Fleet managers who have been in the business for a long time may recall the days when fuel management was nothing more than a handful of metrics tracked on a spreadsheet. Thanks to technology, fuel management has come a long way since then. With the advent of fuel cards and telematics, fleet managers now have access to far more data than ever before. And thanks to analytical dashboards and application programing interfaces (APIs), the myriad of data points from those sources and more can be layered on top of each other into easy-to-understand dashboards and reports, offering a more holistic view of fuel management.
Armed with the latest fuel management technology, today fleets can do more than budget appropriately for their fuel spend. Now, a well-run, technology-based fuel management program can reduce their fuel spend, cut their carbon footprint, identify and prevent fraud, and identify trends that help them continually improve their fuel programs.
So what are the latest fuel management technologies fleets should know about? From telematics to advanced data analytics, these state-of-the-art solutions are helping fleets manage fuel better.
Trend 1: Telematics to Provide Increased Insight about Driver and Vehicle
Telematics devices track and deliver all sorts of data to fleet managers. But they also provide actionable insights that can help fleet managers improve their fleet’s performance – and that includes fuel management.
For instance, Shell Fleet Solutions recently launched Shell Telematics, which integrates fuel card data with data generated by a fleet’s vehicles to provide increased visibility into driver behavior and vehicle performance.
“By uncovering wasteful driving behaviors, inefficient travel routes and lagging vehicle performance in the form of clear insights, Shell Telematics offers managers an opportunity to course-correct factors that lead to increased fuel consumption,” explained Tim Murray, U.S. Sales Director for Shell Fleet Solutions. “Reinforcing positive driver behavior and investing in an effective data-driven solution, which offers visibility into the many factors that affect fuel intake, can have a significant impact in managing a fleet’s overall fuel usage and spend.”
Murray said using telematics to correct the cause of fuel inefficient events can reduce fuel consumption by up to 25%. Likewise, coaching drivers based on increased insights into the length and severity of speeding, acceleration, idling time, and braking events can cut fuel consumption by up to 35%.
Murray said use of telematics to better manage fuel is a trend that is likely to continue. “With 70% of fleets relying on telematics for fuel optimization, the technology will play an increasingly important role in giving fleets greater insights into their day-to-day operations and ultimately help owners better manage fuel spend,” he said.
Trend 2: More Sophisticated Fuel Cards
The way a vehicle is driven has a big impact on how much fleets spend on fuel. But the way fuel is paid for can also make a big impact on fuel costs. Fuel cards can provide fleet managers with data about fuel purchases, help to prevent fuel fraud, and decrease unauthorized purchases – all of which roll up to better fuel management.
While any debit or credit card can be subject to fraud and misuse, today’s fuel cards are more secure than ever. For instance, when drivers use the WEX Fleet Card, they must enter their driver ID and one other prompt, like odometer reading, for every purchase. All locations that accept the WEX Fleet Card are also required to provide Level III transaction data, the level requiring the most information to qualify transactions. This can help reduce fraud and provide greater visibility into fuel use.
“Our network gives fleets the ability to control purchases in the field and delivers comprehensive information and analysis tools that allow effective operational management and cost reduction,” said Bernie Kavanagh, SVP/GM, Large Fleet & Strategic Relationships, WEX.
Likewise, the U.S. Bank Voyager fleet card gives fleets the flexibility to manage purchase behavior to avoid surprises. “Fleet managers can establish controls at the fleet, driver or vehicle level, including the ability to control what products can be purchased as well as the time of day, eligible ZIP codes, states and more to achieve broad security and expense control,” said Ramel Lindsay, Vice President, Fleet Business Development at U.S. Bank Voyager.
Murray said in addition to security, fuel cards can help fleet customers identify trends and make improvements based on that knowledge. “Cardholders can also expect to save time with fraud prevention capabilities, as well as access to detailed reporting that offers actionable insights to improve their fleet’s efficiency based on fueling habits,” he said. Users of the Shell Fleet Plus card, Shell Small Business card, and Shell Fleet Navigator card can earn valuable monthly rebates, offering another way to offset costs.
According to Kavanagh, fuel cards continue to evolve to better serve fleets. “Fuel management technology is expanding into more than just fuel and becoming about providing tools to manage all payments,” he said. “Businesses also want different modalities of payment beyond a physical card and into other forms of payment, such as mobile capability, and the industry is responding to that need.”
Lindsay said when technology is helping fleets integrate fuel and maintenance programs, giving them increased visibility into the total cost of ownership (TCO)., “Fuel management technology is evolving to be inclusive of other aggregated data, including vehicle maintenance and repairs. For example, the cardless Voyager Maintenance Solution helps fleets control what, when, and where maintenance is performed and collects granular details with every transaction. The additional data enable fleets to manage emerging issues that impact fuel consumption, vehicle health and driver safety and productivity.”
Trend 3: Proliferation of Security Apps and More Robust Software
While fuel cards themselves are more secure than ever, additional measures to enforce security and combat fraud and theft are now available, too. Kavanagh said WEX offers two solutions to do just that: one for drivers and one for over-the-road fleets.
WEX Fleet DriverDash is an application for drivers that lets them activate their fleet cards, enter required prompts, and purchase fuel at the pump. Using DriverDash, fleet drivers can use a mobile device to authorize a fuel transaction using biometrics, all from right within their vehicle. DriverDash also captures receipts electronically. “DriverDash can help solve issues like skimming and inaccurate odometer readings with secure, in-vehicle transactions,” Kavanagh said.
