Fuel Purchasing Management for Fleet Managers
If you manage a fleet of vehicles, fuel costs are one of your top expenditures. Fuel prices for any consumer can be frustrating, challenging, and confusing—and even more so—if you manage a fleet of vehicles.  All of us have experienced fueling our personal vehicles only to see lower fuel prices down the street, or a 20 cent per gallon swing the next day. In the trucking industry, where every penny saved is multiplied by thousands of miles driven, knowing when and where to purchase fuel is critical.

Work Truck Magazine states, “Research shows that the average spread of fuel prices within three adjoining zip codes can be as much as 28 cents per gallon.” The significance for logistics in these fuel price variations can be measured in millions of dollars spent… or saved. Various tools and strategies can be used to shore up your bottom line, such as:

  • Use software to report fuel transactions in real-time, alerting management to any purchases outside of preset guidelines. Fleet Owner Magazine and Work Truck Magazine both mention the fleet management provider, Comdata, as an example. They offer “A customized analytics tool that uses a simple, graphical interface to provide customers with a way to easily identify and quantify additional fuel savings opportunities by driver, merchant, and geography.”
  • Use smart phone apps, such as Smart Buy, to find the lowest priced fuel in an area. The advantage isn’t only the fuel savings, but the ease of use and cost to implement. Since the largest investment is the smart phone, any size fleet can take advantage of this.
  • Negotiate fuel prices. Many fuel card companies will negotiate fuel price based on retail minus cost or wholesale plus pricing.

A Cautionary Tale

A few years ago, I worked with a B2C, which managed a fleet of 40 vehicles. For convenience and accounting, we provided our drivers with fuel cards—but something didn’t add up. We were spending more on fuel than was possible. After reviewing in-store cameras, we learned we were fueling an employee and his family’s private vehicles. We tightened our procedures, policed the system, and added GPS to all vehicles. But today, there’s an easier solution—cardless fueling. By using radio frequency ID, an individual vehicle is recognized and payment approved. Only the identified vehicle may be fueled.

Fleet managers have many tools available to efficiently manage their fleet. Using the fuel management technology available can save thousands of dollars. Are you involved in fleet management, fuel savings initiatives, or commercial driving? What fuel management systems and software have you found useful?

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