Truckstop operators have always used technology to meet customer needs and remain competitive. From relatively low-tech devices such as pay phones and fax machines to high-tech services such as wireless Internet access, shore power connections and smart phone apps, truckstops remain places drivers can connect — with both the office and home.
While these services are important, technology at the fuel pump is one area where fleet managers are particularly focused as they work to control fuel costs. For 30 years or more, fuel card providers have helped fleet managers keep better track of their fuel usage and purchasing by providing a centralized source for where, when and how much fuel their fleet is buying. Technology, however, is changing the way fleets buy and track fuel.
Fuel card data is only one part of a truly effective fuel management program, according to Mike Scarbrough, NexTraq's CEO.
Looking at data from a fuel card provider, “we know that fuel was purchased, but we don't know, without using a telematics system, what really happened to the fuel and if that fueling made sense relative to other factors.”
Using a telematics solution, a fleet manager can get a report that combines the fuel card data with data from the telematics system, so you can see where your drivers were driving and where the vehicle actually was when fuel was purchased using a fuel card. Combining the data also allows for better fuel tax reporting.
“Our half of it is knowing where the miles were driven,” Scarbrough says. “You can get a more complete view of where the miles were driven and where the fuel was purchased.”
“It's an extension of driver management in some ways,” he adds. Fleet managers can look at reports showing fuel purchase history, a fuel location audit, fuel efficiency and other information regarding driver behavior. Plus, many navigation and routing systems allow plotting fueling location and price data into route plans. This way, drivers know which stops are on the fleet's fuel network or can get directions to the nearest network location that is offering the lowest price.
For instance, Wright Express offers fleet fueling cards and also provides supply chain software for petroleum distributors and retailers. The company's fuel card network can capture real-time transaction data fleets can use either in their own analysis programs or in Wright Express's suite of applications that include analytical tools and purchasing control capabilities. Wright Express also offers a telematics solution for monitoring fuel use and driver behavior. Managers can access the telematics systems from their office or home computers or mobile devices.
Telogis, a provider of fleet management, routing and tracking applications, recently announced a partnership with FleetCor to offer a Telogis-branded fuel card to their customers. “But we integrate with all of fuel cards,” says Newth Morris, co-founder and president of the routing, navigation division. As with other fleet management providers, Telogis offers a fuel compliance module that can identify suspect fueling or over-fueling.
“Fleet managers already have information from their fuel cards, but that's just one data point,” Morris says. “We can show them how much mileage that truck has run and whether or not that the truck was actually on the site where the fueling occurred.”
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