Eliminate Chicken Scratch, Crumpled Receipts and Burrito Crimes
July 1, 2004
• by Chris Brown, Associate Editor
I worked as a driver for a national rental-car company to help put me through college. We used to gas up the vehicles going into fleet on a house account at the station next to the lot. Someone in accounting had to reconcile the chicken scratch on those crumbled receipts with the bill from the gas station. The bill and the receipts may have added up, but figuring out if the vehicle with that unit number on the receipt actually received the gas was not any easy task. The drivers figured that out.
On more than a few occasions I saw drivers putting gas in their own vehicles and writing it off on a company receipt using a rental vehicle’s unit number. The theft (or in industry parlance “slippage”) was never more than a few gallons; the rule was we put in just enough gas to get the vehicle to the drop point. At any rate I never saw anyone get reprimanded for stealing gas.
That was the roaring ’90s, the good ol’ days, when gas was oh, about $1.19. Gas is now averaging $2.20 a gallon here in Southern California, making the case for a fuel management program stronger than ever.
Here’s why, in a nutshell: knowledge is power. You get detailed purchase and exception reports that show you who’s buying gas for a friend, who’s using Super Premium Tech Injector at an extra 20 cents a gallon, and who’s fueling up on burritos in the mini-mart. You’ll know miles-per-gallon for each vehicle. You can pinpoint which station sells the cheapest gas, instantly.
You get security. Unlike a normal credit card, most fuel card programs require input of a PIN number to access the system. A thief with a stolen card still needs to know that PIN to get fuel. You get a nationwide system of vendors that accepts one fuel card. If you still want to give your business to the gas guy down the street, chances are he already accepts one or more fuel cards. You get one customized, master bill. That means less paperwork, one check to write and no more monthly expense reports to track. And better yet, those crumpled receipts are a thing of the past.
Fuel expense averages about 60 percent of your fleet’s operating cost. Don’t you need every tool to rein in that expense?
Three years ago Business Fleet conducted a survey and asked if fleets of 10 to 50 vehicles had a fuel management program. An overwhelming majority—91 percent—had no fuel program in place. I asked the same question in the bi-weekly poll in the Driving Force e-newsletter and on businessfleet.com. A lot of you are coming around: over half of the respondents have a managed fuel program. My question to those on the other side of the fence: what are you waiting for?
Go ahead, do the math yourself. Business Fleet’s parent Web Site, fleet-central.com, has a fuel calculator that takes your company’s parameters and spits out your estimated net fuel savings. If you have a fleet of 10 or more vehicles and that calculator doesn’t come back at you with at least $1,000 in fuel savings per year, I’ll pay for your next fill up. And if you’re here in Southern California, I’ll fill up your car for you. And, let’s see… I’ll do it wearing a dress. I feel pretty confident I’ll be staying in pants.
I got nostalgic for my driving days so I called the old driver coordinator at the rental agency. He told me the company now uses a universal fuel card. I asked him if he knew about the slippage. It turns out he did know about some of it, and a couple of drivers got fired over it. The expense of having to fire two employees and hire two new ones is reason enough to implement a fuel management program. The drivers I knew who got away with stealing gas were actually pretty good people. But believe me—they wouldn’t have stolen if there was any chance they’d get caught.