Is your trucking company using a credit card instead of a fuel discount card as your company’s fleet card? If so, you’re paying far too much for diesel, your company’s largest operating expense! Even if you manage to pay off the balance on your fuel credit card prior to 30 days and avoid interest payments, you’re still paying too much.
As an owner of a trucking company, paying too much for anything is simply not an option. Trucking is a low profit business. As a rule of thumb, industries with 20% margins are considered high, 10% is a healthy margin, and 5% is a low margin. The transportation industry has an average profit margin of around 4%, that’s a razor thin margin! Of course, there have been great years in trucking (looking at you 2014 and 2018), but even under optimum conditions the industry couldn’t break through an 8% ceiling. Operating a successful trucking business demands full attention to details and a disciplined approach to fiscal management.
How to increase your trucking company profits
Trucking companies make good money when they maximize equipment utilization and focus on improving profits. There are only three actions you can take to increase your trucking company’s profits:
- Reduce costs to lower your company’s cost-per-mile.
- Increase your company’s rate-per-mile.
- Drive more loaded miles to increase revenue
Of course, growth is essential in business. After all, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. But the simple fact is, in low-profit margin businesses, there’s more money to be made by reducing costs than by increasing sales.
Trucking companies must implement a system where expenses will be minimized and totally controlled. Fleet fuel cards are an ideal tool to save costs and control expenses. But first, let’s look at credit cards.
Why credit cards for fuel are a convenience at great expense
An industry survey showed that almost two-thirds of owner operators used credit cards for business expenses, including the purchase of fuel. Because of the convenience and accountability, many small to mid-size carriers also utilize credit cards for over-the-road expenses. Unfortunately, few realize that this convenience comes at great expense.
The truth about credit card diesel markups
The price of fuel that’s posted for all to see on the big sign in front of a truck stop is the cash price. The pump price for diesel is much higher if paid for by credit card.
Your driver sees what is posted in big numbers out front and may think that’s today’s price per gallon. He would be correct, but only if he’s paying cash. The credit card price is higher, usually anywhere from 5 to 10 cents more per gallon.
Credit card rebates and points do not cover the additional costs
Some company owners get a 1% rebate on credit card purchases and think this is a great rewards program.
In this scenario, the rebate is $37.50 but the additional cost for using a credit card is $90.00. Despite a 1% rebate, the company owner pays an additional $62.50.
Many company owners enjoy getting reward points for their purchases and justify using their credit card as a fleet card for this reason. Consider the cost versus what you are rewarded:
- 1,500 gallons per month x $2.50 per gallon x 1 reward point per dollar = 3,750 points
- 100 points = $1.00
- 3,750 points = $37.50
If it costs you an additional $90.00 per month per truck to pay by credit card and you only get $37.50 worth of reward points, you are still in the hole!
When using credit cards to pay for fuel and other over-the-road expenses, paying the balance off before interest accrues is key. Otherwise you run the risk of digging yourself into a deep and costly hole. A much better payment option for carriers is to use fuel discount cards.
How do fleet fuel cards work?
A fuel discount card is a specific type of fleet card, used for payment at truck stops. As the name suggests, it provides discount pricing to the trucking company. Because it performs similar to a debit card, fuel discount cards qualify for the cash price, the lowest posted price at the pumps.
As a discount card, it further qualifies the business owner to receive additional rebates off the posted cash price. You receive the cash price plus an additional discount, as much as 12 cents per gallon. You save twice! That equals huge savings at the end of each month.
What is the difference between fleet fuel card vs. credit card?
Credit cards are convenient, widely accepted and expensive. Fuel discount cards are a convenient, cost-saving and valuable accounting tool. Operating with low profit margins makes cost control a vital necessity.
Fleet cards are a valuable accounting tool due to the convenient and comprehensive reporting that they offer. Fleet cards enable trucking companies to view real-time transactions, prepare fuel tax reporting and set purchase controls to help them stay informed of all business-related expenses.
A distinct benefit that separates the best fleet card programs from most other cards is the ability to withdraw cash advances. Armed with the right card, you and your drivers can easily access ready cash from convenient locations across North America. As your drivers safely manage cash while on the road your company’s accounting department tracks, monitors and controls each withdrawal.
How to choose the best fleet fuel card
Be careful when choosing the right card for your trucking company and do a fleet fuel card comparison. Only a few suppliers carry all the benefits of a quality fuel discount card.
Whether you have one truck or a fleet of 300+ trucks, the best fuel discount card programs provide immense value to benefit your bottom line. Look for a card that offers:
- Huge savings off the cash price
- No transaction fees
- Credit terms on fuel purchases
- Accepted at major full-service truck stops across North America
- Easy qualification for any size fleet
- Card security, monitoring and control
- View all transactions in real time
- Easy-to-understand reporting
eCapital’s fuel discount program offers all that and more. The program is also affiliated with the EFS fuel card network and is accepted at over 16,000 truck stop locations across the United States and Canada.
Put a plan into action
No matter where you stand with your current spending on fuel, if you can put plans in place to reduce your costs and consumption, you’ll end up improving your profitability.
The spending habits of your drivers and your company’s money management will largely determine the success of your trucking company. A credit card may, at times, serve as a lifeline, but often becomes a financial drain, depending on how it is used.
Use of a fuel discount card will return huge savings on the cost of fuel, provide easy accountability and allow for cash advances to accommodate for extra over-the-road expenses.