13 July 2020
Introducing fuel cards will help you to tailor the way you run your company cars and commercial vehicles and track employee spending, while also helping control fuel spend and save money.
In order to do so effectively, there are a number of steps to take first.
Use the implementation of fuel cards as an opportunity to do some internal housekeeping, understanding exactly the position the fleet is in from a cost and operational perspective, so that you can fully understand the improvements the introduction of fuel cards brings to your bottom line and how they can support you now and in the future.
How do I work out what type of fuel card I need?
Fuel cards come with many different propositions, each intended to work best with varying fleet and business operations.
So in order to get the right one for you and your employees, you need to have a clear idea of how and where they drive, how vehicles are used, and what the end goal of a fuel card is for your business.
Once you have ascertained the requirements of your fleet, you can then apply these to the various benefits and services offered by different cards.
At the most basic level, there are some which are effectively debit cards, allowing your employees to pay only for fuel. This avoids them having to pay using their own money.
But the majority of businesses want more control than simply enabling employees to buy fuel, and so you need to work out which of the many spending controls or associated benefits you need. Cards variously offer:
- Discounts on fuel, either at the pump or through wholesale purchasing
- Access to cheaper fuel at sites such as supermarkets
- The ability to prevent purchases at more expensive sites
- Payments allowed for oil, AdBlue and other vehicle essentials
- General business expense purchases
- Management controls over expenditure
- Dashboards and reporting of fuel spend
What type of network do I need access to?
There are many ways to refuel your vehicles, and the purchasing support you need depends on how your fleet operates.
For example, if you have a fleet of company cars that travel all over the country to visit clients, with no particular pattern to their journeys, then you may well need widespread access to fuel stations, and a wide variety of brands and suppliers.
There are many cards which offer this, but at the same time, you need to be aware that allowing drivers to fill up anywhere and everywhere could result in higher fuel costs.
So you could put in place controls that stop them filling up at more expensive sites, such as motorway service stations, or buying premium fuel.
However, you do need to really understand their requirements before putting these protocols in place. It might be that stopping drivers using motorway sites has the unintended consequence of making them drive around looking for cheaper fuel elsewhere, when their time is more valuable just filling up and getting on with their work – and you could use a card which lowers the higher motorway prices anyway by offering discounts on diesel.
Location is key too. If you have a fleet which operates in urban areas for example, a card specifically for low cost supermarket fuel could save a lot of money because of the number of easily accessed sites there are in towns and cities. The Allstar Supermarket+ fuel card means you can be sure employees are filling up at low cost fuel sites, at easily-accessible locations.
Or, if you have compounds or depots that employees work from, or regular routes they take, then bunkering or wholesale purchasing from a limited number of suppliers could result in significant savings.
What fuel do I need to buy, and how?
Once you have ascertained the type of locations you need access to, you can refine exactly what fuel drivers need to buy. This is linked to vehicle choice, both current and in the future. It’s important to ensure you choose a supplier that is future-proof, to save having to change supplier or have a mix of fuel cards supporting your fleet should you change your fuel needs.
Consider which fuel your fleet needs. If you have a lot of commercial vehicles, then the likelihood is you will need a card giving you the ability to buy diesel, and probably one offering discounts too. With Allstar for example, you can save up to 10p per litre off diesel* purchased across Allstar’s exclusive, 1,300-strong, Discount Diesel network. Drivers can also find low cost fuel prices through Allstar’s UK Fuel Price tool.
As the UK car fleet moves towards petrol and electric vehicles, which were up 2.2% and 144% respectively in 2019, while diesel declined by 21.8%, according to the SMMT, then you may need a card that gives drivers both those options. Increasingly, with hybrids and EVs becoming
more popular your drivers will be buying all types of fuel and so cards which allow them to top up with electricity easily wherever they are will be a crucial requirement in the future. The new Allstar One Electric card combines both fuel and electric charging.
Also, you can put in place how much fuel can be claimed back for work purposes, and what journeys qualify as work, as well as mileage rates. You can find current HMRC Advisory Fuel Rates for company cars here.
Control fuel spend: work out accountability
Fuel cards offer huge advantages, and will give you insights about drivers you never had previously: spending patterns; mileages; usage; fuel economy and operational efficiency.
But you need to ensure that management and those employees using the cards understand their role in the implementation.
There’s no point introducing cards and putting in place lots of useful rules around purchasing behaviours if they are not enforced by the relevant line managers or followed by drivers. So ensure everybody knows their responsibility, and what you want them to do in terms of managing who is allowed cards and what can be bought with them.
There may be various reporting alerts to set up as well, such as if drivers fuel up too many times on a single day, or at times outside of work. Cards such as Allstar One offer 24/7 online account management and a reporting dashboard so you can keep track of purchasing.
By doing this, and working with your supplier, you can also set realistic goals and targets in terms of efficiencies, which can be reviewed regularly against this data and historic records. Then you will know that you are going in the right direction by tracking data and considerations such as:
- Spend by employee
- Spend by department
- Vehicle economy
- VAT charges
- Overall fuel savings
Communicate and work with employees
Being given a fuel card will make most drivers’ working life and expense management much easier, but they need clear communication from the beginning about why you are implementing them, and what is expected from them.
Firstly, when you are considering implementation, talk to drivers about what they need: there’s no point introducing a brand-specific card if employees will need to travel a long way just to fill up. So ensure what you are introducing will make their working lives better.
Once you begin the roll-out, make sure employees know from the start what they can buy and where, and how the process works in terms of automatic purchasing controls or limits, mileage reporting, products available to buy and card security, so there is no confusion or issues when out on the road.
Also, fuel cards can be used to put in place incentives for better, or more economical driving, and form part of a better driving programme that makes employees safer and the company more efficient, from both operational and cost perspectives.
Explaining what this means in real terms to the business’ performance will help successful adoption of cards.
At Allstar, we can offer you fuel cards, business credit cards or full expense solutions. You'll find that we have a card to suit your business requirements perfectly, and help you drive down your fuel bill through:
- Savings on fuel*
- A nationwide network of stations
- Powerful fleet data
- Streamlined administration
- Price-checking tools
*Savings on diesel can be made at participating Discount Diesel sites on our network when the card is swiped