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Fleet fuel cards: Create a policy and use the data to show effectiveness

November 28, 2023

Fleet cards are an essential tool for businesses with commercial vehicles as they allow business managers to oversee and track expenses, track routes, improve driver safety, and take advantage of ancillary advantages that go beyond fuel. Those additional fuel card program advantages include vehicle maintenance, tire purchases, travel expenses, and sometimes even driver wireless expenses. What’s most important as you determine which fuel card company to employ is implementing and then executing on a strong fueling policy for your organization. We will talk through the ways to do that in this article and also go over the many advantages to a fleet card program that go beyond just fueling your vehicles.

Your first step after choosing your fuel card partner: implement a fleet fueling policy and enforce it

Whether you oversee a few commercial vehicles or are managing a larger fleet or government fleet, efficient management of driver crews and fuel usage are both hugely important aspects of your job. With inflation spiking to 8.2% last year and currently sitting at 3.7%, elevated fuel costs are making fuel management and stringent driver policies a top priority for many fleet managers — especially because fuel costs are likely to stay high. Implementing a new fueling policy is a strategic move that can yield significant benefits for businesses with a commercial vehicle fleet. Your new policy should clearly define the proper use of fleet cards by drivers, specifying authorized purchases, emphasizing driver safety rules and regulations, and detailing how drivers can optimize the benefits of the fuel card program for the organization’s best interests. Your new policy will not only help you manage operational costs, it will also enhance efficiency, reduce environmental impact, and promote responsible fuel consumption practices among drivers.

Cost management using the best fueling policies

One of the most immediate benefits of a stringent fleet fueling policy is the potential for cost savings. Fuel is one of the largest variable expenses in fleet operations. Global events have a tremendous effect on fuel availability, and on its cost. The war in Ukraine, for example, has reduced fuel availability around the globe. Fleet managers must be able to adapt their fuel budgets to react to changing global circumstances. By setting clear guidelines on fuel purchases, such as designated fueling stations, preferred fuel types, and fuel card usage, businesses can obtain more favorable rates from suppliers, take advantage of discounts, and eliminate unauthorized spending. Fueling policies can also be useful in educating drivers. Drivers may not realize how their decision-making can impact the business, and fueling policies can clearly delineate what drivers need to do in order to use fuel efficiently. Implementing these kinds of policies also simplifies budgeting and forecasting, as fuel consumption can be more accurately predicted and monitored.

Efficiency and productivity with a fueling policy

A fleet fueling policy can increase efficiency across your fleet. By analyzing fuel consumption patterns, businesses can identify inefficiencies in routes or vehicle usage, especially if you have a strong telematics program connected to your fuel card. A data-driven approach to fleet management enables route optimization, leading to reduced mileage and fuel consumption. Additionally, by standardizing refueling procedures, businesses can minimize vehicle downtime and ensure that drivers have clear instructions, thus improving overall productivity. And with the WEX Connect app, your drivers can find the closest fueling stations on their route, and can easily select the station that is offering the best price per gallon.

Environmental responsibility in fleet management

Enforcing a fleet fueling policy can also lend itself to a company’s environmental stewardship. By encouraging eco-friendly driving habits, reducing idling time, and the use of cleaner fuels, businesses can reduce their carbon footprint. This not only benefits the environment but can also enhance the company’s reputation as a socially responsible entity, which is increasingly valued by customers and stakeholders alike. If you’re considering building a mixed-energy fleet for even greater environmental stewardship, you’ll love WEX’s EV Fleet Converter Tool which provides all the data you need to determine what kinds of commercial vehicles make the most sense for your fleet.

Compliance and safety when managing your fleet

A comprehensive fueling policy aids in compliance with federal and state regulations concerning fuel handling and storage, emissions, and transportation safety. By adhering to such regulations, you not only avoid potential fines and legal issues but also ensure the safety of your drivers and the public. Having a buttoned up fueling policy can also lead to insurance benefits, as companies that take proactive steps to mitigate risks often qualify for lower premiums.

Data analytics and insight for your fleet of commercial vehicles

Implementing a fueling policy enables the collection of detailed data on fuel usage, which can provide valuable insights into fleet operations. With advanced analytics, businesses can track and analyze trends, forecast future needs, and make informed decisions regarding fleet management, vehicle maintenance, and even future vehicle purchases. We will discuss a fleet card transaction detail file later in this article.

Fraud prevention when overseeing a fleet

Fuel fraud can be a significant issue for fleets. A strict fueling policy coupled with fuel card programs incorporating two-factor authentication can help mitigate fraud by setting transaction limits, requiring driver identification, and monitoring for unusual activity. This not only prevents losses due to fraud but also deters theft and misuse of resources.

Driver accountability and training with your commercial vehicle drivers

A clear fueling policy sets expectations for drivers and holds them accountable for their fuel usage. This accountability can be reinforced through training programs that educate drivers on fuel-efficient driving techniques and proper fueling procedures. Driver training not only promotes compliance but also fosters a culture of responsibility and professionalism.

