Unlocking the data from fuel cards to better manage your fleet
Originally published on February 12, 2019
If you operate a fleet, fuel cards can bring a range of benefits. The most obvious of these is a direct financial saving compared to using cash or a credit card. As vehicle purchase and running costs are often the second biggest expenditure for any business after salaries, any savings that can be made are welcome.
VAT invoices also negate the need to collect receipts. Significantly reducing your administration time and ensuring accurate claims can be made quickly and efficiently.
It is savings in costs and time such as these that make fuel cards such an attractive proposition to fleet managers.
But there are other, less obvious advantages to adopting fuel cards too. Fuel cards can be a rich source of data, providing fleet managers with the necessary tools make better, more informed decisions about their fleet and drivers. Here are our top tips on what to look out for …
Fleet fuel efficiency
Monthly fuel card reports document the miles travelled by your fleet and the total fuel expenditure, making a whole-fleet fuel efficiency calculation straightforward. Compare this with the average MPG of your cars and you can begin to assess how efficiently your fleet is operating.
If there is a large discrepancy between the two, it is maybe time for your drivers to undergo eco-driving training, which can have a significantly positive effect on fleet efficiency.
Individual driver performance
Calculating your “whole-fleet” efficiency gives you a benchmark by which to compare individual driver performance as well. If the efficiency of one or a small band of drivers significantly exceeds the average, again it might be time for driver training to bring them back in line. Or it might point to drivers carrying unnecessary heavy equipment, or leaving engines running while static. If training is required, continued analysis of individual driver behaviour will enable the fleet manager to assess the effectiveness of the training and identify repeat offenders.
Driver refuelling behaviour
In 2016, we carried out a far-reaching review of driver behaviour and found that business users used just a handful of filling stations to refuel, and often plan their journeys around them.
In fact, data from 15,000 commercial drivers requiring national coverage on fuel found that more than two thirds of them (70%) regularly used just 30 filling stations out of a UK total of almost 8,500.
What stands out from our survey more than anything else is that business drivers really are creatures of habit.
But how do you know this routine is the most efficient for your business? Chances are it is based on driver preference and familiarity rather then fleet efficiency. In many cases, drivers actually go out of their way to use the filling stations they favour, adding unnecessary mileage to their weekly total.
Fuel cards bring transparency to which filling stations drivers are using, this enables fleet managers to discover if driver refuelling habits are detracting from your bottom line.
Identifying trends over time
The previous points have addressed efficiency over a short period of time, perhaps a single month for both whole-fleet and individual drivers. But comparing fuel use, cost, efficiency, and other factors month-on-month on an ongoing basis will give fleet managers and operators insight into a whole range of factors. This will include seasonal use in fuel; the impact of training or initiatives such as changing to supermarket forecourts rather than branded filling stations; the rise and fall of fuel expenditure in comparison to the price of fuel; the impact of new, more efficient vehicles, and a whole range of other, vital factors.
By monitoring and analysing the data, fleet managers can identify issues of inefficiency early and manage them out of their fleet operations effectively, ensuring they wring every last penny of value out of each drop of fuel.
So, don’t just look at the obvious benefits when deciding on a fuel card, consider the data that lurks beneath the surface too, because that can be the difference between running a good fleet and running a great one.