Paper checks still dominate and are still the primary means of getting short- and long-haul drivers paid. Payroll loans are the norm, as these individuals, spending days or weeks on the road, still must meet the needs of daily life, paying for food, gas, sometimes lodging or repairs.
The firms themselves? They’re typically mom-and-pop operations. Of the half million trucking companies operating in the United States, 80% are small businesses that contract out to larger firms (carriers and distributors). Less than 3% of those small operators have more than 20 vehicles on the road.
“If you have slow payments, you have a higher cost of working capital, and this shrinks margins and companies have to raise their prices constantly,” Velivela told Webster.
FinTech AtoB has roots stretching back to the pandemic in 2020. It offers fuel cards, driver payroll services and a fuel discount network.
“We started with a fairly singular mission, which is how do we help fleets … and small businesses save time and money?” Velivela said.
The question is timely and even urgent for ambulance operators, rental car firms and delivery companies (pretty much any small business that has vehicles on the road) given the stubborn entrenchment of inflation. As much as 30% to 40% of the cost of operating a truck, or fleet of trucks, is spent on fuel alone.
The solution has been to build tools that closely approximate the digital speeds of payments enjoyed by the gig economy — paying truckers in near-real time — while offering driver cards that help pay for the costs that come up while on the road.
AtoB said Monday (Feb. 5) that it will roll out the AtoB Mastercard, tied to an open network that allows truckers to track and pay for fuel, as well as set spending limits where applicable. The cardholders will be automatically enrolled in Mastercard Easy Savings to access discounts.
Payments to drivers are pushed onto the Mastercard products, which are almost universally accepted. AtoB’s mobile app helps customers control where they spend their money, Velivela said.
The data already shows that the platform model, routing and anti-fraud technologies result in fuel savings of about 10% to 20%, Velivela said. The company itself charges a small fee to the client firms and fleet operators.
Beyond addressing fuel costs, Velivela said the card gives smaller firms “instant access to their revenues … if they are getting an invoice, we can effectively get them connected to a capital provider and instantly push money to their business debit card.”
AtoB has partner banks that advance those loans digitally. The funds can be used for anything from maintenance to ongoing operations. For drivers, getting paid promptly — onto cards or directly into bank accounts — helps improve loyalty to their small fleet employers and reduces churn. Churn is a significant operational pain point, given the fact that the average tenure of a driver is measured in months, not years.
“We’re agnostic to the actual payment instruments being used, and we’re much more about trying to move funds on a daily basis … and offering modern financial services,” Velivela said.