When it comes to how fleets pay for fuel and other expenses on the road, technology continues to bring new features and even more benefits for your business. To find out the latest innovations and trends in fleet payment solutions, we talked with Michelle Erickson, senior product manager for US Bank/Voyager Fleet, in the Aug. 24 episode of Fleet Momentum.
The Connected Vehicle
With the ability to derive data directly from the vehicle on the rise, Erickson new enhancements in fleet payments will follow, including:
- Increased security in encrypted technology to tokenize and allow payments.
- Program optimization. Fleet managers could eventually eliminate physical card distribution and management.
- Driver experience. When driver data is captured by technology, it streamlines the user experience. No more entering data at the pump, and no more receipts to be captured and provided to fleet managers.
A few years ago, Voyager Fleet and Mastercard completed a connected car pilot to better understand the complexities and possibilities that the technology could bring to their fleet customers. “At the time it was limited to telematics data, but today it has grown to include such things as internet access and mobile commerce capabilities,” Erickson explains.
Unexpected Events for Fleets
With the challenges of the last year, Voyager saw a noticeable dip in transaction volumes at the end of Q1 into Q2 of 2020, with a view toward recovery starting at the end of Q2. “We saw a consistent increase quarter over quarter in transaction volumes with what we consider a ‘return to normal’ volume in Q1 of this year,” Erickson says. “I believe what this shows us is that even through pandemic situations, our fleets were still out there running and providing goods and services.”
Add in recent events like floods in Florida, a cold snap in Texas, fires in California, hurricanes on the East Coast, and pipeline hacks, and fleets now must also learn to expect the unexpected. “From a payment solutions perspective, we need to be able to support our customers in this reaction,” Erickson comments, “and we need to do it in a near-real time fashion — just like they are.”
As if that aren’t enough, we’re all familiar with the supply chain and chip shortage issues too. Erickson understands some fleets will extend vehicle replacement, which in turn may require more spend on maintenance.
Many fleets are considering taking the first steps to shift toward EVs. Of course, that also means a need for home charging or paying for public charging, and require fleets to manage payment options, spend, and vehicle utilization.
Contactless, Cardless, and Virtual
Payment solutions are also seeing a large pivot to contactless, cardless, and virtual transactions.
New tech also brings with it more data and the ability to mine that data and make it useful. Barely a decade ago, using data meant pulling out a spreadsheet with one source of data (say, transactions), and now, we have access to multiple sources of data from disparate sources such as the vehicle itself, telematics/GPS, fuel, and maintenance purchases.
“All of these points can provide a fleet manager a more holistic view into fleet management,” Erickson says. “But to use that, we must provide our fleet managers with a way to digest and visually represent that information.”
For Voyager, data analytics dashboards provide the means to do that.
Expecting the Unexpected
Erickson says that US Bank’s new Voyager Mastercard is the first fleet card to use chip technology to support two network rails — Voyager and Mastercard. This means that a customer with a traditional fuel card could now meet their other fleet transaction needs such as paying tolls or an unexpected hotel stay because of unprecedented storms, or simply a detour that takes the driver into a rural area where there isn’t a Voyager location accessible.
The Voyager Mastercard also allows for over-the-road truck drivers that stop at a Canadian or Mexican station to fuel without managing another card or cash. And it can be managed on a single platform, whereby fleet managers can set up and maintain cards, change card controls and limits, and do their reporting and billing in one system.
These features help fleets to better manage these unexpected events. “Ultimately, Voyager wants to meet the needs of our fleets and our ever-changing environment,” Erickson says.