As your company outlines its fuel card program, you can minimize risk and waste by focusing on four key metrics: Your driver fuel card policy, driver controls, fraud alerts, and monitoring. To ensure that you're taking the right steps to optimize your fuel card program, P-Fleet has created this ultimate guide to support your team.
Step 1: Draft a Driver Fuel Card Policy
A best practice for when companies issue fuel cards to drivers is to have them sign a driver fuel card policy. The policy should clearly state your expectations for how drivers use the cards. Simple, right? Well, because many companies are unsure what to include, they skip the policy altogether. Let’s fix that with some quick tips for drafting a driver fuel card policy.
Start with an Explanation
It might seem obvious, but provide a brief explanation at the beginning so that drivers know what they are signing. Specify that the driver is being issued a card and PIN from your fuel vendor. State how the document outlines the permitted use of that card and verifies the driver’s understanding of your company's fleet fueling policy.
Outline the Terms
A good rule of thumb for outlining the terms is to cover who, what, when, where, why and how:
- Who is allowed to use the card? Specify who is authorized to make a purchase, and state that the card is not to be used by other drivers or for personal use.
- What purchases are allowed? Indicate what types of purchases comply with your policy. If the card is restricted to fuel, indicate that and include the type allowed (e.g., diesel only, diesel and regular unleaded, etc.).
- When can the card be used? Specify if drivers should fuel at the start or end of their shift and during which hours and days fueling is authorized.
- Where can the card be used? Specify which fuel locations or brands are allowed.
- Why must a driver adhere to the policy? Make it clear that if the driver does not follow the policy, he or she will face disciplinary actions that could include revoking use of the card, repayment of fraudulent purchases and/or termination of employment.
- How should a purchase be made? Provide instructions if certain steps should be followed at the time of fueling such as entering the vehicle number or odometer. Indicate if drivers need to manually log any transaction information as well.
Add Acceptance Statements
Now that you’ve outlined the terms of the policy, rewrite them as acceptance statements. Use first person so that it’s intuitive for the driver as he or she reads the document. For example, “I understand that I have been issued a card which is to be used only by me for fueling company vehicles, not for personal use.”
End with a Signature
Include language that by signing the document, the driver agrees to the acceptance statements. Allow space for the driver to print and sign his or her name. Then file your paperwork so you can easily find it whenever you need it.
Step 2: Establish Fuel Card Purchase Controls
To help minimize company fuel card abuse and other types of fraud, many fuel card companies offer fuel card purchase controls to restrict a card’s ability to purchase fuel. Setting restrictions that are right for the drivers and vehicles that make up your fleet can be tricky. If controls are too restrictive, your drivers may not be able to buy the fuel they need. If they are too lax, then the company is vulnerable to fraud. So, how can you determine the fuel card purchase controls that are right for your business?
Know Which Fuel Card Purchase Controls are Available
To find the controls that are best for your business, it is important to first understand what type of controls can be placed on your company fuel cards. Most services have the following restrictions available:
- Gallons or dollars per transaction
- Gallons or dollars per day, week, or month
- Transaction per day
- Authorized fueling times and days
- Fuel only or fuel and maintenance
- Driver PINs or Driver IDs
While not widely available, some cards (like OTR and CFN fuel cards) can restrict the fuel or product type that cards can purchase. Product type restrictions are not only valuable for their ability to prevent fraud, but also prevent drivers from inadvertently putting the wrong type of fuel into vehicles or equipment.
Setting Up PINs and Driver IDs
When drivers use their card, they will first be asked to enter a PIN or driver ID. This 4-6 digit code verifies the driver’s identity and helps to ensure that only your authorized employees use your card.
While they are mostly similar, there is a critical difference in card setup that distinguishes PINs from driver IDs. PINs are used with driver cards, while driver IDs are used with vehicle cards. Driver cards work with one and only one PIN, while vehicle cards draw from a pool of driver IDs. By using driver IDs vehicle cards allow you track both the vehicle and driver for every transaction, information that could be critical if fraud occurs.
When you set up your PINs or Driver IDs you want them to be easy to remember, but not easy to guess. So, while the PIN 1234 may be the easiest code for a driver to remember, it is also one of the first codes someone that is not authorized to use the card would guess. On the other hand, a series of random numbers may be the hardest code for someone to guess, but would be difficult for a driver to remember.
