Using Prescriptive Data to Manage Fuel Costs, Boost Productivity

Bernie, what are the concerns that fleet managers are bringing to you now with respect to fuel management?

I think what our clients are telling us now is more around data; not just being predictive but being prescriptive. They don’t want to just receive all of the available information and hunt and peck through it and try to find opportunities. They are looking for us to take all of this disparate data, bring it together, aggregate it, and tell the story for them. They are looking for us to do the analyses, use different pieces of data that they can provide, or we can provide to them, and just help in overall enhancing their business.

What sort of data are they mostly concerned about? What are some of the hot buttons?

When you take one piece of data it may tell one story, but when you can take different pieces of data and put them together it tells a much different story. An example of that would be enhancing the reporting with both our fuel data and our telematics data. When you start to put those two pieces of data together, you start to look at things like changing driver behavior, which helps to lower your operating costs and to boost productivity.

It is getting into the mind of that driver and, again, being prescriptive and not just being reactive to what that driver did, but trying to find out where the vehicle has been going based on fueling patterns, where the vehicle should be, and then putting together a recommendation for that fleet to ultimately enhance that driver experience.

How are successful fleets using this data?

I think there have been a number of success stories based on what the company is focusing on. We offer four different products from a telematics standpoint because each industry is a little different in what they are looking to focus on. As an example, a delivery company may be more concerned with productivity and routing and things of that sort. We have success stories with companies who have been able to look at the data, find out where their drivers have been going and optimize that driver route – and saving upwards of one to two thousand dollars per vehicle per year. That can start up over time when you have a couple hundred or maybe even a couple thousand vehicles.

We also have a number of success stories from the safety standpoint. Fleets that have been able to lower insurance costs or a heavy equipment fleet who needs to find out whether safety mechanisms on the vehicles are in place before they put a boom up. Telematics data can tell you that, and each company specializes in a different piece of data, but when you pull all of that data together and aggregate it, it tells a much different story.

You have some unique products in the fuel space. Let’s talk about fuel hedging.

Hedging continues to be an offering that is of interest to folks. I think anytime you can lock in or at least cap some sort of a fuel cost, it is enticing. I think businesses need to make that decision, though, to say, if fuel prices were to rise what impact would that have on my business? And if it is not a great impact, then they are not really going to be interested in that. Some companies have a built in hedge. Some companies are able to pass through that cost to their end customer. We have seen a lot of success in the hedging product in places like utilities. Folks that are not necessarily able to pass through that cost or maybe just don’t want to pass through that cost, so they enter into programs where they know they have a cap on a PPG, if you will. They know that as they are bidding out contracts for three and five years, they are protected so it allows them to be a little more aggressive in the marketplace.

What is the next big thing in the fuel business?

I think the next big thing, really, is going to be centered around data. It is the ability to  access that data in real time fashion and then being able to return that data to somebody who can make decisions using that data.

We are going to need to be involved from a card standpoint, from a data collections standpoint. We are working very closely with our partners on the oil side of things with the point of sale devices to make sure all the data can be captured and passed through. I think that is really where the market is going to go.

What trends that you are seeing in the industry?

We are seeing a lot of interest in the telematics product. A lot of folks are now looking more at driver safety — at driver behavior. Early on, I think fleets were questioning their return on the investment. What we learned very early on was you might not necessarily be able to pinpoint what the opportunity is going to be until you actually have those devices in the vehicles. We have had a number of clients come back and say, “I never knew I was going to find this information. I never knew I had a problem in this area.” Telematics has become very popular.

Are you agnostic in terms of telematics providers?

We are agnostic in the sense that we can take data in from any of the providers to integrate it with everything else that we can do. We do resell for four different companies and we have been very selective with whom we partner to meet the specific needs of the industry. But as far as the data goes, we are agnostic to that. That is really where you are seeing it, you are seeing that most folks now are moving away from the hardware itself and really just concerned with the data.

Bernie joined WEX Inc. in 1996 as a District Sales Manager and his career has been a steady progression of increased sales and marketing responsibility between existing and new segments of the Fleet and Virtual Payments business. In 2008 Bernie was named Vice President of Corporate Payment Solutions. In this role he is responsible for overseeing the retention and growth of all mid- to large size customer relationships in both the Fleet and Virtual Payments lines of business. He also has responsibility for the Partner relationships, helping the Fleet Management companies grow their business and oversees the acquisition and growth of the Government line of business. Prior to joining WEX, Bernie held a number of roles with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Enterprise Leasing.

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