Move forward with fleet data.

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.

Move forward with identifying the fleet data you need and then incorporate it into your program.

Move forward with identifying the fleet data you need and then incorporate it into your program.

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?

  1. Determine your data requirements
  2. Review your options for fuel and fleet card solutions
  3. Implement a program that provides the greatest value
  4. Monitor and refine over time for maximum results

To learn more about how fuel cards came impact your fleet and your bottom line, visit

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Make Fleet Cards work for you.

For fuel and other vehicle expenses, the benefits of Fleet Cards can rise well above traditional Purchasing Cards. But what do you do if common Fleet Card processes do not meet your organization’s needs? This was the case for Jessica Perdue, CPCP, Corporate Card Administrator for The Nature Conservancy. She responded by devising a new Fleet Card process that offers better control and satisfies her organization’s unique requirements. Everyone should consider her approach. 

Why Use Fleet Cards Instead of Other Cards?

The short answer is details and controls. For The Nature Conservancy—an organization that utilizes federal funds—tracking details is critical. Regular P-Cards fell short in providing important information, including usage data to support emissions reports for their California unit, and the line item transaction data is not as robust. Their Fleet Card program with WEX Inc. includes reporting to help their efforts tracking the Conservancy’s carbon footprint.  

Then there is the control element. P-Cards only go so far with spend and velocity limits, and MCC blocks. Fleet Cards make it possible to require the entry of vehicle mileage at the pump and restrict the number of gallons purchased. Jessica shared how she can block fuel types, too; for example, blocking unleaded gas if a vehicle requires diesel. Such a control was certainly lacking in the card fraud case I wrote about in 2014; see what happened and how to prevent something similar at your organization.

As for filling stations’ private label cards, no one wants to drive around to find a fuel location where they can use the branded card.

Common vs. Innovative

What is Common

With Fleet Cards, it is common for organizations to do one of the following.

  • Assign a card to an employee, who might use their card with different company vehicles. If the organization wants to know which vehicle each transaction pertains to, the employee would need to specify the appropriate vehicle manually when reconciling. This leaves room for errors.
  • Assign a card to a vehicle, which allows multiple employees to use it, but fuel purchases for a specific vehicle are all on one card. Some manual research would be required to: a) verify that all transactions are legitimately for the assigned vehicle, and b) determine the appropriate accounting code for each transaction.

Both approaches fail to tie together the three key elements: the employee, the card transaction and the vehicle. Not satisfied with the norm, Jessica worked with WEX to develop a different process. 

The best solutions are often your ideas that you put into practice.

The best solutions are often your ideas that you put into practice.

Jessica’s Solution

A card with the VIN printed on it is assigned to each vehicle, but an employee who uses the card is required to key in their employee ID at the pump. The ID remains tied to the resulting transaction throughout the process, including within a feed into Concur. Fleet Card users access Concur—often through the mobile app—to allocate their fuel transactions to the appropriate fund (i.e., accounting code). This last step eliminates the need for someone in AP or Finance to determine the right fund. Jessica also relayed that, because line item data transfers to Concur, they eliminated the extra step of maintaining/imagining receipts.

She personally tested the card controls, including the number of transactions allowed per day, to ensure they worked successfully. The process is efficient and well controlled.

Finally, Jessica imparted her key message to me, saying, “Do not try to stay within the parameters of what your bank currently offers. If your organization needs something specific, create it and work with them to implement it.”

For more Commercial Card insights from others, visit the program management page.

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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