Mike is the purchasing coordinator at ATS and he’s been with the company for over 15 years. He works with multiple vendors handling everything from office supplies to promotional items and clothing. He also manages the ATS fuel program. His favorite part of his job is helping different team divisions problem solve. That could be anything from finding fuel vendors to helping drivers that have questions on fuel or charges on their settlements.
As a truck driver, you’re more likely than not looking for a way to cut expenses and boost your income. With fuel costs on the rise in recent months, maybe your focus has turned to trying to figure out a way to save on fuel.
Fuel is far and away the costliest expense for a truck driver. You’ll be paying for it every other day if not every day, and it can feel like a little punch in the gut each time you see those numbers rising at the pumps.
Finding a way to get fuel discounts should be top of mind. For most drivers, that means taking advantage of fleet fuel cards. But fleet fuel cards can be confusing. How do they work? How do you know you’re really getting a discount? If you're running on your own as an owner-operator, how do you even get a fuel card?
I’m the purchasing coordinator here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) and I work on our fuel discount program to ensure our drivers get the best fuel discounts possible.
I’ll explain to you how you can get a fuel card, how you can utilize a fleet fuel card to get great fuel discounts and how to find a trucking company with a good fuel program.
Once you’re done reading, you’ll have a clear understanding of how you can take advantage of fuel discounts to get the best price and save yourself some money in the long run.
What is a Fleet Fuel Card?
Most trucking companies offer a fleet fuel card to their drivers.
Fuel cards are most often used by over-the-road (OTR) trucking companies. The cards are beneficial for both trucking carriers and their fleet of drivers.
Fleet fuel cards work as a partnership between trucking companies and truck stops. The discounts agreed upon by the trucking company and fuel stop flow through the fuel card. In turn, the cards offer significant discounts on fuel and other services, so it’s a win-win on both sides.
There are a number of different cards you can get that work with different truck stops and are designed for different fleet sizes.
How to Get a Fleet Fuel Card
If you're running as an owner-operator and need to get your own feel card, you need to go through a few steps. Before you even start to research fuel cards, check your credit score. This will help you narrow down which cards your business qualifies for.
When you're researching the best fuel card for your business, consider your fleet size. Is it just you or do you have a few trucks on your fleet? There are fuel cards that work well for small businesses and others that are designed for mega carriers.
Then, narrow down which cards you qualify for and which card offers the best options. You want a card that's accepted at a lot of locations, that has great rebates and has additional features like tracking tools.
When you've decided which card is best for you, just submit an application online, by mail or over the phone.
The Best Fleet Fuel Cards
If you're looking for the best fleet fuel card, these options have great benefits. From great discounts and perks to no fees, these fleet fuel cards are worth checking out:
Fuel discounts vary widely from carrier to carrier, and discounts fluctuate from day to day. For instance, just last week ATS was getting an average of sixty cents off every gallon of fuel. It will most likely be an entirely different story next week and the week after that.
There are two retail structures for fuel discounts that will drive how much money you’ll save at the pumps: retail-minus and cost-plus.
Retail-minus is fairly straightforward. A set amount of savings are deducted from the per-gallon retail price. For instance, you might get six cents off per gallon of fuel or 10 cents off per gallon every time this discount is applied.
This amount is determined at the start of each year. Trucking companies estimate how much fuel they’ll purchase for the entire year and a discount is set based on that estimate.
Cost-plus is more difficult to understand. The Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) sets the base price of fuel and then adds on the cost of taxes, transportation and other fees. Then it offers a discount. Cost-plus typically offers larger discounts to drivers, but the price fluctuates depending on the cost of a barrel of fuel.
The cost-plus model can be confusing because the prices are always fluctuating. One week you could receive 60 cents off per gallon of fuel and the next it could be 10 cents. It can be frustrating to think you aren’t receiving the proper discount, but this is how the discounts work.
To help understand why this happens, think about the rising costs of fuel. For instance, with the price for a barrel of fuel jumping up and down a dollar every now and again, discounts won’t rise or fall much. But when the price for a barrel of fuel rises by $15 overnight, you’ll see a significant drop in the cost-plus fuel discount.
Depending on the company you work for, you may get the best discount option between the two. For instance, if the cost-plus discount is only four cents per gallon of retail fuel one day but the retail-minus per gallon of retail fuel is six cents, you’ll automatically get the better discount.
How Do I Use a Fleet Fuel Card?
The fleet fuel card is fairly straightforward to use. You simply swipe the card at the pump and the discount is subtracted from the pump cost. The discount won’t show up on the receipt you get from the fuel desk but will be reflected on your pay settlement. The fuel card also acts as your form of payment.
Company drivers don’t typically have to pay for fuel, but independent contractors and owner-operators will. Their fuel costs are often taken directly out of their settlements.
Depending on the type of card you have, there may be a small transaction fee. Despite this fee, using your fuel card will provide you with more benefits in the long run.
The fuel card can be confusing for some drivers when they don’t see the discount automatically applied. They only see the retail price when they fuel, not the price with the discount. This can be confusing and unsettling because you may feel like you didn’t get the discount.
However, the discount will show up after you fuel. Depending on the company you work with and the card that you use, you could receive automatic savings on fuel or see them later in your settlements. You may also receive a rebate check at the end of each month with the amount of money owed after discounts were applied to fuel prices.
If you’re confused about how it works, the best thing to do is to talk to your dispatcher. Ask them how the fuel discount works at the company and when you can expect to see the savings. If they don’t have the answers they will be able to direct you to the person that can help.
How to Find a Company with Good Fuel Discounts
As I mentioned before, fuel discounts vary widely from carrier to carrier. It has a lot to do with a company’s buying power and their priority on providing discounts to their drivers.
Larger companies may be able to get bigger discounts because they’re buying more fuel each year. However, some companies don’t pass the discounts on to all drivers. Company drivers might get a better discount than independent contractors, or they won’t give discounts to anyone but company drivers.
The best way to ensure you’re signing on with a good carrier with good discounts is to ask. Talk to recruiters about what sort of fuel discounts they offer and if you qualify for them. Ask if you’ll receive the discount automatically or if you’ll be reimbursed.
Especially with the rising cost of fuel, finding a company that provides a good fuel discount may be one of the deciding factors for you to join that company.
How to Secure Additional Fuel Discounts
If you don’t have access to a fleet fuel card, there are still other options for you.
Most truck stops — and grocery stores — have discount cards or points systems where every purchase gives you points that translate to fuel discounts.
You can also get a discount by paying with cash versus with a card. That’s because there’s a surcharge on cards. When drivers pay with cash, fuel stops avoid this extra fee and they reward you for it.
It’s also good practice to utilize an app like Trucker Path to find live fuel prices so you can choose the most affordable truck stop. In some cases (like at ATS), your company may utilize its own app to show the daily discounts for the different truck stops.
Increase Your Fuel Efficiency and Save
When you have a fleet fuel card, the most important thing to remember is to use it. Even if you pay a small transaction fee, you will still save yourself money in the long run by taking advantage of the fuel discounts every time you’re at the pump. If you’re confused about what discount you’re getting, talk to dispatch or your dispatcher for clarification.
Fleet fuel cards and fuel discount programs are one way to save money on fuel, but one of the best ways to save money on fuel is by maximizing your fuel economy. For instance, did you know that controlling your speed is the best way to increase your fuel efficiency?
There are countless strategies you can employ to boost your fuel economy and put more money in your pockets today. We’ve put them all together in this handy list about semi-truck fuel efficiency.