Fuel prices are an inevitable expense for all fleets. Although gas prices may be down right now, that doesn’t mean they’ll always be, or that fleet managers can’t do more to cut costs and increase efficiency.
Some of the best ways to cut your fuel costs are to capture quality data and set strict controls on spending. What few people realize is that credit cards and other methods of fuel purchasing do not provide fleet managers with quality data nor the ability to set the proper controls. So let’s take a look at the varying Levels of information and control offered by fuel cards and how they can impact your fleet fuel spending.
Level I: The Consumer Card
Level I data is the most basic data offered when a purchase is made. This is the most bare-bones data out there. It usually includes little more than the purchase amount, a date and the name of the merchant where the purchase was made. Some other pieces you might find are:
- Purchase Time
- Merchant Address
- Account Number
This is the same information that you would find on a standard debit card statement. While this information is important, it is insufficient for running an efficient fleet. The problem is that this (and in rare circumstances some Level II data) is all you are going to have access to if your drivers are using a bank issued credit card.
Level II: The Corporate Card
As expected, Level II data provides more detail than Level I, including:
- Merchant Type
- Fuel Grade
- Total Purchase Cost
- Number of Gallons
- Sales Tax
- Cost Per Gallon
- Line Item Detail (but only on non-fuel purchases)
Information like this is a huge improvement on the Level I data, but it is still insubstantial for the needs of a fleet manager.
The problem is this: most Level II networks were designed for consumers, meaning they do not have the custom built network that provides all of the necessary back-end processes associated with Level III data, therefore they will only prompt a user for some basic information.
This works well for security reasons, which is why many cards with Level II information capabilities are used as corporate credit cards. To manage a fleet you’ll have to take it one step further.
Level III: The Fleet Management Card
The biggest advantage to using a proprietary card with Level III data is that all of the information is tailored specifically to a fleet manager’s needs. Level III data includes:
- Product type and description
- Driver ID number (which tells you which of your drivers bought what, where did they buy it, and when was it bought)
- Vehicle ID number (which vehicle was fuel purchased for)
The odometer may be one of the most important added metrics when it comes to fleet management. With the information for the odometer you can calculate cost per mile, miles per gallon, and any unauthorized purchases.
Level III cards can have set fuel profile limits (i.e. dollars per day, week or month), number of transactions per day, and reporting on fuel type standard to premium. All are necessary to track usage police abuse and begin to control purchase behaviors saving money.
While some consumer credit card companies do offer Level III data, that offering is inconsistent. With a proprietary network you can be sure that you will receive all the information you require every time.
Also, although some Level II networks require verification, most credit cards are not secure if lost or stolen. A proprietary card requires the cardholder to input an ID number for every transaction, preventing the card’s use in case of loss or theft.
So now that you understand the different levels of data and the capabilities proprietary and consumer cards have, you may want some help putting this Level III data to use. A fleet management company can help with this. They can help you manage the ever-escalating price of fuel and lighten your administrative hassles. A fleet management company can help you interpret Level III data, have additional data reporting, and provide administrative support all with a personal touch. To learn more about Union Leasing’s Fuel Program and their dynamic and integrated fleet management portals, contact Union Leasing at 847-240-1500.