Is your organization taking advantage of data to manage fuel and fleet expenses? Have you identified your data needs? How would you rate your fleet program in terms of cost savings, security, and control? Recharged Education recently found the perfect content to help your organization take a fresh look at its fleet. In the article, “Data-driven Visibility into Fleet Card Programs,” Jeffrey Pape, Senior Vice President, U.S. Bank Transportation Solutions, examines the benefits of fleet-related data and provides recommendations your organization can act on.
The following article was originally published August 4; reprinted with permission from U.S. Bank.
Data-driven Visibility into Fleet Card Programs
by Jeffrey Pape, Senior Vice President, U.S. Bank Transportation Solutions
Data. It’s the watchword for succeeding in today’s business environment. More and more, we’re being told to let the data be the guide. Quality improvement initiatives stress the importance of making decisions based on verifiable data rather than assumptions and guesswork. Nowhere is this truer than in fleet management, where there is a growing need to optimize data in order to enhance security, reduce cost and improve overall visibility.
The fuel card is an important part of this equation. When it comes to focused fuel cards over non-fuel-focused solutions, the ideal fuel-focused solution is designed to provide the fleet manager with data and control, and the fleet with efficiency and accountability.
Industry best practices call for taking advantage of the fuel-focused card for the significant benefits it offers fleet managers and drivers:
- The power of a secure, established network that ensures widespread acceptance
- The ability to limit purchases based on pre-authorized parameters
- The ability to capture detailed transaction data that can be flagged for exceptions, audited regularly and allocated appropriately across the organization
The key is having data-driven visibility into your fleet program, at the level that your organization needs. The technology behind today’s best fleet and fuel card programs can help integrate that data into your internal systems for greater visibility and control.
Assessing Your Data Needs
The first step in gaining more visibility is figuring out what kind of data you need, at what level of detail and granularity. If your fleet department operates out of a general fund, you may not need to know much more than the total of how much you spent on fuel or maintenance this month, for overall expense management. However, more and more organizations are moving toward a structure of internal service funds, where each department is its own operating center with its own budget to manage. In that environment, there’s greater need for accountability, and that requires more robust and more detailed data.
For example, you may need to track costs not only on a vehicle or equipment basis, but also on a line-item basis where each transaction is brought into your system and the costs allocated out to the departments that own them. Rather than just knowing that Driver X had $100 in fuel expenses this week, you may want to drill down to what kind of fuel was purchased and where, what the odometer reading was, and whether these things correlate appropriately. That way you have the data you need to allocate costs appropriately, but you can also assess the potential for fraud, and identify whether additional communication or training is required.
Data-driven visibility into maintenance expenses is also a critical part of effective fleet management, especially when there are regulatory reporting requirements involved. If the Department of Transportation comes in and wants to verify tire purchases or inspection dates, having that data available from your card provider is imperative.
A good fleet card program can help you manage your spend and set controls to match your internal policies, so that you can manage by exception.
Data Integration Powers Results
When it comes to managing that level of data, a good dashboard is imperative. The key is being able to define and easily access the data you’re looking for. You might have multiple pieces of information floating around—purchasing card data, corporate travel card data, and fuel card data—and trying to compile everything into one place can be difficult. A portal that can aggregate this information provides you with simplicity.
Having that overall dashboard view of your fleet card data gives you an important ability to see the macro view—a valuable tool for senior management looking for the big picture. Integrating the data further into the organization’s financial management system can help you see—and adjust—how your fleet is affecting overall company profitability and other metrics.
Improved Fleet Management for Cost Savings, Security and Control
One of the best things you can do for cost control is to make sure that the people who are actually spending the money actually get the reports and see where their money is going.
For example, perhaps data shows that fleet drivers are buying premium unleaded fuel when regular unleaded would suffice for their vehicles. Significant cost savings could be achieved by addressing that situation through additional training and education to reinforce appropriate fuel purchasing criteria, and ensuring that the fleet organization is doing what’s best for the company.
When retail fuel prices vary considerably from station to station, price and site locators can help guide drivers to an optimal fueling route. Additional data-driven visibility into fuel card spending allows you to score and evaluate drivers on how they are complying with those parameters, and provide valuable corrective feedback to improve performance.
Best practices call for fleet managers to use the fuel-card data to check for unusual product codes, inconsistent fuel quantity, and unusually large transaction amounts. Exceptions can then be addressed with the driver.
Next Steps and Recommendations
What can your organization do to move the needle in the right direction?
- Determine your data requirements
- Review your options for fuel and fleet card solutions
- Implement a program that provides the greatest value
- Monitor and refine over time for maximum results
To learn more about how fuel cards came impact your fleet and your bottom line, visit bankonus.usbpayment.com.
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