When I started my business it was exciting, it was busy, and my problems were simple – find business. As my business grew I had to hire people, at first this was easy, fun, and exciting. As the years rolled by I had to hire more and more people to help in various ways. With growth came less control, came increased liability, and new business problems.
Before I knew it, my business problems turned from finding a customer and performing our service to managing a business, managing people, and doing both wisely. Finding ways to save money on our everyday expenses, as well as operating our business effectively became as critical to our business success today, as finding customers was in the beginning.
One area that was a constant source of problems were our delivery drivers, beyond the obvious showing up late, high churn-rate, not showing up for work, and all of the common problems you’d associate with entry level delivery folks, came an unexpected problem. We had to trust these employees to fill up our delivery trucks with fuel, this sounds so simple and easy, but it’s anything but.
At first it was easy, we knew our drivers, they wore a lot of hats in our company, they did a lot of things beyond deliveries. I guess you could say they were over qualified for the job, but it worked well at the time. As we grew so did their roles. As this happened we needed less experienced folks for some of the simpler tasks. We didn’t even think of the problems of fueling up our trucks at first, it was never a problem before. Slowly we noticed our fuel expenses were rising, we attributed it to drivers with a heavy foot, they liked to drive fast. Which in a way made us feel good that they were willing to do what they could to do our deliveries quickly.
When we looked at an expense report we noticed our fuel bill was climbing at a significantly greater rate than all other business expenses, this had to be more than just a heavy foot. So we started looking into this and discovered fleet cards for business. Previously, we had a corporate card, basically a credit card for the business. As we hired employees we added more corporate credit cards. Eventually we tied a card to each delivery vehicle so it didn’t need to be assigned to an employee, in theory this worked well, it was simple, but it turned out that it didn’t work well.
One month we noticed a surge in our fuel expenses, over 40%. We realized the time had come to address this and try a fleet card. It seemed like a lot of extra work, another vendor, another statement… and all for fuel. This didn’t seem like a good solution to such a simple problem. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
We learned that fleet cards allow you to regulate the types of items that are purchased, or even to specific gas stations. This turned out to be a big win for our company. We only do local deliveries and found that we could get a fleet card for just that station. This saved us 8 cents a gallon at the pumps, which was totally unexpected. But the real savings came at a dramatically decreased fuel bill, far exceeding that 8 cents a gallon. We restricted our fleet cards to only be used for gasoline purchases, almost overnight we saw a 30% savings in what was a growing business expense.
While we can’t prove it, we suspect our employees were using the fill up’s as an opportunity to grab some snacks, lottery tickets, smokes, beer, or anything else that was enticing at the pumps. With the new fleet cards they couldn’t do this, they could only buy gas, so there were no temptations for them to give themselves a bonus on their regular fill ups.
It turns out it made our accounting easier too, with all of our fuel expenses coming in through a centralized location it saved time on reconciling the books too, another nice win for us. We’ve had a great experience with using a fleet card on our business, it saves us money at the pumps, it prevents any sort of theft, and it saves time/money with our bookkeeping – a real win-win-win situation for us. If you use gas or fuel for your business we highly recommend looking into a fleet card.