The fleet card is one type of commercial card that has some history behind it. But after the decades that they have existed, fleet card products have seen some hefty advancements in only the last few years. Big Data, spend analytics and integration with telematics are just some of the ways fuel cards are staying ahead of the curve — a rare quality for a business spend solution.
One of the newest fleet cards to hit the market is from CSI globalVCard’s fuel card unit, CSI global-fleet. It’s the Over the Road card solution for the freight trucking industry, and its rollout, announced earlier this month, comes as declining fuel prices mean cost management and strategy are front and center for fleet managers.
PYMNTS spoke with CSI globalVCard Managing Director David Disque and CSI global-fleet Director Amberly Rodriguez about the trends — both short-term and long-term — that are guiding the evolution of payments in fleet.
According to Disque, a top driver behind the rollout of another fleet card by CSI is recognizing the way companies with fleet units grow and change their demands.
“One of the things we’ve been attuned to is we certainly have boarded a lot of customers that have mixed-use fleets, not just commercial fleets,” he explained, adding that many CSI clients have fleets with vehicles of various classifications, each with their own requirements.
For instance, many companies’ fleets will need accessibility to truck stops and the diesel fueling stations those locations offer — not just the retail pumps for the everyday vehicle.
“Different card products can better serve the needs of diverse customers,” Disque added. “A card product designed specifically to their needs is going to be a better value than a more traditional commercial card.”
Fleet is an area of commercial payments with many subcategories, many players and many different demands. So, while fleet cards have been around for a few decades — CSI global-fleet itself has been in operation for a quarter century — modern fleet managers have more options to choose which card is best for their drivers and their companies.
“Certainly, fleet cards is a market that has matured quite a bit over the last 10 years,” Disque said. “Companies that are managing 50-plus vehicles probably are getting to the point where they have got someone fully responsible for managing the fleet” and responsible for researching which card product is most appropriate for their operations.
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But for newer and smaller companies, choosing an appropriate fuel payments solution is less straightforward. “Consultation and coaching come for newer or smaller fleets that are growing, that are maybe using a small business card or a proprietary gas station card that they’re starting to outgrow,” he added. “They can’t have drivers running around with two or three different types of cards.”
A consolidated spend solution for fleet managers and drivers means greater spend control and visibility, the CSI executive added, compared to other solutions.
But the implications of that choice in a modern economy can be even greater. Technologies, like telematics, which allow data from a vehicle and its driver to be captured, can lead to a dramatic improvement in efficiency and cost management.
“Again, as fleet sizes grow, it’s in the nature of fleet services that telematics come into play,” Disque said. Today’s fleet managers now want telematics data, which might be coming in from a third party, to link with fuel card data in order for in-depth analysis of fuel tank levels and vehicle mileage to connect into driver spending habits.
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Telematics are now on nearly every fleet manager's wishlist when choosing a proper fuel card. But already, CSI said it is witnessing a new trend in fleet spend control: mobile.
Mobile wallet and mobile payment solutions have, so far, been looking to enter the corporate sphere through travel and expense management use cases. But both Disque and Rodriquez explained that fleet is likely next to jump on the opportunity — as soon as it becomes available.
“We’re definitely getting a lot of questions from customers out there, asking what’s the availability, what’s the time frame?” said Rodriguez. “There is definitely high interest there. I think we’re ready for it; it’s just a matter of the technology being there to support it.”
Disque agreed that fleet managers will have to wait to take advantage of mobile wallet solutions.
“The technology is going to lag a bit because being able to do contactless transactions at the fuel pump is still probably a few years out,” he said, “but there is a migration happening. And when that happens, I can certainly see that as a fit.”
With the technology that’s available, Disque added that CSI has worked to enable mobile payments solutions for its fleet customers. Tools like its Spend Secure solution, released in 2014, live on the mobile ecosystem, allowing for virtual card generation and spend monitoring to occur on a smartphone.
But Disque also said that mobile wallets will continue to be the next big shift for fleet payments and assures that CSI is ready for it.
“We do embrace the concept of mobile payments,” he said. “That’s going to filtrate into the fleet world pretty aggressively in the coming years.”