B2B Payments

Blurring The Line Between Fleet And Travel Management

The company car may soon be a thing of the past. Often cheaper and more sustainable, new tools like ridesharing, carsharing and on-demand car services are quickly gaining in popularity and prevalence in the enterprise space. As part of the shift away from fleets—and as a way to improve cost control and compliance—some businesses are now looking into combining travel and expense with fleet management. New research from Frost and Sullivan shows 22 percent of companies believe their T&E and fleet management departments could be combined. For some, the shift has already begun: one in 20 companies has already employed a mobility manager.

"We are witnessing a shift away from just considering the total cost of ownership of fleet towards managing the total cost of mobility for the organization,” Martyn Briggs, industry principal for mobility at Frost and Sullivan, told Fleet News. Mobility encompasses a more holistic approach to business travel and considers the various modes of transportation used by business travelers today.

Apps, and the smartphones that run them, are essential to the rapid growth of shared or on-demand business travel. Briggs believes that, just as individual travelers are doing, businesses can take advantage of the technologies available to not only save costs, but also increase convenience and expand the options available to their employees.

The on-demand car service Uber, available in the U.S. and abroad, continues to challenge traditional taxi services for the dollars of business travelers. Just one year ago, taxis maintained a sizable majority of rides expensed by business travelers. Today the percentages are nearly equal. Last month, taxis carried 52 percent of rides reported on expense reports, while Uber drivers carried 47 percent, according to expense report software provider Certify.

Mobility blurs the lines between fleet and travel expense management, a trend some analysts believe will continue. For their upcoming report “The Future of Corporate Mobility – Will Fleet and Travel Management Functions Converge?” Frost and Sullivan spoke to more than 450 fleet and T&E managers in five European countries. Half of those surveyed have already employed, or are seriously planning to employ, mobility solutions and are looking for an IT platform to help the better manage their spending. When asked what services they would most like to see integrated into expense management, hotel and flight booking (55 percent) and car rental (53 percent) topped the list. Train ticketing, car fuel payment, trip planning, parking payment and taxi payment services are also desired.

In addition to the merge of T&E and fleet management, the Frost and Sullivan report highlights the “fundamental shift” in the relationship between expense managers and the tools they seek to help their businesses monitor and track spending. Just like other aspects of current B2B relationships, customer satisfaction is key. “Those that can deliver a compelling user experience to handle the pre-trip, in-trip, and post-trip information and reporting are likely to succeed in penetrating more of the corporate market in years to come,” Briggs told Fleet News. The importance of ease of use cannot be underestimated. Usability was the No. 1 requirement of a successful expense reporting program, beating both cost control and compliance, in a survey from Business Travel News. Ease of use is an area both managers and employees can agree upon. When asked to describe the expense reporting systems currently in use by their employers, workers in the U.K. used phrases such as “necessary evil,” “painful,” “complex” and “illogical."

Ridesharing, carsharing and other innovative modes of transportation aren’t only changing how business travel is done, but also the way businesses design the departments that oversee it.

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