Fleet Sector Travels From Closed-Loop to Future-Ready

Where an industry goes tomorrow is a step-function from where it is today.

And this is particularly true within the fleet management ecosystem, where traditional payment methods like fuel cards remain, by far, the most common payment scenario. Increasingly, addressing the challenges of traditional fleet payments, including cumbersome manual processes and security loopholes, are playing an important part in setting the industry up for success.

“Traditional systems, developed before the ubiquity of mobile devices, rely on antiquated methods for collecting transaction data, leading to poor data quality and security vulnerabilities,” Daniel Simon, CEO at Coast, told PYMNTS. “These are old school industries: construction, HVAC, plumbing, landscaping, et cetera.”

Simon explained that the ongoing transition toward digitization in fleet management and fleet payments can provide businesses with more reliable data and an understanding of the total cost of ownership of the vehicles in their fleet, as well as a more granular picture of their employee spending behavior.

This allows firms to make better decisions about their business in both the short and long term, while at the same time addressing the unique needs for field-related purchases such as vehicle maintenance and gas.

That’s why, as the world becomes increasingly digital, fleet payments are transforming right along with it.

Read more: Coast Raises $92 Million to Improve Fleet Management Payments

Unlocking Industry Innovation

Building a holistic expense management and finance platform for fleet-operating businesses has never been more possible, thanks to concurrent advances in vehicle telematics systems. These developments enable real-time visibility into a vehicle’s status and location, and enhance analysis activity in the context of both spend and vehicle data, as well as smartphone technology.

Coast’s own approach leverages real-time information from drivers’ phones and onboard vehicle computers, enhancing fleet expense management beyond that of traditional fuel cards. Simon explained that most fleet card solutions only allow rules to be applied to a card, so when a transaction fails outside these limits, the card is either declined or flagged on an exception report. In contrast, Coast’s solution enables managers to set up rules for each vehicle and each user. 

“All of this together creates better data control, security and visibility for the fleet manager, and a more convenient experience for the driver,” he said, noting that transactions are linked to drivers and vehicles, ensuring accurate attribution and enhancing security while “making difference for our customers who can focus less on the manual monitoring of their fleets to stop abuse and waste, and spend more time on growing their businesses.”

Coast’s strategic partnerships, including a collaboration with Visa, bolster its offering by ensuring universal acceptance and enhancing data visibility. At the same time, it helps accelerate the sector’s gradual shift toward embracing modern tools.

Deep integrations with telematics and accounting systems further solidify the benefits of streamlined fleet management, Simon said. Businesses can use fleet card data for a range of purposes that include managing costs, reducing fraud and improving efficiency.

“Payments are filling a big missing piece in moving fleets to a digitized future,” he added. “The transaction data and the reporting snaps into your business’s operating stack in a way that is integrated and allows for smoother operations in your back office.”

Helping Firms Understand Their Business Better 

By embedding payments into vertical-specific workflows, fleet management solutions empower businesses to harness the full potential of modern financial tools, ultimately driving growth. Businesses rely on fleet payment management solutions to keep their drivers and vehicles moving while keeping expenses under control. But frequently, those solutions can preclude businesses from keeping their purchasing options open.

“A lot of incumbent offerings, many of which operate on proprietary closed loop networks, only work at the specific gas stations and some other maintenance merchants which have explicitly integrated them as alternative payments methods,” Simon noted. 

Looking ahead, Simon said he is embracing a broad vision to “make the best of FinTech innovations that we’ve seen in the last five to 10 years accessible to more businesses and companies. … The trades and construction businesses on Main Street haven’t always had access to these tools that can really improve a business’s management and accelerate their growth.”