Selection of fuel filling nozzles at petrol station

Where can I use my fuel card?

With so many fuel card locations and options out there, it’s common that the question is asked, ‘where can I use my fuel card?’.

Where you can use your fuel card depends on the type of vehicles your fleet drives and where. You might just need localised cover, or national access, depending on where your business operates. You might already know what kind of coverage your fleet needs, but we would recommend requesting an audit from your current fuel card provider to make sure you have the correct coverage for your needs.

Supermarkets and inner city

If your fleet is mostly cars or vans and completes inner-city journeys, a fuel card that can be used at supermarket fuel stations could be the ideal solution. Some providers also allow you to collect supermarket points with your fuel card, which can be a handy bonus. For inner-city fuel stations that aren’t part of supermarkets, you can also choose a fuel card that allows you to use independent fuel stations based on networks.

Motorways

If your fleet or drivers mostly travel via motorway or A-roads, a supermarket fuel card probably isn’t suitable for your fleet. You can instead choose a fuel card that includes motorway sites or A-road locations, so your drivers needn’t leave the motorway to purchase fuel and can conveniently continue their journeys between filling up.

HGV sites

For fleets that specialise in haulage relying on HGV sites, a fuel card with access to HGV fuel stations is probably the optimal solution if you’re looking for the best option for saving time, especially when there’s a delivery deadline to meet. HGV sites are usually strategically placed on major trunk roads like A-roads and motorways for convenience when it comes to your fleet.

Which fuel networks are available to me?

Of course, which locations you can use with your fuel card depends entirely on the networks that are activated on your card. The main fuel networks are:

  • BP
  • Esso
  • Shell
  • Keyfuels
  • Texaco
  • UK Fuels

However; certain cards may give you access to a combination of specific networks on one card, or even all of them if you depend on independent or motorway fuel stations to fill up your fleet. These are sometimes known as flexi fuel cards and give you much more control over where your drivers can use their fuel cards.

How can I find out where my nearest fuel station is?

If you do decide on a specific network, your drivers might not automatically know where the next fuel station is, especially if they are travelling in unfamiliar parts of the country. Check out our pump locator to locate the nearest fuel station compatible with your fuel card.

If you want out find out more about how a fuel card can save your business up to 10p per litre, contact us today and join the 10,000+ customers who have joined Fuel Card Services.

 

Overhead view of vehicles on a motorway with digital tracking overlay.

What’s the difference between telematics and vehicle tracking?

You’ll no doubt have heard a lot about technologies such as vehicle tracking and telematics in recent years. These tools are an increasingly important part of any business’ fleet operations. Without them, firms won’t have crucial insight into what their drivers are doing or how to improve efficiency.

But if you’re unfamiliar with these technologies, you may be asking ‘what’s the difference?’ Vehicle tracking solutions and telematics are sometimes used interchangeably. But in fact, there are a wide range of differences that separate the two. Therefore, if you’re looking to reduce fuel costs, boost safety or increase productivity, you’ll need to know exactly what they do.

Understanding vehicle tracking

Vehicle tracking, as the name suggests, lets you keep an eye on your fleet at all times. Using satellite-based GPS technology that feeds information back to base via mobile networks, you can see where all your vehicles are in real time. This includes who’s on the move, who’s at an appointment and who might be available.

This can assist you in making better decisions about how to run your fleet. As well as helping drivers find their destination, the data gleaned from this can be used to help fill in mileage reports and other records.

The key benefits of this technology

Vehicle tracking solutions help you build a picture of where your vehicles are and how to best optimise their routing. Real-time tracking can ensure drivers avoid any congestion points and provides accurate estimates for when they can expect to arrive at their destination. In turn, this helps with overall planning and can even boost customer satisfaction by giving them more info on when to expect your employees.

GPS tracking tools can also help you spot any vehicles that are being used where or when they shouldn’t. For example, you’ll be able to see if a car or van is being used out of hours. Geofencing solutions can also enable you to set up a designated area for your operations. If a vehicle strays outside of these restrictions, you’ll quickly be able to see this. This will also be hugely valuable if you fall victim to theft, as it can help the police home in on the vehicle.

What is telematics?

