Smart Cars Bring Trip Expense Management Miles Ahead


Padding expenses is nothing new, and technology helps enterprises crack down. One area ripe for mobile expense management is mileage tracking and reimbursement. Austin Klein and Matt DeWolf of Runzheimer explain how connected vehicles can help firms improve their bottom lines.

The term “connected cars” conjures up voice prompts, dashboard virtual displays, constant communication with home or work (hands-free) and any number of futuristic shortcuts to the best routes to take in order to get from point A to point B.

But the connected vehicle also has benefits in the enterprise space, with the ability to provide useful data that ties directly into expense management and a watchful eye on margins.

In an interview with PYMNTS, mobile workplace solutions provider Runzheimer executives Austin Klein and Matt DeWolf —travel product manager and director of product innovation, respectively — noted that the age of connectivity, extending to fleet management and personal vehicles used in the service of small to mid-sized businesses, cuts down on expense fraud.

A typical company loses as much as 5 percent of revenues to expense fraud overall, according to the Association of Fraud Examiners, and that’s across all malfeasance, according to the survey that spanned 42,000 examiners. The average cost of lost revenues estimated across the fraud cases? Roughly $2.7 million. The biggest driver (no pun intended) remains mileage reimbursement, where, as DeWolf said, “when you turn in your mileage, you are typically doing so without receipts,” and this is especially true with smaller businesses (where staffing levels and expense tracking processes may be stretched a bit thin). The current, widespread system, said DeWolf, of the manual process of keeping logs does not fit well with regulations covering reimbursement claims.

With the rise of the connected car, however, said DeWolf, technology that plugs “straight into the vehicle” allows for the consistent logging of mileage, with dates, times, locations, stops and idling times. Last month, Runzheimer launched a new app, Equo, which is billed as a “mile capture” app that allows employees to log miles, edit their expenses and submit trip data directly from mobile devices to their firms.

There are caveats, of course. DeWolf stated that firms have to be careful, in a general sense, when deploying such connectivity solutions, with regard as to whether the employee feels that such technology could be invasive, and there are ways to help navigate trust between firms and employees. Offering up one example, there can be agreements to modify trips (for personal reasons, such as in the event of a salesperson visiting his daughter’s school midday to see her in a play). Klein expanded a bit on this notion, stating that the advantage is that “mileage rightsizes itself” as technology is implemented and that an added benefit is the ability to separate personal use of vehicles (again, in the purview of SMBs). Data can be tracked and expenses reconciled, with a weekly, bimonthly or monthly report, with automated integration with files. The Equo system also allows for the ability to query all expenses and track charges tied to corporate credit cards.

What of the trend toward fully automated vehicles? DeWolf said that the emergence of fully automated and connected vehicles, especially with fleet management, will likely “grow exponentially” in areas with relatively less infrastructure and regulation, where they may be widespread adoption of electric vehicles. The customization of information, said DeWolf, translates to “ambient data,” which also means that it is not germane just to reimbursements but also to the analysis of how much time is spent with the client in the field, what the return on that visit is (a form of return on investment) and even a sense of salesperson performance traveling through a given territory.