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The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Savings with Fuel Cards for Truckers 

Kim Diggs

May 15, 2024

Every penny matters when you own a trucking company. A trucking fuel card helps you save on one of your biggest expenses. In this article, we’ll compare fuel card types for truckers, share some tips for optimizing your savings and learn how factoring and trucking fuel cards can work together to improve your business operations and finances.   

What’s in this guide:

Understanding Fuel Cards 

The Common Types of Fuel Card Programs for Owner Operators Compared 

Freight Factoring and Fuel Cards: A Perfect Pair 

Selecting Fuel Cards for Trucking 

How Do I Save the Most Money with a Fuel Card?  

Fuel Expense Planning as a Small Fleet  

Understanding Fuel Cards 

Let’s begin with the definition of fuel cards. Fuel cards unlock discounts on fuel, typically at participating fuel stops, provide additional savings on maintenance and tires and many integrate with your factoring company.  Here’s a brief overview of how they work: 

  • Diesel Purchase: Using a fuel card is as simple as pulling into a fuel stop, swiping the card, and filling up your tank. 
  • Transaction Record: Your fuel purchase’s date, time, location, and total expenditure are all documented in your fuel card account. 
  • Payment: If you have a credit-based fuel card, you have a predetermined credit limit. Your provider then sends you a bill for the balance that you can pay directly or through other methods. If you have a cash-secured card, you deposit or transfer a lump sum onto the card, and your transactions are deducted until they are exhausted until you reload it with more funds.  

The Common Types of Fuel Card Programs for Owner Operators Compared 

Fuel cards are available in several varieties, each with its own set of perks. Let’s break it down: 

  • Cash-Secured Fuel Cards: Cash-secured cards function similarly to gift cards in that you load a certain amount of money onto them and can use them to buy fuel until the balance runs out. Because there is no need for a credit check, these fuel cards have a much higher acceptance rate. They also do not require repayment. 
  • Fleet Cards: These cards are perfect for trucking companies that own several vehicles. They often have reporting capabilities and tools for managing expenses, making monitoring and regulating fuel consumption and expenses simpler throughout the fleet. 
  • Credit-based fuel cards: Just as it sounds, credit-based fuel cards allow you to make purchases without having to deposit money for the transaction up front. These allow you more flexibility in paying for expenses and can potentially help you build your business credit. 
Woman checking the fuel level on truck

Freight Factoring and Fuel Cards: A Perfect Pair 

One of the biggest benefits of factoring is the improved cash flow. Rather than waiting 30-60 days, you get paid for your work when it makes the most sense – soon after it’s complete. Getting your factor’s fuel card allows you to hold onto more of the money you’ve earned, while streamlining your cash flow management. 

How freight factoring works

Freight factoring helps trucking companies get paid on their loads — fast. This is how it works: 

  • You haul the load
  • You send your factoring company the invoice
  • Usually, in less than a day, the factoring company advances you your money, minus a small factoring fee

That’s it. The factor then works on your behalf to collect payment from your customer.

There are many additional benefits of factoring — broker credit checks and back-office assistance — that are pretty standard. When selecting your factor, don’t just go for the basics. Choose a partner that offers access to other essential services, such as a fuel card or trucking insurance to streamline your finances and the team you work with. 

The Benefits of Getting a Trucking Fuel Card with Your Factor 

Pairing your fuel card with factoring services can maximize your savings and productivity in the following ways: 

  • More efficient finance management: Having everything in one place means you can see what’s coming, and what’s going. Being able to see the status of your submitted invoices, and take a look at your fuel expenses and savings in one portal allows for easier fuel and maintenance planning. 
  • Easier fuel card funding: Getting your factor’s fuel card means you’re able to use that card as a funding method. So, when you’re about to get paid, you have the option to put all or a portion of those funds on your fuel card for free versus having to pay a fee to move money from another account to your card. 
  • Offset your factoring fees: When you save money on fuel, you’re holding onto more cash that can be used in various parts of your business. Offsetting your expenses is one of the biggest perks of getting a quality fuel card.  