Speedometer with 'telematics' written on it

Vehicle tracking services alone, however, only offer a partial picture. This is where telematics comes in. A key factor that separates telematics from simpler vehicle tracking solutions is the amount of data and reporting tools you have available.

A good telematics solution will offer all the same benefits as a GPS tracking system, but will also build on this with much more detailed information about the vehicle and its driver. For instance, telematics tools offer more insight about how the vehicle is being driven. It can record not only speed, but also information about how frequently or harshly the accelerator and brakes are being used. It can also show you how long engines spend idling.

Elsewhere, integration with the vehicle’s diagnostic computer can give you early warning of any potential issues, letting you better plan for any repairs or maintenance.

Telematics software can also integrate directly with reporting tools. This helps you much more easily calculate fuel usage, driving hours and expenses claims, to name but a few. With information displayed in easy-to-use dashboards, this means you have a complete picture of everything your fleet is doing at your fingertips.

The benefits of going beyond vehicle tracking

One of the key benefits of a good telematics solution is the impact it can have on driver behaviour. With the system recording a wide variety of metrics, you can easily see who’s driving sensibly and who could be putting themselves and other road users at risk. This lets you step in with training programmes, a warning or even disciplinary action for those who are frequently speeding, tailgating or otherwise driving erratically.

As well as making your fleet safer, this also has a direct impact on your fuel consumption. Smoother driver inputs and less time spent idling means you use less petrol or diesel. As this is one of the biggest expenses for any fleet, this is a simple way of reducing your expenditure and saving the company money.

This is before you take into account the fuel savings that can be achieved through better monitoring and route planning. As well as ensuring your drivers are following routes that provide the best efficiency, fuel tracking systems offer a quick and easy way of reducing your consumption and protecting your business.

Cracking down on fuel fraud

Close up of hand holding a fuel pump at filling station

You can also see at a glance where and when fuel cards are being used by your drivers, and ensure the time and location match the vehicle. This is a vital tool in cracking down on fuel fraud issues such as people sharing cards and using them to fill up personal vehicles.

Fuel fraud is actually a significant problem for many firms, with research from Shell revealing that almost two-thirds of fleet managers in the UK (65 per cent) view this as a major issue. If left unchecked, it could easily end up costing you huge amounts of money, so it’s essential you’re able to spot this and take action.

Improving your day-to-day workload

A good telematics system also means much less time spent on paperwork. With detailed reporting on everything from fuel efficiency and mileage to emissions, it automates and streamlines what would otherwise be tedious manual tasks. This also ensures accuracy and leaves you free to spend your time on more worthwhile, value-adding activities.

A complete fleet management solution

A telematics solution therefore offers a full fleet management and vehicle tracking solution. Compare this to a more limited GPS-only monitored service and it’s easy to see where the extra value lies.

Research by Verizon suggests effective telematics software offers a wide range of benefits. Among the results businesses have seen include:

  • Fuel economy improved by 18 per cent
  • Economical driving increased by 15 per cent
  • Harsh braking incidents down by 77 per cent
  • Engine idle time reduced by 64 per cent
  • Driving hours decreased by 24 per cent

If you’d like to know more about what telematics can do for your business, get in touch with our experts today.

Speedometer with 'telematics' written on it

Is telematics right for your fleet?

Since vehicle telematics was introduced, there has been a debate as to whether or not the technology has any benefit to fleets and if they should use it.

There are common objections to vehicle telematics, however, there are many businesses who believe there is no question that this technology should be used. The benefits experienced in their operations, like increased productivity and efficiency, as well as an overall reduction in costs, make the choice to use vehicle telematics an obvious one.

Big brother is watching you

This theory tends to be one of the larger concerns for businesses when debating whether or not to implement vehicle telematics. You might also believe that drivers will think it will be an invasion of their privacy or a sign of distrust from management. Many fleet managers have a close relationship with their drivers (some may even be former drivers themselves) and may not feel it is necessary, doing more harm than good.

However, it’s important to understand what the going to vehicle telematics is. It’s not to get employees into trouble or invade on their privacy; the goal is to improve your business.

Measuring driver performance is simply another way to help your fleet become more productive, safer on the roads, and increase your company’s bottom line. If a business isn’t evaluating employee performance, then it’s likely that the fleet isn’t at its optimum performance.

