Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

Take Control of Your Fuel Spend

November 2008, by Chad Simon

Have you ever wondered if your drivers are getting away with stealing fuel? If you have, you don't have proper control over your fuel purchases. And you don't have a fuel card program.

A reputable fuel card program all but eliminates instances of misuse by nailing every purchase down to location, driver, time of day, vehicle mpg and fuel grade. Fleet managers can schedule itemized electronic reports on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. They can also set customized parameters including days and times fuel can be purchased and amount of fuel dispensed per vehicle per day while eliminating "exceptions" or purchases outside the boundaries set by the manager. Many programs also offer per-gallon discounts at fuel retailers.

The following are examples of six diverse fleets, how and why they went about implementing a fleet fuel card program and the results they have seen so far.

UPS Gets Aggressive

Jeff Ridings, group manager of energy procurement for UPS, based in Atlanta, began using Comdata's MasterCard fleet card program in 2005 primarily because of its merchant discount program, which provides aggressive fuel discounts from truck stop chains to big box retailers such as Wal-Mart.

Comdata's fleet fuel card program comes with MasterCard acceptance which enables the cards to be used universally. To prevent misuse, after the card is swiped and drivers enter their individual PIN number, the vehicle, driver, location, time of day, number of gallons purchased, price per gallon and odometer readings are recorded in real time to help fleets manage fuel purchases at retail locations as they occur.

Exceptions can be customized to each fleet's individual needs such as authorizations for fuel-only purchases and by fuel grade. Fleet managers also can limit the number of transactions per day per driver, set total dollar limits and cut off transactions after a certain time. If an employee drives a vehicle that holds 25 gallons and a 50-gallon purchase is recorded, management can be alerted.

Through this program, the UPS fleet has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Ridings.

Airgas Consolidates Fuel Procurement

Located in Radnor, Pa., Airgas distributes industrial and medical gases, welding supplies, safety products and tools. Airgas executives recognized that if the company consolidated its fuel procurement and processing, cost-saving efficiencies could be realized.

Steve Curson, Airgas process engineer, logistics, worked with Comdata to customize a fleet management solution to meet Airgas' diverse operational requirements. Each vehicle was assigned a Comdata MasterCard fleet card with point-of-sale prompting for a driver ID number and odometer reading. Each authorized Airgas associate received a unique driver ID number for fueling to accurately track card usage. The company placed purchasing restrictions on each card to ensure compliance with corporate policy.

According to Curson, the benefits of the new system are highly valued at every level of the organization.

"First and foremost, we are finally able to take advantage of our purchasing power," says Curson. "We were considered 16 separate companies, but now, fuel companies are courting us trying to get business from what they now see as a large corporation with impressive fuel expenditures." 

Airgas receives discounts administered through Comdata from fuel companies such as Love's and Pilot.

Each business unit manager now receives valuable purchase information on every transaction, which is reviewed, allocated and audited for potential fraudulent charges. The fuel data is also exported to a maintenance application to get a true operating cost for vehicles, which improves branch maintenance schedules. 

"We're sending the message that we now have tighter control over every fuel purchase," says Curson. "I spend less than 30 minutes per month processing more than 16,000 individual transactions, which are automatically sent to each branch manager. It is valuable business intelligence I couldn't get before and it has a significant financial impact on our business."

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