A fleet fueling policy is not just a set of rules; it is a strategic tool that can lead to substantial benefits. It helps businesses manage costs, improve efficiency, uphold environmental values, ensure safety, gain insights, reduce fraud, and establish a culture of accountability. For businesses looking to optimize their fleet operations, investing in a robust fueling policy is a wise and valuable step.

Business reporting & tax prep – tips and tricks for year-end

The period of year-end reporting can be a busy time for small businesses. It involves wrapping up the year’s financial activities and preparing reports for tax and business analysis purposes. Here’s a general checklist for what your business might need to do:

  • Organize financial documents: Ensure all invoices, receipts, bank statements, and relevant financial documents are organized and accessible.
  • Reconcile bank statements: Compare your internal records with bank statements to ensure they match.
  • Review profit and loss statement: Summarize your income and expenses to see your net profit or loss for the year.
  • Prepare balance sheet: Report on the company’s assets, liabilities, and equity to understand the financial position at year-end.
  • Complete and send W-2 and 1099 forms: If you have employees or have used the services of independent contractors, you’ll need to send out these tax forms by January 31.
  • Close your books: Finalize your accounts for the year, often by entering year-end adjusting entries to account for accruals, depreciation, and other items.
  • Inventory management: If applicable, perform a year-end inventory count to determine the value of goods on hand.
  • Collect outstanding receivables: Attempt to collect outstanding invoices to clean up your books.
  • Pay outstanding payables: Make sure all your bills are paid, or properly accounted for in your books.
  • Review and update payroll records: Ensure all payroll records are accurate and up-to-date, including benefits and deductions.
  • Tax preparation: Compile all necessary information for tax filing, which may include:
    • Income statements
    • Balance sheet
    • Payroll documents
    • Inventory totals
    • Expense reports
    • Previous year’s tax return for reference
  • Meet with your accountant or tax preparer: Discuss tax strategies, any changes in tax laws, and finalize your tax return.
  • Assess your financial health: Analyze financial statements to evaluate the business’s performance and make decisions for the upcoming year.
  • Review your business plan: Update your business plan with the information from the year’s performance to guide your strategy moving forward.
  • Prepare a budget for the new year: Use the insights from the year-end analysis to create a budget for the new fiscal year.
  • File year-end reports: Depending on your location and business structure, file any required reports with local, state, or federal agencies.
  • Regulatory compliance: Ensure that your business is in compliance with other regulatory requirements which may include industry-specific reports, environmental regulations, etc.
  • Distribute shareholder/partner information: If your business is a corporation or partnership, you may need to provide financial information to shareholders or partners for their own tax filings.
  • Backup records: Ensure all of this year’s records are backed up securely.
  • Review and update policies: If necessary, update any company policies, including your accounting policies, based on the year-end review.

Requirements can vary based on the country, state, and local jurisdictions, as well as the type of business entity (LLC, corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, etc.). A professional accountant or financial advisor can help to ensure all legal and financial obligations are met.

Fleet management reporting for your business

For a business that operates a commercial fleet of vehicles, there are several specific year-end reports and considerations to keep in mind. One helpful tool for generating all the data you need for these year-end tasks is a transaction detail file which you can get from your fleet card provider. The exact requirements can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but here are some common reports and tasks that may need to be completed:

  • Vehicle expense report: Detail all expenses associated with each vehicle, including fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and lease or loan payments.
  • Mileage logs: Summarize the total miles driven for each vehicle, distinguishing between business and personal use if applicable.
  • Depreciation schedules: Update the depreciation expense for each vehicle, if the business uses depreciation for tax deductions.
  • Fuel tax credits or rebates: If the jurisdiction offers tax credits for fuel purchases, prepare the necessary documentation to claim these credits.
  • Inventory of fleet: Provide a year-end inventory of all fleet vehicles, including make, model, year, VIN, and current value.
  • Vehicle registration and taxes: Ensure all vehicles are up-to-date on registration and any required taxes are filed, such as Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT) in the United States for trucks over a certain weight.
  • DOT compliance: If the vehicles are subject to Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, ensure that all compliance reports are up-to-date, including hours of service logs, inspection reports, and maintenance records.
  • Insurance policies: Review and update insurance policies, making sure that coverage is adequate and all vehicles are listed.
  • Lease agreements: If any vehicles are leased, review the agreements to check for renewal dates or reporting requirements.
  • Accident reports: Summarize any accidents that have occurred, including the status of insurance claims and any associated costs.
  • Emissions testing and environmental compliance: Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be requirements for emissions testing and environmental compliance reports.
  • Capital expenditures: If there were any purchases or sales of fleet vehicles, document these transactions in detail.
  • Driver records and compliance: Maintain up-to-date records on all drivers, including licenses, training, and any compliance issues.
  • Fleet utilization review: Assess how effectively the fleet is being used, identifying any vehicles that are underutilized and could be sold or any gaps where additional vehicles may be needed.
  • Cost-per-mile analysis: Calculate the cost per mile for each vehicle to identify areas where efficiency can be improved.
  • Fleet maintenance review: Compile a report of the maintenance history and upcoming service needs for each vehicle.