Budget concerns

Some fleet professionals are of the view that vehicle telematics is much too expensive and they don’t have room in their budget to implement this technology. If finding a solution is not a priority for an organization, then it might not seem important to have to take the hit on this cost.

While there is an upfront cost to a quality telematics solution, it’s just as important to consider the long-term benefits that this might present. Quality vehicle telematics software has the capability to deliver at least 500% return on investment when it is used to its fullest.

Through an increase in efficiency, fuel savings, decreased labour costs and theft, businesses have been achieved a 100% ROI in just a few months of rolling out telematics technology to their fleet. Vehicle telematics help businesses save money in a multitude of ways and it should not be considered an expense, rather a tool to reduce cost and increase the overall revenue.

It’s too much hassle

You may feel that there simply isn’t enough time to devote to managing the software or even adding to your daily routine. It might also seem like a significant inconvenience for your vehicles to have downtime while the devices are installed. These are legitimate concerns to have about adding more responsibility to your workload.

It is however, one thing to know where your drivers are, but it’s a different matter altogether to know what they’re doing. Are they speeding? Are they arriving on time? These are key issues that cannot be addressed without the assistance of vehicle telematics. At the end of the day, any hassle you might experience by implementing the technology is vastly outweighed by the benefits to your company’s efficiency and bottom line.

A barrage of data

Big data tends to be an issue of conflict for fleet professionals. On the one hand, they know it encompasses valuable information about their fleet. On the other, they don’t know what to do with all that data they have access to. Nobody wants to spend hours looking at information that is irrelevant to their responsibilities.

However, the issue isn’t too much data, it’s the data isn’t being filtered or presented in a way that makes sense, or even more frustratingly, it isn’t being filtered at all. If you consider your accounting department; they don’t need to view the same data as dispatch or maintenance, so what would they need access to that information for? Filtering relevant data to whoever needs it will allow your business to best use the information gathered and turn it into actionable intelligence. Giving people the information they need, when they need to see it, will help your business become more efficient, cut unnecessary costs and generate the best return on your investment.

When considering the merits of telematics and if it is right for your business, think about the challenges you face at the moment and your long-term business goals. Telematics can give you the information you need to overcome todays challenges and get your ready to be more profitable in the future. Remember that your competition will, if they haven’t already, implement telematics to their fleet operations, so don’t fall behind!

Tele-gence telematics offers improved safety for your drivers, security for your vehicles and reduces costs across your entire fleet. It’s a flexible, fully customisable system that can be completely tailored to the needs of your fleet. It’s easy to use and fully supported by our dedicated UK-based team. Contact the Tele-gence team today to find out more.

Hands of mechanic with wrench working on car engine

Key points of a good vehicle maintenance system

Keeping your vehicles in good working order is an essential part of any fleet manager’s job. While some of the day-to-day work can be delegated to individual drivers, it’s still vital that you have a clear plan in place. This means undertaking frequent checks of key systems and a regular vehicle service schedule for more comprehensive car maintenance.

This doesn’t need to be a complex or time-consuming activity. A few basic daily checks takes just a few minutes and goes a long way to keeping vehicles in good condition. As they say, prevention is better than cure, so taking a bit of time on a regular basis can prevent far bigger problems arising later.

Why vehicle maintenance must be a top priority

The first and most obvious benefit of a good plan is vehicle and driver safety. Badly-maintained cars may be more prone to failures on the road that could lead to serious accidents.

There are also clear financial benefits to keeping your fleet well-maintained. For starters, a good servicing schedule reduces the risk of breakdowns or other issues that can force a car off the road unexpectedly. This type of unplanned downtime can be very costly for firms. It means they have to alter schedules and risk disappointing customers.

However, even simple things like making sure your tyres are the correct pressure can improve fuel economy, and therefore reduce running costs.

Therefore, you need a clear plan for fleet vehicle servicing. This must ensure every vehicle you operate has its own service schedule that’s planned well in advance. Don’t leave it to the last minute or arrange this on an ad-hoc basis.

Factors to consider when creating a maintenance schedule include:

  • The vehicle’s age
  • Frequency of use
  • Mileage
  • Operating conditions

Key areas to focus on when conducting service checks

So what should a good maintenance programme include? There are a wide range of checks that need to be performed. Knowing what these are and how frequently they should be done is a vital step in keeping your fleet moving.

