Fuel Management: Quality, Timeliness & Powerful Data

Bernie Kavanagh

Vice President, Corporate Payment Solutions, Wright Express

Bernie, tell us what is the cur­rent focus at Wright Express.

At Wright Express we are focused on help­ing our cus­tomers opti­mize their fleets and real­ly their whole busi­ness. We con­tin­ue to focus on and enhance our fleet card pro­gram and we have oth­er spe­cial­ized pay­ment solu­tions. For exam­ple, we have sin­gle use elec­tron­ic pay­ments solu­tions, and our rapid! Pay­Card elim­i­nates the need for employ­ers to write checks. We also have pro­grams like WEXS­mart, which is a GPS telem­at­ics solu­tion to help com­pa­nies track their vehi­cles and employ­ees. Anoth­er offer­ing is Tela­point, which is a soft­ware pro­gram to help com­pa­nies man­age their bulk fuel­ing.

What is your assess­ment of where things are going in the indus­try?

It is good to see an eco­nom­ic upturn, but it is slow and frag­ile at this point. Busi­ness­es are slow to bring back employ­ees and they are still being asked to do more with few­er resources. Also, fleet man­agers want one com­pa­ny that can do more than just offer a fleet card and real­ly sup­ply a wide array of prod­ucts and ser­vices that can help max­i­mize their busi­ness. To address these needs, Wright Express is ded­i­cat­ed to find­ing the best ways to opti­mize fleets and offer­ings for their dri­vers and employ­ees. Addi­tion­al­ly, ris­ing fuel costs have peo­ple con­cerned and mar­kets are still very volatile, so the qual­i­ty, time­li­ness and pow­er­ful data that Wright Express com­bines with a high lev­el of ser­vice is para­mount for our fleet cus­tomers.

Alter­na­tive fuels are a hot top­ic. Busi­ness­es are look­ing for ways to max­i­mize their fuel­ing options, and we are see­ing some com­pa­nies eval­u­ate alter­na­tive fuels for their vehi­cles influ­enced in part by Fuel Econ­o­my (CAFÉ) stan­dards. Wright Express has made a com­mit­ment that regard­less of what type of fuel that our cus­tomers pur­chase they can count us to pro­vide the same lev­el of con­trol, report­ing and insight to help them man­age their fleet. We have worked with folks on com­pressed nat­ur­al gas (CNG) and elec­tric vehi­cles, and we have part­ner­ships with mer­chants now for accep­tance.

Anoth­er exam­ple of how Wright Express is grow­ing with the indus­try is the inte­gra­tion of fuel­ing data with the telem­at­ics solu­tion. For exam­ple, if you had a fuel trans­ac­tion that occurred in St. Louis and the vehi­cle hap­pened to be in Kansas City, a fleet man­ag­er needs to know about that. Why did that trans­ac­tion occur some­where that the vehi­cle wasn’t? Tools like these allow our fleet cus­tomer to bet­ter track vehi­cles and dri­vers, pre­vent mis­use and save mon­ey.

Talk about the green and envi­ron­men­tal solu­tions that you are offer­ing.

Rapid! Pay­Card is one of our green ini­tia­tives to elim­i­nate paper checks; a lot of com­pa­nies are look­ing to elec­tron­i­cal­ly deposit funds to an employ­ee. From a data col­lec­tion stand­point, for all of the alter­na­tive fuels avail­able, we are work­ing with the PCATS (Petro­le­um Con­ve­nience Alliance for Tech­nol­o­gy Stan­dards) indus­try to make sure we have all the prop­er prod­uct codes to report data. It is very impor­tant to fleets that pur­chase alter­na­tive fuel to be able to accu­rate­ly report the prod­uct codes. We have a lot of state and fed­er­al gov­ern­ments that are using our ser­vices and they need to be able to prove that they are tak­ing advan­tage of alter­na­tive fuels. This is part­ly due to man­dates by the U.S. Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion (GSA) requir­ing all new fed­er­al vehi­cle pur­chas­es to be alter­na­tive-fueled vehi­cles by 2015, and ulti­mate­ly reduce the country’s depen­dence on oil.

