WEX: Fleetly Managing Gas (And Other) Fleet Expenses

Behind every gallon of gas pumped lies a fleet manager’s and driver’s decision.  Thus, better decision making can lead to better profits for the company as a whole.  A new analytics platform debuting by WEX can help managers steer (pun intended) drivers to be more mindful of how they can improve practice and profits.

In fleet management, costs are logged by the mile, the truck and the gallon. Long-haul trips can lead to expenses piling up at the pump, literally, to the detriment of the bottom line.

To that end, WEX announced earlier this week that it was bringing ClearView Advanced out of pilot phase after logging results across a trial run of 45,000 vehicles through the past year. The global corporate payments solution provider said the newest platform build on its already extant Essentials platform. The goals are uniform across the two: to offer analytics and benchmark performance, with an eye on where spending efforts can be improved and where drivers and managers should focus efforts to speed efficiency, too.

As might be guessed, the key input here is related to fuel, and the more that’s spent on fuel, the more margins are dampened. The company had said in its announcement tied to the launch that algorithms analyzing fuel data helped deliver insight as to who (and what vehicles) might be using premium fuel where it may not necessarily be needed. And in that event, targeted text messages sent to drivers helped put a stop to waste, with 84 percent switching away from that premium grade, in effect changing their behavior.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Kurt Thearling, vice president of analytics at WEX, said that the Advanced platform offered insights, which in turn are made actionable through the advanced platform. And changing behavior can have a sizable impact on results when the use of premium gas can cost thousands of dollars a month per vehicle. Certainly, he said, many of these drivers “think they are doing a service for the company” by using higher-grade fuel for a valuable asset (that would be the vehicle) so that it can be put to use for a longer period of time. Yet that expense may be wholly unnecessary and, as the executive told PYMNTS, the driver wholly aware of any detrimental impact – and here, “education is key.”

The messages are configurable by the company and can be communicated by text, email or even PDF (to be printed out and displayed in a trip’s log, for example). Many firms use a proactive approach, with requests to cease unproductive behavior and perhaps switch to a more defined one, such as to a gas station/brand that might be demonstrably cheaper. The initial and consistent communications with drivers, said Thearling, can create a “halo effect” that means that drivers and employees will be mindful of what matters to the company and may even be vigilant against theft and fraud.

The algorithms and analytics are deep enough, he said, that cheaper fuel alternatives (in locations and brands) can be plotted against current ones, with cost savings within, say, a 5-mile radius can be made readily apparent to managers – and this would demonstrate, he said, real savings rather than just plotted against a national average. Other use cases extend to more accurate monitoring of odometer readings. Though thus far launching in the U.S., availability of the new platform should extend internationally, said Thearling.