Everyday checks – remember FLOWER

Firstly, you must be performing a range of regular checks on your vehicles. Ideally, these should be done every day before setting off, but they should at least be done on a weekly basis or before any long journey. The best way of handling these is to have drivers take responsibility for their own vehicles, so it’s vital they’re trained on what to look for and how to report the results.

Close up of person checking oil levels under a car's bonnet

There are a few key areas that should be focused on here. The AA suggests these can be easily remembered with the acronym ‘FLOWER’, which consists of the following:

Fuel – Does the vehicle have enough fuel to make the journey. If not, make sure you know where you can use your fuel card to fill up. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked, and running dry can cause big problems – especially in the winter or for diesel vehicles.

Lights – Are all the bulbs working? Brake lights, indicators and headlights are especially vital. Therefore, have someone walk around the vehicle to make sure they not only work, but can be easily seen. This means clearing away any debris or mud that could obscure them.

Oil – Check your dipstick to ensure your oil level is between the minimum and maximum marks on the stick. If not, you could be running the risk of serious engine damage. This is also a very common problem, as the RAC notes one in three vehicles it’s called out to have dangerously low oil levels.

Water – Make sure your screen wash reservoir is topped up regularly. This is important year-round, but especially so in winter when grit, snow and mud can all smear your windscreen. Even in summer, bugs and pollen can hamper your view, so don’t run the risk of an empty water bottle.

Electrics – Aside from your lights, you should also check other electrics such as your battery. Make sure the connections are clean and tight and use a battery monitor to check its health. It’s a good idea to keep a set of jump leads in each vehicle – or at least on hand at your site – if you have a flat battery. The most common cause of this is leaving lights on, but this issue can also occur if the car hasn’t been used for a while or is used mainly for very short trips with lots of stopping and starting.

Close-up of hands checking the tread of a car tyre

Rubber – Making sure your tyres are in good condition is also essential. This involves several steps. Firstly, make sure they’re set to the right pressure as specified in the vehicle manual. Using a pressure gauge is a good idea for this. Then, check the tread depth meets minimum requirements. The treads should be at least 1.6mm deep – that’s about the size of the rim on a 20p piece, if you’re not sure. Finally, check the tyres for any other signs of wear or damage, such as cuts, splits or bulges.

If the daily checks spot any issues with these components, they should be immediately flagged up for maintenance or repair before the car is sent out on to the road.

Longer-term focuses to keep in mind

More comprehensive servicing should also be scheduled for a set timeframe or number of miles. This should go into more depth on a range of issues, including:

  • Coolant
  • Air filter
  • Spark plugs (for petrol vehicles)
  • Brakes
  • Transmission fluid
  • Serpentine belt

Taking a proactive approach – how the right technology helps

While a regular service schedule is a must, you can also be more proactive about your maintenance with the latest technology. Telematics systems, for example, should be able to access the diagnostic tools in the car’s computer and alert you to any issues quickly. This allows you to step in early and prevent larger issues.

Good fleet management tools can also give you a better overview of your vehicles and allow you to optimise your maintenance. For example, if can help identify older or higher mileage vehicles that may need to be a priority for more regular servicing.

This can also help you plan for the future by spotting which vehicles may need replacing soon. Maintenance records can also show you what makes or models may be more prone to mechanical issues, which again can factor into your thinking when it comes to replacing vehicles.

If you want to learn more about how the right tech tools can help keep your fleet’s maintenance up to speed, contact us today.

White electric car with charger plugged in, blue graphics to indicate power

How can I keep electric cars charged?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are coming. Sales of these models have been showing impressive growth recently, helped by improving technology and wider consumer acceptance. Indeed, more than one in ten cars sold in the UK 2020 were electric – a 66 per cent increase from 2019.

For now, petrol and diesel will continue to make up the majority of business fleets. These fuels are familiar, convenient and – with a good fuel card – cost-effective. But sooner or later, fleet managers will have to start looking at EVs. And this will mean new challenges as well as benefits.

Why the future is electric

A key reason why more people are going electric is because they’ll eventually have no choice. A government deadline is looming. After 2030, the sale of new petrol or diesel-only cars will be banned in the UK, though some hybrid models will still be allowed.

