Updated: Aug 22
When it comes to diesel fuel, you may have control over how much fuel you use or how efficiently you use it but you don’t have very much control over exactly how much you have to pay for it. However, thanks to the ever-growing list of fuel cards and smartphone apps, you now have the tools you need to ensure you are paying the lowest price possible for fuel during your next fill-up. In this article, we will go over some of the fuel cards and apps you can use to help reduce how much you are actually paying for fuel.
How Do Fuel Cards Work?
Fuel cards are designed to offer carriers and drivers per-gallon discounts on fuel and other services specific to trucking. Companies that offer fuel cards set up partnerships with truck and fuel stops in order to drive sales through discounts. Then when the fuel card provider sends one of its member drivers to a partnering truck or fuel stop, the fuel card provider receives a percentage of the fuel sale. The discounts offered usually vary depending on location and change daily.
These cards function the exact same as a credit card except they provide you with a discount on fuel. There is very little effort that goes into creating savings on fuel for yourself.
What Kinds of Fuel Cards are There?
There are many different types of fuel cards offered by a variety of companies. Some fuel cards are offered by truck stops, some are offered by fuel providers/oil & gas companies, some are offered by trucking and driver associations, and some are offered by companies whose only service is their fuel card. Each fuel card will offer its own discount amount, partner with its own truck stops, and have its own additional discounts and benefits. Some fuel cards are better for different types of truckers, some are better for those that live in certain areas of the country, some are better for individual drivers while others are better for small fleets. These are all things you will have to consider if you are wanting a fuel card for the first time or are looking to switch cards.
How are Fuel Savings Calculated?
Per-gallon fuel discounts are negotiated between the truck stop and the fuel card provider. The two models of savings that are most commonly offered by fuel card providers are “retail-minus” and “cost-plus.”
Retail minus is a fairly simple concept. A certain amount of money is deducted from the per-gallon price of fuel every time you use the card. Those savings are passed directly to the fuel card user.
Cost-plus is a little more complicated as it’s based on the Oil Pricing Information Service’s base price of fuel for each location. Added to the base price are taxes, transportation costs, and other fees. However, this price is cheaper than the retail price being offered at the truck stop and most of the time ends up being cheaper than the retail minus price as well.
Some fuel cards will offer a “better of” option where it will provide the card user the better discount between retail-minus and cost-plus.
What are Other Reasons to Use a Fuel Card?
Fuel cards often have more benefits other than discounts on fuel. As previously mentioned, some fuel cards offer discounts on other services such as maintenance, tires, document scanning, lodging, and other common expenses.
If you use a fleet card for your small fleet, you can control who uses the card, what the card can purchase, how much it can purchase, etc. This leaves you with much more control than a normal credit or debit card.
When you use a fuel card, it will automatically keep track and provide you with important information and documentation that will help you with things like IFTA filing. This will save you a lot of time not having to gather this data and information yourself.
What Fuel Cards Do We Recommend?
Based on conversations we’ve had with our owner-operator clients, we’re able to recommend a few fuel cards that we often hear about.
These are just a few of the many fuel cards and programs that are available to you. The fuel programs listed above give a good variety of the different options and services available through these programs. When beginning your search, feel free to start with our recommendations and use them to find the fuel card that best fits your specific needs.
What Can I Use as an Alternative or in Addition to Fuel Cards?
There are a few types of alternatives to fuel cards that can help get discounts on fuel. Most of these alternatives are simply apps you can download on your phone.
Mudflap is an app that focuses on independent Mom & Pop truck stops. These truck stops are usually 20 cents cheaper than major chains and paying for fuel through Mudflap saves you an extra 25 to 50 cents per gallon. They do all of this while charging no fees.
Fuelbook is another free app that automatically looks up fuel prices for you to see where it's being sold at the cheapest price. They look at over 7,000 truck stops nationwide and update the app six times daily. They make it easy to compare prices and decide where to stop for fuel.
When it comes to reducing the price you’re paying for fuel, you have many different options. If you aren’t taking advantage of any of these cards or apps, now would be a good time to start. Driving with fuel efficiency in mind while using these different options to save on the price of fuel will really help you reduce the amount you are spending on your biggest cost as an owner-operator.