A solution to this problem is to use numbers that hold meaning to that driver, and that driver alone. This could be the last 4 digits of the social security number, a designated employee ID number. Regardless of the number you choose, it is important that the code is not shared with others and is never written on the card. This number is the first line of defense between you and fraudulent use and should be kept secure.
Customize Fuel Card Controls by Driver and/or Vehicle
Once you understand the restrictions available to you, you can start applying these restrictions to your cards. If all your drivers and/or vehicles have similar needs then it is ok to create one fuel card restriction template and use it for all your cards.
However, if you have different types of vehicles or if your employees have different fueling needs it is highly recommended that you customize your purchase controls so that they match the individual needs of each driver or vehicle. A pickup doesn’t need as much fuel as a box truck, which doesn’t need as much fuel as a semi. Card controls are fully customizable so only give drivers as much fuel as they need.
Avoid Overly Strict Card Limits
You might think setting the strictest limits possible would be best for reducing company fuel card abuse and fraud. While they might be best for stopping fraud, overly strict limits can also stop your drivers from getting the fuel they need.
In these cases, an authorized company employee would need to contact your fuel card company and approve changes to limits before any changes can be made. This issue can be mitigated through the effective use of online tools, but, depending on the circumstances, overly strict card restrictions can still delay drivers significantly.
Drivers that are unable to purchase fuel because of overly strict purchase controls might have to use alternative forms of payment to avoid delays. This prevents cards from collecting transaction data, leading to problems with fuel card alerts and reports. It also exposes the company to risk, as it bypasses your cards’ ability to restrict unauthorized purchases.
Don’t Set Limits Too High
With the problems that can arise from overly strict card controls, it might seem better to set card limits far above a driver’s or vehicle’s expected fuel usage to prevent any unnecessary delays. However, overly lax restrictions are as bad, if not worse, than overly strict limits.
When card controls are set to too high, unauthorized purchases cannot be effectively prevented. Furthermore, if fraud occurs, transactions can continue for an extended period, allowing unauthorized purchase totals to add up to large sums before they can be detected and stopped.
How to Set Fuel Card Purchase Controls That Are Right for Your Business
The key to using fuel card controls effectively is setting limits that match your fleet’s needs as closely as possible. To do this ask yourself this series of questions so that you can properly frame your cards expected usage around your available controls.
- What type of vehicle or equipment will the card be used for?
- How much fuel do you expect this vehicle or equipment to use?
- When will drivers need to use their cards?
What Type of Vehicle or Equipment Will the Card Be Used For?
First, consider the type of vehicle or equipment that a card will be used for. If you have fuel type or product restrictions available, only include the products that each vehicle or piece of equipment uses. Dollars or gallons per transaction limits should be set to accommodate the entire fuel tank so that drivers are capped at the maximum amount of fuel they could use at one time.
If you opt to use driver cards, consider all of the vehicles and pieces of equipment that a card will be used for. Make sure to set your restrictions so that they accommodate the largest piece of equipment.
How Much Fuel Do You Expect This Vehicle or Equipment to Use?
Next, consider how much fuel each vehicle or piece of equipment is uses. Large trucks driving long distances likely need high daily, weekly, and/or monthly limits. Smaller vehicles that travel locally should have significantly lower daily, weekly, and/or monthly limits. Be sure to include reefer units or other equipment that needs fuel when you calculate a card’s expected fuel use.
Also consider how many transactions per day a vehicle and/or piece of equipment requires. If you use driver cards, think about how often drivers need to fuel the vehicles and equipment they are responsible for. It is best to allow cards one extra transaction above this number per day. This is because fuel card denials can count against a card’s daily transaction limit. If there is no buffer to accommodate this, there can be issues when a driver tries to use their final daily transaction.
When Will Drivers Need to Use Their Cards?
Finally, consider when drivers will need access to their card. While it is not always the case, time and day restrictions should usually match company hours. This helps prevent employees from using company fuel cards for personal vehicles.
Changing Your Fuel Card Limits
When you first set your purchase controls you may have anticipated your usage to be higher or lower than what your fleet uses. In either case, you can adjust your card controls so that they better match your fleet’s needs. You should also adjust your card restrictions if the fueling needs of your fleet changes so that drivers can always get the fuel the need and you are always protected against fraud.