Carmakers have been responding to this. In just the last few weeks alone, the likes of Ford and Volvo have announced they intend to become all-electric by 2030. Jaguar is even more ambitious, aiming to remove new petrol and diesel models from its range by 2025.

Most firms, however, shouldn’t wait until they have no choice before looking at electric cars.

Thinking ahead means you’ll be much better-prepared for the time when it’s electric or nothing.

The benefits of going electric

The two major selling points of EVs are their environmental benefits and the potential for cost-savings. Some figures suggest busy users could save more than £1,000 in running costs, while fully-electric cars are also exempt from vehicle excise duty.

It can also boost your reputation among customers, who are keen to support companies that are making efforts to go green. What’s more, employees are in favour of this too.

According to research by Go Ultra Low, 70 per cent of employees want their company to offer EVs. What’s more, 63 per cent would prefer an electric car if they had the option. As well as the reduced running costs, more than half of company drivers (53 per cent) cite the environmental benefits as an appealing factor.

The challenges facing electric fleet managers

However, EVs are not without their issues for fleet managers. And one of the biggest questions will be how you ensure they’re kept fully charged and available at all times.

While battery technology – and therefore range – has improved hugely in recent years, getting caught low on energy away from a charging point is still a concern for many. According to research by Venson, 69 per cent of motorists are worried by a lack of charging infrastructure. Therefore, this is always something you have to plan for.

You also need to factor in maintenance costs. As many electric cars are still relatively new, long-term costs are still unclear, but there are a few things to consider. On the plus side, because there are no moving parts or oil to change, day-to-day costs will often be cheaper. However, replacing a battery pack could cost thousands if it becomes damaged in a bump.

Where can I charge electric vehicles?

For most fleet managers, the number one issue will be charging. While there’s still work to do, the UK’s infrastructure has come a long way. There are now more than 35,000 public electric vehicle charging points around the UK at 13,000 locations, and the numbers are growing all the time.

In 2020, around 7,000 new connections were added to the network. Importantly, the biggest increases were in 150-350kW charging points, which promise much faster charging.

Many fleets will need to recharge their EVs overnight at on-site electric vehicle charging stations to ensure they have enough range for the following day’s activity. However, for those times where this isn’t possible, such as long-distance drives, you’ll need to take into account access to charging points when planning routes.

Drivers will also need to be equipped with electric vehicle charging cards to avoid any complex later expenses claims.

How long will charging take?

It’s still true that charging takes significantly longer than filling up a fuel tank with petrol or diesel. But the difference is not as big as it once was.

While it can still take up to eight hours to fully charge an EV, rapid chargers can offer 100-200-mile range in less than 30 minutes. This means if a driver is caught with low battery, they should at least be able to recharge enough to make it home, wherever they are.

There are a few factors to take into account when it comes to electric vehicle charging. These include:

  • The size of the battery
  • How many miles you do between charges
  • How you charge, such as topping up often or charging from low to full
  • The power rating of the charger

Should I install dedicated charging points?

If firms are going down the electric route, installing dedicated fast-charging points on site may be a necessity. You can’t rely on public electric vehicle charging stations to provide the fast, reliable service you need to stay on the road.

Charging points could be located at a compound for commercial vehicles or in an office’s car park. This will require an upfront investment, but some of these costs can be claimed back using the government’s Workplace Charging Scheme. This allows for a grant of up to 75 per cent of the cost of a socket, up to a maximum of £350 each and no more than 40 sockets across all a firm’s sites.

What about home charging?

If employees use company EVs kept at their home, they’ll likely charge them there more often than not.

This can bring its own range of issues. For example, how does the firm compensate employees for their use of domestic electricity? And what about the charger itself?

Using a standard mains outlet and three-point pin should only ever be a last resort, as it’s the slowest possible way of charging an EV. This means many employers will therefore need to assist with the cost of installing a home charging point. This can be made more complex if a landlord’s permission is needed or there is no off-street or garage parking available at the employee’s home.

However you charge EVs – at work, at home or at public charging sites – you’ll need the right tools to make it simple and cost-effective. We can expect to see more electric vehicle fuel cards become available in the coming years. However, if you want to know more today about how to add electric vehicles to your fleet and manage them alongside existing petrol and diesel cars, contact Fuel Card Services.