Controlling fleet expenses by buying fuel?

     An economic downturn and unstable fuel costs are just two of the reasons people are tightening their wallets. Law enforcement administrators are experiencing much the same thing as the agencies they serve struggle to meet increasing demands with...

Strategic data collection and cost reductions

     Many industry fleet cards offer online reporting systems so fleet managers can track and review fuel transactions. Because Fuelman-accepting stations are required to supply Level-3 transaction data — the most comprehensive available — Caddo Parish administrators see detail necessary to track vehicle and driver purchasing patterns. Also, by collecting this data in real time, Fuelman's purchase controls can stop a transaction in progress if pre-set parameters are reached or an unauthorized purchase is attempted.

     Caddo Parish officials use transaction information to track where, when and how much fuel is purchased for each vehicle. Because an odometer reading is required for each fuel purchase, administrators also know how many miles each vehicle is driven between fill-ups and how many miles each vehicle can drive on a gallon of fuel. The data is also used for planning decisions. "With this level of detail about fuel consumption we can evaluate which vehicles and model years get the best gas mileage and that helps us plan future vehicle purchases," Gregory adds.

     Caddo Parish administrators no longer must track fuel receipts from various credit card purchases or complete expense reports. The agency pays just one invoice instead of processing hundreds of individual transactions, and can easily account for expenses down to the vehicle, driver, department, etc.

Maintenance monitoring

     The Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office also found the fleet card's preventative maintenance program to be essential in its planning. Because the odometer reading is now regularly recorded, sheriff's office fleet managers can flag vehicles needing a tune-up and schedule back-up vehicles. The system ensures Caddo Parish vehicles are always operating at top performance levels.

     In addition to supplying data to determine when maintenance is needed, some fleet cards can also purchase vehicle maintenance. It is not uncommon to have agency-approved vehicle maintenance suppliers that offer a preferred rate. When reviewing fleet card purchasing programs, be sure to examine the list of authorized maintenance providers. Most fleet card programs are willing to invite new members to join their network. With an agency's providers in the network, officers always have access to assistance when needed and receive preferred pricing.

Selecting a fleet card program

     While there are several benefits to adopting a fleet card system, choosing a card with the purchasing features, controls and reporting that best fits a department's specific needs will determine the program's success.

     There are many card programs available. To simplify a search, consider visiting individual fleet card carrier Web sites and comparing features, or use a "feature match" program from sites such as, which educates the user in the benefits then recommends the best card based on geographic location and driving behavior.

     To evaluate a fleet card service provider, keep the following tips top-of-mind:

  1. Look at the complete card features such as customizable purchasing controls reporting formats, real-time activity fraud alerts, etc.
  2. Research the card provider and its programs to ensure they have the data capture capabilities needed to identify key purchasing and activity trends.
  3. Review the card's administrative monthly fees or transaction fees carefully. These fees can be as much as $2 per month, per card.
  4. Make sure the card system records transaction data in real time. This is the only way the card can stop a purchase in mid transaction at the pump and minimize unauthorized purchases.
  5. Pick a program that is right for the fleet's location and driving behavior and provides the highest level of purchasing controls to maximize cost-saving benefits.
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