax reporting features and doesn't charge annual, setup, or card fees on eligible new accounts.
5. Fuelman Deep Saver Premium
Fuelman's Deep Saver Premium is another FLEETCOR-issued fuel card that works at over 50,000 locations with an extensive list of additional attractive benefits, including:
- Fraud loss coverage of up to $25,000 a year
- 24/7 roadside assistance
- "Skip-the-line" priority customer service
- Tax reporting
- An extensive loyalty program that rewards you with 2 points per eligible gallon
- Discounts of 5 cents per gallon of unleaded and 8 cents per gallon of diesel
With a charge of $12.99 per month per card and a minimum monthly charge of $60, the card isn't as pocket-friendly as its competitors, but the perks might justify it for larger companies.
6. BP Business Solutions Mastercard
The BP Business Solutions Mastercard is a versatile option that works at any gas station that accepts Mastercard. If you use it at BP or Amoco, you won't have to pay any transaction fees.
It also offers rebates of up to 7 cents per eligible gallon and fuel tax reports.
Be careful not to confuse it for the relatively restrictive BP Business Solutions Fuel Plus card, which has all the same features except Mastercard support.
How to choose the right fuel card for your fleet
Finding the right freight fuel card depends on what your exact needs are, and these will vary between fleets.
Taking these factors into account will help you find the best option for your business:
The last thing you want is to commit to a company fuel card only to find out the routes you ply are outside of its network of fuel stops.
That said, nationwide coverage isn't the only thing that matters. Finding a card that isn't issued by an oil company also gives you more options, allowing you to, for example, choose what locations you get gas from based on differences in fuel prices.
2. Fleet management features
If you're running a small operation, then it's easy to spare some time for manual legwork. But as the size of your fleet grows, this becomes less practical. Depending on the size of your company, you might need to find a fuel card provider with in-depth fleet management options that you can integrate into your telematics service to keep data overload at bay.
You should also be careful not to pick up a consumer gas card, because those don't offer any form of fleet management.
3. Benefits that match your usage
The key to getting substantial value out of your fleet card is to pick one that meets your company’s specific needs.
Discounts and rebates are an obvious consideration, but there are even more perks you can factor in.
For example, if you're running a large fleet and meet the criteria for disclosure under the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA), a provider with tax reporting features is a major asset.
Fuel cards for trucking companies provide an easy way to manage major business expenses for everything from gas to service in one place.
By integrating them into your telematics service, you can boost fleet efficiency with advanced reporting and adjustable spending controls. Perks such as rebates and discounts promise lower operating costs.
To find out how you can enhance your fleet management insights (including fuel card usage) with telematics, contact a fleet specialist from CalAmp today.