This issue happens a lot more than most of you think it does. If your company is not using a fleet fuel card but instead using American Express, Visa, MasterCard, or Voyager, to name a few, you are probably paying more than the posted price sign in front of your favorite truckstop. The sign out front is for cash customers. The credit card price can be anywhere between 5-20 cents more per gallon on your diesel fuel prices.
Your driver probably doesn't know it because he sees what is posted in big numbers out front and thinks that is today's price per gallon. The fleet fuel manager is normally just checking for things on the invoice, like what time did his driver fuel, or did the truck take the proper amount of gallons compared to the distance it traveled. Seldom the fuel manager has the time to check diesel fuel prices.
During a fuel analysis, if you were comparing posted diesel fuel prices to the price you paid or to OPIS or some other third party resource, you would see that you are overpaying with that credit card you were using as your fleet card. There are fleet fuel cards, and with most of them at truckstops, you get charged a transactional fee for using the card. This charge is a pass through from the truckstop operator back to you from your fleet fuel card provider. Paying a couple of dollars on a transaction or less is not terrible if you are buying 100 gallons of diesel fuel. Think about what it would cost you if you were using an AMEX and you were paying 20 cents more per gallon. That fuel transaction just cost you $20. Yes, Mr. CEO or President who might be getting points from one of these credit cards is saying I won't get my points. If you have 10 trucks being charged $20 a fueling, five days a week it just cost you $1,000. They might even rebate you 1 percent. Let's say diesel fuel prices are $3 and 1 percent of that would be 3 cents, you are still 17 cents in the hole.
It's not just at your truckstops either. I was out of town for the Fourth of July and was in New Jersey. Living in Pennsylvania where we pay a lot more in gas taxes than they do in New Jersey, fuel appeared to be priced significantly lower than my home state. However, the buyer should always beware, because things aren't always as they appear. The big sign at this retail location, which I won't mention but will not visit again, said $2.449. I pulled in, and in New Jersey they feel like the human population isn't smart enough to pump their own fuel, so all stations are full service. No, not really full service, they just pump the fuel for you, no windshield wiping or any of that goes on. I gave the attendant my fuel card which is a fuel card at truckstops and a MasterCard, which is a credit card everywhere else, and say 'Fill it up.' To my surprise, the price was $2.609 a gallon when he handed me the fuel receipt. I said, the sign says $2.449 a gallon. He informed me that was the cash price. I said it's not posted anywhere that the credit price is different, he said, 'Sorry have a good day.' It was a beautiful day out and my car only took 10 gallons so they took me for a cup of coffee in price.
The moral of the story is, if you are not watching each penny that is spent on your fuel management, I can assure you that you are paying way too much for your diesel fuel.
Glen Sokolis is president of Sokolis Group, a nationwide fuel management and fuel consulting company, www.FuelManagementSokolisGroup.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (267) 482-6160.
Previous installments of "Friday Fuel:"
* "Successful Fuel Management Program Equals Discipline", 9-11-09
* "Who's Watching Your Fuel Program," 9-18-09
* "Fleet Fuel Margins: Are You Paying Too Much?" 9-25-09
* "How Do You Audit Your Fleet Fuel Invoices?" 10-2-09
* "Fleet Fuel Price Negotiating: Details, Details", 10-9-09
* "Mobile On-Site Fueling", 10-16-09
* "The Bees Are Still Buzzing: Handling Fuel on a Daily Basis", 10-23-09
* "Fleet Fuel Card Shopping", 10-30-09
* "Is Your Fuel Management Ready for Winter?", 11-6-09
* "Don't Let the Weather Freeze Your Deliveries", 11-13-09
* "Fuel Management or Fuel Inventory? That is the Question", 11-20-09
* "Put Your Fleet Fueling Policy in Place For 2010, Part I", 12-4-09
* "Put Your Fleet Fueling Policy in Place For 2010, Part II", 12-11-09
* "Be Safe, Not Sorry With Fuel Management During the Holidays", 12-18-09
* "Looking Back: 2009 Fuel Management in Review", 12-23-2009
* "Oil's Ups and Downs", 1-8-2010
* "Why Oil Does What It Does When It Comes to Prices", 1-15-2010
* "Controlling Fuel Efficiency When Fuel Prices Are Unpredictable", 1-22-2010
* "The Motivation Behind Mobile Fleet Fueling", 1-29-2010
* "Fleet Fuel Prices: What are They Now?", 2-5-2010
* "Fuel Management Lost at Sea," 3-5-10
* "Spring is in the Air.....and There's Water in my Tank!", 3-19-10
* "Is Bio Fuel Dead for Your Fleet Fuel Program?", 4-2-10
* "Can Fleet Fuel Fraud Happen to You?", 4-16-10