Adjustments can be temporary, or permanent and should be regularly reviewed to ensure they accurately reflect your fleet’s needs. Some fuel card services offer online tools that allow you to view and adjust your cards’ restrictions at any time, making this process quick and easy.
Step 3: Create Alerts To Assist Fleet Managers
Fleet managers traditionally consider fuel card alerts as one of the tools to control driver fueling and protecting them from other fraud. For many managers, this is still the primary purpose for putting alerts in place; they’re an extension of card purchase controls. However, there are other uses to consider when deciding which fuel alerts should be enacted as part of your company’s fleet fueling program.
Detect Irregular Fueling
Fuel card services should offer robust and customizable fleet card restrictions to help prevent fraud and theft. But restrictions are designed to, well, restrict. And, you might decide that certain instances warrant less restrictive card limits to avoid disruptions to operations. For example, drivers might not normally need to fuel after hours or on weekends, but the occasional situation could arise that demands that flexibility. Overly restrictive limits could cause delays for drivers, but here's where fuel card alerts are useful. Card limits could be set up to allow drivers to fuel while alerts are sent to managers, notifying them of any transaction that occurs outside of normal business hours.
Alerts act as an early warning system by notifying managers of any irregular fueling. Rather than waiting for an exception report at the end of the week or month, managers can follow up with drivers immediately to confirm if fueling was legitimate and take corrective action if not. There are many types of alerts to detect suspect fueling activity, including time-based (e.g., nights and weekends), product related (e.g., unleaded, mid-grade, premium) and location-based. These alerts should be set up in accordance with your driver fuel card policy so that you are notified of any fueling behavior that breaks from policy guidelines.
Lower Operational Costs
Setting alerts to detect fueling that differs from your driver fueling policy isn’t just about preventing theft. Your policy reflects an overall fueling strategy – where, when and how much to fuel – and alerts identify noncompliance. By correcting noncompliance, companies can keep fuel costs down.
Consider location-based alerts, for example. Suppose your company and fuel provider have identified the fuel locations with the lowest prices within an area. You instruct drivers to fuel only at those designated fuel locations to maximize savings. Location alerts can be set up to trigger whenever a driver fuels outside of those locations. Fleet managers can then clarify the policy with the driver in question.
With some fuel cards, it might not be the location, but the type of site that is the cause for concern. P-Fleet’s Fleetwide card, are accepted at both retail and CFN locations. Fleet managers often prefer that drivers fuel at CFN locations whenever possible to leverage available discounts. Alerts can be enacted to show if drivers fuel at a retail site rather than a CFN site.
Location-based alerts are also useful for companies that use on-site fuel tanks in addition to off-site fuel cards. Because companies want to leverage the cost advantage of on-site fuel, they’ll want to ensure that drivers fuel there whenever possible. Alerts can be created to notify managers when cards are used off-site and within close proximity to a company’s on-site fueling facility.
In addition to location-based alerts, fleet managers may want alerts related to product type. Unleaded transactions can be flagged if diesel was supposed to be used or vice versa. If drivers purchase mid-grade or premium instead of regular unleaded, alerts can be triggered. By utilizing alerts to quickly address issues, companies can minimize fuel expenses.
Improve Fleet Analytics
One of the key benefits of fleet fuel cards is their ability to capture level III data, including card number, driver, vehicle, gallons, fuel type, odometer and more. That data is useful for fleet analytics that are made possible through the use of insightful fuel reports. In order for this information to be accurate, fleet managers will need to verify that data, like the odometer reading or job number, is entered correctly by drivers at the time of fueling.
Electronic receipts (e-receipts) are a type of fuel card alert that can support those efforts. E-receipts can be sent via email whenever a card is used. They contain transaction details and can be set up for select cards or your entire account. They allow managers to quickly review transactions so that company fleet reports are as accurate as possible. E-receipts can even be used by companies to expedite billing their own customers for fuel used during a job.
Step 4: Monitor Your Drivers
Nothing hurts a fleet’s bottom line more unnecessarily than fuel card fraud or unauthorized purchases. But you can fight back! Fuel card companies provide solutions to help protect your business, including easy to use online tools that let you monitor charges and quickly spot irregular fueling. If red flags pop up, you can adjust card limits or cancel them altogether – immediately, from anywhere.