Tell us about your new pump shut-off pro­gram.

Our pump shut-off offer­ing is some­thing that we have had in devel­op­ment for quite some time. It has recent­ly been released and we are already get­ting great feed­back. Fleets want­ed to have a way to con­trol indi­vid­ual access, either at the trans­ac­tion lev­el or dur­ing the course of a day, but they also real­ize they need to put respon­si­bil­i­ty at the dri­ver lev­el. Fraud and mis­use typ­i­cal­ly tends to increase as the price goes up. With pump shut-off, fleets are now able to set a lim­it. For exam­ple, a fleet man­ag­er can set a lim­it of $50.00 per trans­ac­tion. When an employ­ee goes to fuel their vehi­cle, and the pump hits $50.00, the pump will close for that indi­vid­ual trans­ac­tion. The lim­it can also be set per day – so you could have a $100.00 lim­it per day, for exam­ple. Fuel­ing trans­ac­tions will go through until that final trans­ac­tion cross­es over the $100.00 mark where it will again stop there. It pro­vides addi­tion­al secu­ri­ty for the fleet man­ag­er to know they have set that lim­it on fuel­ing, and helps to reduce over­age.

In your opin­ion, what is hot in the indus­try right now?

In addi­tion to alter­na­tive fuels, anoth­er hot top­ic is mobile tech­nol­o­gy. This is real­ly a func­tion of how to dri­ve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty by deliv­er­ing bite-size amounts of action­able infor­ma­tion, such as alerts on vehi­cle loca­tion and the low­est price fuel in an area. Every­body is try­ing to exer­cise con­trol and change dri­ver behav­ior, so we give dri­vers’ the tools at their fin­ger­tips that can help them make good deci­sions.

For exam­ple, we recent­ly launched a new mobile app, Octane that helps dri­vers iden­ti­fy the cheap­est gas in the area, and alter­na­tive fuel options. Octane taps into Wright Express’s vast com­put­er data sets, using up-to-date trans­ac­tion-based fuel prices. It also uses text-to-speech tech­nol­o­gy for hands-free oper­a­tion so the user can focus on dri­ving while lis­ten­ing to audio direc­tions to their select­ed gas sta­tion. We under­stand fleets need dri­vers to arrive at fuel sites safe­ly and as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, and they are also look­ing for ways to save mon­ey by bet­ter man­ag­ing fuel costs and con­sump­tion. Octane is the first of its kind and designed to meet these needs, under­scor­ing our com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing cus­tomers with the best pos­si­ble fleet man­age­ment tools.

What is com­ing next?

I  think the push to mobile devices and social media to make sure that infor­ma­tion is quick, accu­rate and time­ly will con­tin­ue to be an impor­tant top­ic for the indus­try. Peo­ple want to make deci­sions quick­er and ensure they have the right infor­ma­tion to man­age their busi­ness. A fleet man­ag­er can’t scour through thou­sands and thou­sands of trans­ac­tions a day so they need to focus on the things that are impor­tant. The time­ly, accu­rate infor­ma­tion that we can give to cus­tomers and our abil­i­ty to push that down to a device is key for a fleet or divi­sion man­ag­er.

BIO

Bernie joined Wright Express 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 Mas­ter­Card 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 Mas­ter­Card 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 Wright Express, Bernie held a num­ber of roles with Enter­prise Rent-A-Car and Enter­prise Leas­ing.

Bernie earned a B.S. in Polit­i­cal Sci­ence with a minor in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from the Col­lege of New Jer­sey in Ewing, NJ. He is an active mem­ber of NAFA, AFLA, NCSFA, NAPCP and is a fre­quent speak­er at pay­ment indus­try con­fer­ences focus­ing on fuel trends and tech­nol­o­gy in the pay­ment space. As an indus­try expert, Bernie is reg­u­lar­ly called upon by busi­ness orga­ni­za­tions to com­ment on mar­ket news.

bernie_kavanagh@wrightexpress.com

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