When overseeing commercial fleets, compliance with local, state, and federal regulations is crucial. This can include adhering to transportation laws, environmental standards, and tax regulations specific to the operation of commercial vehicles. To avoid a serious headache at the end of the year, you can use fleet management software to track many of these elements throughout the year, simplifying year-end reporting.

How a fleet card transaction detail file can save you money, reduce your carbon footprint, and increase driver safety and accountability

The data you are able to pull from your fleet card account will make adherence to your fueling policy easier to justify and maintain because the numbers will reflect how policy adherence impacts your business. As a result, the true potential of your fleet fueling card program lies in its ability to provide detailed transaction data, so you can show how proper use of your fleet cards can significantly impact a business’s financial health, environmental footprint, and driver safety. Let’s explore four ways a fleet card transaction detail file can save you money, reduce your carbon footprint, and enhance driver safety and accountability.

1. Cost savings through detailed expense tracking

Fleet card transaction files offer an itemized record of every expense incurred by each vehicle in your fleet. This level of detail allows you to:

  • Monitor fuel spending: By tracking fuel purchases, companies can identify and address instances of excessive fuel consumption or unauthorized spending.
  • Reduce fraud: Detailed transaction records make it easier to spot irregularities, such as duplicate charges or purchases made outside business hours. You can also build exception reporting around the controls you have in place as another layer of protection. Exception reporting allows transactions to go through even when they exceed the controls you put in place. With exception reporting, you are notified of any aberrations to routine fleet card usage and can address those exceptions with your drivers. This gives your drivers more flexibility while keeping you in control and aware of spending that falls outside normal operating procedures.
  • Optimize vehicle usage: Analyzing data on fuel consumption versus distance traveled can help businesses make informed decisions about vehicle allocation and routing, leading to more efficient use of resources.

2. Fleet card as ESG tool: Reducing environmental impact and reporting on diversity, equity and inclusion practices

Environmentally conscious businesses are often focused on their Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) practices and can leverage fleet card data to both report on ESG and also strategize on ways to improve ESG practices. One facet of fleet card reporting reflects a business’s desire to lessen their carbon footprint:

  • Track fuel efficiency: By examining fuel consumption patterns, companies can identify vehicles that are less fuel-efficient and may need maintenance.
  • Encourage eco-friendly driving: Data from fleet cards can be used to assess driving behaviors that impact fuel efficiency, such as excessive idling or speeding, and allow fleet managers to encourage more eco-friendly practices by their staff.
  • Inform vehicle purchasing decisions and when to stop using certain vehicles: Insights from transaction data can guide businesses in choosing more fuel-efficient or alternative fuel vehicles for their fleets. They also give insight into vehicles that might not be getting much use. You can then make an informed decision about whether or not to retire less-utilized vehicles, providing additional cost savings. Alternatively, you can determine if it makes more sense to move those idle vehicles elsewhere in the business and rather than retire them you can simply transition them to other work needs.
  • Track minority and female-owned business transactions: It’s important to be able to report diversity, equity, and inclusion data because the level at which your business employs minority-owned businesses is important to shareholders, customers, and prospects alike. With your fleet card transaction detail file you’ll be able to quickly identify those minority and female-owned businesses and report on your level of engagement to all interested parties.

3. Enhancing fleet driver safety and accountability

Fleet card transaction files also play a crucial role in improving driver safety and accountability because they allow you to:

  • Monitor driver behavior: Detailed records of where and when purchases are made can help businesses track driver routes and ensure compliance with safety regulations.
  • Incentivize safe driving: Businesses can use transaction data to reward drivers who consistently demonstrate safe and efficient driving habits.
  • Quickly respond to emergencies: In case of an emergency, the transaction data can help pinpoint a vehicle’s last known location, allowing for quicker response times.

4. Streamlining fleet management administrative processes

The automation and organization of expense tracking through fleet cards reduces administrative burdens by allowing you to:

  • Simplify expense reporting: With digital and detailed records, the need for manual receipt collection and expense reporting is significantly reduced.
  • Manage your budget with greater ease: Real-time data allows for more accurate budget forecasting and financial planning. You can look at your fuel spend for the year and predict what kind of budget you’ll need for the coming year and the data will also help you calculate your business’s price per gallon.
  • Improved compliance: Detailed transaction records aid in adhering to tax and regulatory requirements.

The detailed transaction data provided by fleet cards is a goldmine of information that can drive significant improvements in cost efficiency, environmental sustainability, and driver safety and is right at your fingertips whenever you need it simply by accessing WEX Online. By strategically analyzing and acting upon this data, businesses can save money while contributing to a safer, more responsible, and sustainable world. The integration of fleet card transaction details into a company’s operational strategy is an investment that yields many returns, enhancing overall business performance and contributing to long-term success.

WEX speaks the language of small business operators. Whether you’re looking to modernize your insight and reporting efforts, save on fuel costs or take advantage of the latest GPS tracking technologies, WEX offers solutions to simplify the business of running a business. To learn more about WEX, a dynamic and nimble global organization, please visit our About WEX page.

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