Selecting Fuel Cards for Trucking 

With so many fuel cards on the market, how do you determine which one to choose? Here’s what to look out for: 

  • Fuel Station Acceptance: Make sure your card is welcome at plenty of stations. It’s all about having options. A card that is accepted at well-known fuel stations is key because, in order to benefit from those savings, you need to be able to find an in-network station along your routes.  
  • Charges and Fees: Watch out for fees that could chip away at your savings. Certain fuel cards might not charge annual or transaction fees but may include other fees that could greatly reduce your savings. To determine if a card is right for you, look at last quarter’s fuel expenses and calculate how much you would’ve saved using the particular card you’re considering, keeping the fees in mind and the number of in-network fuel stops that were along your routes. 
  • Reporting and Expense Management: A good card will help you keep an eye on your spending. Many trucking fuel cards come with reporting features that let you monitor how much fuel you use. These reports can offer insightful information about your spending habits, helping you make well-informed choices that minimize your fuel use while thoroughly tracking your expenses for IFTA tax filing. 
  • Accessibility: Consider how simple it is to manage your account with your trucking fuel card. It should be easy to check balances, view transaction history, and manage your account while on the road with user-friendly mobile apps or web portals. 
  • Customer Service: It’s critical to have dependable customer service. You never know when you or a driver may misplace a card or, even worse, end up being a victim of fuel fraud. Knowing that you can contact a helpful customer care team if you run into any problems can give you peace of mind. 
  • Fraud Protection: Trucking fuel cards are vulnerable to fraud like any other form of payment. Seek out fuel cards with robust fraud prevention features, like the ability to establish spending limits to stop illegal usage and receive real-time transaction warnings. Some providers even offer two-factor authentication.  
  • Extra Benefits: In addition to fuel discounts, some cards offer additional benefits like roadside assistance, discounted tires and maintenance.  

How Do I Save the Most Money with a Fuel Card?  

Ready to make the most of your fuel card? Here’s how: 

  • Fuel Savings: It’s the most straightforward way to save. Having access to discounts is a trucking fuel card’s most obvious benefit. Though the amount per gallon may not sound like much of a discount, you can save quite a bit over the course of a month.
  • Optimal Route Planning: Use your card’s app to plan your route based on mileage and in-network fueling stations along the route. This gives you a chance to maximize your savings on fuel with each load delivered. 
  • Improve Your Fuel Consumption: Many cards will give you a breakdown of your fuel use. By examining your routes and behavior, you can increase your savings even further by cutting down on fuel consumption. 
Man filling his blue semi truck with diesel fuel

Fuel Expense Planning as a Small Fleet  

Running a tight ship takes organization and planning, but it can be made easier with the right tools. Here’s how to stay ahead: 

  • Route Optimization: Make use of route planning tools to get rid of unnecessary miles. To identify the most economical routes, use the tools or software for route planning your trucking fuel card program offers. 
  • Fuel-Efficient Driving Techniques: Educate yourself or team on fuel-efficient driving habits. This includes maintaining constant speeds, cutting idle time, and steering clear of sudden acceleration and braking.  
  • Frequent Vehicle Maintenance: A well-tuned truck uses less fuel. By maintaining a regular maintenance schedule, you can ensure your truck runs smoothly and reduce your fuel spend. 
  • Track Fuel Prices: Pay careful attention to diesel costs at different locations during your trip. You can use this information to gauge the impact of your fuel card’s savings. By plotting your fuel stops at in-network locations along your route, you maximize the amount of money you can save.  
  • Fuel Usage Analysis: To learn more about your fuel usage trends, use the reporting and analysis tools your fuel card offers. Determine where you can improve, then modify your operations in those areas. 

Your trucking company can save significant money if you choose the appropriate fuel card and use it wisely. You can pick a fuel card program that best suits your needs by weighing the pros and cons, such as fuel station acceptance, discounts, fees, reporting capabilities, and other benefits.