Smarter payment solutions and tailored expense strategies are key for SMEs

By Thore Vestergaard, SVP and MD of Commercial Cards at FLEETCOR.

Cost saving is at the heart of all successful enterprises regardless of sector. However, it’s a strategic pillar that is gaining increasing focus for SMEs – particularly for those based here in the UK.

A recent economic report details some of the pressures that UK small and medium-sized businesses face – rising costs and slowing revenues being the two main drivers. What’s more, these economic pressures are heightened for businesses that rely on a fleet of vehicles to carry out fundamental operations.

The first half of last year alone saw the total vehicle operating costs for fleet vehicles – from cars to 44-tone articulated lorries – increase by 2.5 per cent. By far, the largest contributor to these costs was fuel, ranging from 17.6 per cent of costs for 7.5 tonne vans to 31.7 per cent for the largest vehicles.

So, the question remains, what payment tools, cost solutions and fleet insights can SMEs harness to improve efficiencies and protect their bottom line from further erosion when it comes to their reliance on fleet vehicles?

Maximising convenience for fleet managers

Opting for a fuel card typically enables businesses to monitor fuel usage and provides a convenient payment solution when purchasing fuel. However, ensuring your business runs as efficiently as possible is about saving the most precious commodity that we have; time. This is a consideration my organisation has tried to capture in the products and services it provides, one of the most recent being the Allstar Plus Visa card.

We’ve developed this particular fuel card to go ‘beyond fuel’ and give SMEs a combined fuel and expenses card which actively provides fleet managers with an HMRC-invoice on all fuel purchases made by company drivers along with a consolidated statement for all other expenses which are accrued through the VISA network.

Having this type of functionality means that SMEs can save themselves administration time and allows them the chance to take a more strategic role in running, growing and future-proofing their business.

Consolidate your payment solutions

In keeping with our ‘beyond fuel’ maxim, the Allstar Plus card can also be used not only for fuel purchases, but for those that are incurred by all employees when on the road – whether they be for accommodation, subsistence or other ad hoc costs. Having the ability to set limits on additional travel expenditure too, means that fleet managers via fuel cards can enact savings right across their organisation not necessarily limited to those that are just vehicle related.

By offering a product of this type, we’re giving those responsible for company fleets greater control and visibility of all expenses for which they are responsible – be it fuel, repair work, or other mobility related expenses. Combining the best in fuel card technology with the best of the Visa network, we provide customers with a complete solution and a holistic view to fleet wide expenses as a result. We’re giving them the opportunity to take a more strategic approach – something which in itself can have a positive impact on costs.

Opting for a solution that lowers costs

Operating a fleet of business vehicles can have huge implications for an SME’s efficiency. As a result, this should represent a crucial area of focus for businesses when it comes to actively managing expenditure and reducing the costs that are in their control. Fuel cards can play a key role in minimising costs for SMEs, offering discounts and lowering the price of fuel.

For example, the hybrid Allstar Plus Visa card provides access to Discount Diesel, providing drivers with a discount when filling up at the pump. It has also seen my organisation team up with over 1,000 UK garages to provide a rebate scheme. As a result, customers have access to a 10% rebate on any vehicle costs related to fleet servicing, maintenance and repair work (SMR).

This rebate can be used to ensure customers are getting the best value for SMR purchases relating to essentials like new tyres and glass. It also means that SME fleet managers don’t have to spend hours looking for the best deals.

Using technology to spot fleet inefficiencies

Like other sectors, technology, and particularly data, is paving the way for driving greater business efficiencies, particularly when it comes to fuel and maintenance. From mileage, to the number and frequency of fuel stops, to maintenance logs, the vehicles within a fleet offer operators a wealth of information that can help them take steps to improve fuel efficiency. However, in order to do this, they must have access to comprehensive Management Information (MI) protocols and procedures in order to collect and analyse data effectively.

Optimising through telematics

By harnessing telematics, businesses can gain access to a more intricate level of vehicle data helping them to better understand their driver’s behaviour on the road.

This data gathering can prove useful in tailoring driver training programmes, which can be designed to improve driving techniques and behaviours across a company’s fleet vehicle users. What’s more, Allstar Business Solutions offers a business mileage monitor which allows organisations to view drivers’ full journey details, including actual pence per mile calculations, without the need for receipts.
As a result of following some of these simple steps, SMEs can make the most out of their payment solution, bringing greater efficiencies and driving costs down for their business in uncertain times.

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