Access Your Fueling Information Online
Information is key to reducing unauthorized use of fuel cards. Managers need to be able to access account information online anytime, anywhere. Waiting for invoices to be published online or mailed to you is not sufficient. Instead, transactions should be available online as quickly as possible, allowing fleet managers to monitor card activity in real time.
Management oversight of your program is your front line of defense against unauthorized fuel purchases. Whoever in your company best understands driver responsibilities should review transactions periodically to ensure activity is legitimate.
For some, this may be a central corporate function. In that case, corporate managers are responsible for detecting fraud and inefficiencies by comparing divisions, departments and drivers within the company. If a department or driver operates significantly less efficiently than another, it may indicate something is amiss.
In other companies, local managers provide better oversight because they are more intimately aware of the daily goings-on of individual drivers. This knowledge enables them to confirm drivers are fueling the correct vehicle where and when they should. In contrast, a corporate employee may lack this detailed information and fail to notice suspicious activity.
You may also find that a blend of corporate and regional oversight is best for your business. Regional managers can review the fueling details of drivers that report to them, while corporate managers look at the bigger picture of your company’s fuel spend. This dual oversight approach is often the most effective means of reducing fraud and unauthorized purchases.
Track Every Gallon of Fuel
It is important to capture driver information for each transaction, so you can hold individuals accountable. You can either assign drivers their own fuel card or, if cards are tied to vehicles, assign them a unique driver ID to use whenever they swipe the card. This driver ID ties each transaction to a driver. If there are ever suspicious purchases, then you will know who is responsible.
Using this information, you can generate reports to easily review and compare driver fuel spend. These reports give managers insight into their fleet’s activity and can set usage standards. After standards are set, it should be relatively easy to identify outliers who need further examination.
Reports that use summary data for comparison are easiest for identifying outliers. These include MPG reports, weekly/monthly gallon reports and weekly/monthly fuel spend reports. These reports are effective because, while daily activity can vary, activity over longer periods is a more reliable benchmark. If there is anything out of the ordinary on these summary reports, it’s an immediate flag to scrutinize a driver’s activity.
MPG reports are a good example. They use the odometer entries and gallons pumped for each transaction to calculate the MPG between fill-ups for each vehicle. The average MPG should remain fairly constant for each vehicle. Managers can compare vehicle MPGs over longer periods of time and drill down on vehicles that perform below the norm. Or, they can look for individual transactions that have significantly lower MPG values. If the MPG for a transaction is significantly below average, it can be a sign that fuel was put into another vehicle. Since the driver is associated with the transaction, managers can quickly address the issue.
Rapid Notifications Alert You of Irregular Fueling
In addition to checking reports online, it can be useful to set up fuel card alerts. Alerts act as an early warning system when irregular fueling occurs. They can be time-based (e.g. nights and weekends), product-based (e.g. unleaded, mid-grade, or premium) or location-based (e.g. out of state). Ideally, alerts should be set up to identify transactions that do not meet your fuel card policy.
You can also opt to receive an alert for every transaction. These are known as e-receipts and can apply to an entire fleet, individual drivers, or specific cards. If it is burdensome to receive e-receipts for your entire fleet, you might opt to only setup individuals who need close monitoring. These may be new hires in a probationary period, drivers with past problems, or those who were flagged as outliers on reports.
Use Online Tools to Review and Adjust Limits as Necessary
Beyond driver monitoring, fuel card companies’ online tools allow you to view and adjust card limits. Fuel card purchase controls let you restrict cards based on several criteria, including, fuel type, time of day, gallons/dollars per transaction, day, week, or month, etc. You should review these limits periodically to ensure everything is set up correctly.
Reviewing limits online allows managers to fine-tune their fuel card program. Managers can ensure drivers aren’t having issues fueling due to overly restrictive limits. And, they can make limits more stringent where necessary to help prevent unauthorized purchases. If unauthorized transactions or fraud occur on the fuel card program, it is critical to have online access to the account to invalidate the suspicious card.
As your company establishes your fuel card program, these guidelines will help you secure your card, protect your drivers, and prevent fraud. If you are ready to get started, our team at P-Fleet can guide you through the process and confirm that you are following fuel card best practices.