SecureFuel, designed for carriers, provides two ways to reduce fraud risk: verifying the fuel purchase occurs at the location of a truck and confirming the volume of the fuel purchase corresponds to the available capacity in the fuel tank. SecureFuel uses GPS technology to confirm a truck is located where the fuel purchase has occurred. Performing this proximity validation helps carriers reduce possible fraud charges.
When the proximity validation authorization fails or the fuel transaction volume is greater than the amount of available space in the tank, carriers can opt to interrupt the transaction or receive alerts about suspicious fuel reconciliation.
“Customers can lose tens of thousands of dollars through the theft of fuel card numbers along with lost time spent cancelling cards and filing fraud claims, all of which make fraud significantly expensive,” Kavanagh said. “SecureFuel shrinks potential fraud liabilities for carriers through tank level authorization, utilizing the tank-level readings from the ECM (Electronic Control Module) in the truck and comparing it to the fuel purchased to prevent too much fuel from being purchased (based on tank capacity and current levels).”
U.S. Bank’s Voyager employs sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) in addition to spend controls to monitor purchase behavior and identify potential fraudulent purchase activity in real time. “This saves fleet managers from having to closely monitor and audit every purchase to prevent fraud,” Lindsay said.
Trend 4: Integrated Solutions and Advanced Analytics Capabilities
While many different forms of fuel management technology have existed in silos, the latest technology brings data from a myriad of sources together for more powerful analytics capabilities.
“Data come from a variety of evolving fuel-management technologies, including those embedded in vehicles by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), supplied by telematics providers and gathered during EMV® chip card, cardless, mobile and radio frequency identification (RFID) payments,” Lindsay said. “Plus, APIs deliver the data in real-time, replacing less frequent batch file processes that often resulted in historical data only.”
Lindsay said when these data are presented visually through analytical dashboards, fleet managers can glean a much better understanding of things like vehicle location, fuel consumption, and refueling frequency. “Fleet managers are now equipped to proactively spot fuel consumption trends, identify driver and vehicle performance issues and negotiate fuel discounts to support improved operations rather than constantly reacting to singular fuel management data points,” he said.
WEX’s analytics platform, ClearView, helps fleets analyze detailed driver and vehicle performance data to quickly understand purchasing trends, review performance benchmarks, and identify exceptions to fuel purchase policies that ultimately steers fleets to make better business decisions.
“ClearView products provide customers with easy-to-read dashboards based on their fueling data, delivering big-data benefits without big investments in time, talent or additional resources,” Kavanagh said. “Deeper, more powerful data analytics tools help businesses better track fueling behavior and find opportunities for better fuel prices and cost savings. Delivering that data in an easily understandable and actionable format is critical.”
Trend 5: Enhanced Visibility to Fuel Prices & Refueling Locations for Drivers
Technology has also evolved to help fleets make better decisions about fuel before drivers even arrive at the pump.
For instance, the WEX Connect mobile app helps drivers locate the nearest fueling locations and sort based on price or distance. Fuel prices are date- and time-based when displaying the actual transaction price.
The Voyager Mobile App helps pinpoint accepting fuel and maintenance locations and minimize fuel cost by directing drivers to locations with pre-negotiated discounts. It enables fleets to optimize both routing and safety with trip planning, route maps, and turn-by-turn audio directions.
“Our customers can filter locations by price and distance, fuel type (including standard, electric and alternative fuels), or those offering maintenance and other services such as car washes. This makes it easier for drivers to get what they need without wasting time and fuel,” Lindsay said.
“Drivers can also use WEX Connect to find service stations and fueling locations that offer diesel, E85, regular, and CNG to help them find the fuel they need at a price that benefits the customer’s bottom line,” Kavanagh said.
Carrier TrendSource, for over-the-road fleets, provides visibility into fuel prices and fuel purchases in an easy-to-use dashboard so carriers and owner-operators can reduce their business costs by managing their fuel expenses. Carrier TrendSource lets users see fuel pricing trends, peer comparisons, and current prices at the pump — actionable data they can use to make better fuel decisions.
“Carriers and owner-operators can compare their fuel purchases and transactions against similar companies as a benchmark, which gives them a way to ask, ‘How am I doing compared to similar companies and where can I improve?’” Kavanagh explained. “They can also audit for discounts as well as understand historical fuel purchases, which lets them manage and budget their expenses.”
Trend 6: Expanded Fleet Initiatives to Better Manage EVs Recharging
Although electric vehicles (EVs) don’t run on “fuel,” managing the way they’re powered can be challenging – and that’s pushing “fuel management technology” in new directions.
“Access to electric charging stations and maintenance facilities along all routes is not as straightforward as it is for other types of vehicles depending on where fleets are based,” Lindsay said. “U.S. Bank Voyager was the first fleet card issuer to add tens of thousands of electric charging locations to our acceptance network in 2017, and more locations continue to be added to support fleets as they transition to EVs.”
To improve the way EVs are powered and managed, WEX introduced FleetCharge, a program that consolidates EV charging sessions and traditional fuel purchases on one report under the same credit line for WEX Fleet Card customers with EVs. WEX partnered with ChargePoint, the largest network of EV charging stations in North America, to give fleets this single-card solution for managing fleets with both electric and traditional vehicles.
“The growth of EVs has been a driver of the fuel management technology evolution,” Kavanagh said. “As we move toward increased prevalence of EVs in the fleet world, the ability to aggregate your fuel and EV reporting for vehicles is going to be critical in order to seamlessly manage your fueling operations across mixed fleets. We have found that this streamlines administrative time for customers that operate mixed-energy fleets.”