The UK’s leading fuel card provider is partnering the What Van? Awards to raise awareness of the benefits it can bring to the LCV industry, James Dallas reports
Fuel card giant Allstar sees the light commercial vehicle sector as a fertile area for growth and is partnering the What Van? Awards 2016 in order to put its name on the radar of the industry’s most important players.
Peter Bridgen, managing director of Allstar Business Solutions, says: “For Allstar Business Solutions, sponsoring these awards gives us the chance to help support and recognize the best products and services in the UK light commercial arena.”
The Fleetcor-owned company is tightening its stranglehold on the fuelcard market through a strategy of organic and acquisitional growth and also widening the breadth of its product offering. Bridgen says Allstar is on track to increase revenues by 10% this year and to add further growth of at least this much in 2016.
“There’s a couple of potential businesses we are looking at,” Bridgen told What Van?
“The LCV target is 10% minimum growth, most [of Allstar’s] new products relate to LCVs.”
Of the 8100 fuel service stations in the UK, Brian Flood, Fleetcor’s vice-president, products, claims Allstar is accredited at 7650 of them, including all top 20 suppliers.
In addition, 1850 of these sites belong to the Keyfuel network, which was part of the Fleetcor portfolio before it bought Allstar in 2011 for £195m.
The two strands are now combined in the Allstar One card.
The Keyfuel outlets, which drivers can find via an Allstar app, offer a 2p per litre discount as standard but this is often supplemented with further bulk deal discounts for volume customers.
Flood says the product is suitable for both “the guy with two vans” to major fleets, such as the Royal Mail. He admits many drivers will go to the retail sites for convenience and says: “There is a need to plan to have [discounted] sites on route if possible.” This, he says, is the responsibility of the fleet manager.
But he adds that Allstar has an advantage in terms of numbers over oil company cards, such as Shell and BP, which are restricted to their own networks.
Flood says the Allstar One card cuts out red tape for one man bands and larger operators because Fleetcor automatically logs the details of every transaction, including the vehicle registration and mileage, so the weekly or monthly invoice it provides the customer with can be used as the VAT reclaim document.
“Customers get the information in its entirety, they don’t have to chase the driver,” he says.
Flood claims the average fuel fill for a van is 50 litres, equating to a saving of £500 a year even for a small fleet of 10 vans with the 2p discount.
As he puts it, there is money to be saved without having to do much.
He says that of a total of more than a million Allstar fuel cards 200,000 Allstar One cards are already in use and reckons 100,000 more will be issued by the end of 2015.
Allstar’s partnership with the What Van? Awards is set to accelerate the card’s take-up.
“We think we’ve got the best kept secret,” Flood says.
“Allstar One is an attractive proposition for van fleets, the product is suitable for the market because van drivers cover a lot of miles.”
Diesel accounts for more than 90% of Allstar transactions and, despite the groundswell of negative publicity surrounding the fuel, Flood says this will not change any time soon with the vast majority of its customers’ vans operated on three-year leasing contracts.
Next year promises to herald a groundbreaking period in Allstar’s development with the company set to introduce a Visa-based product in the first quarter of 2016, called Allstar Mobility.
The card, for which Allstar has already secured FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) will expand beyond fuel to cover a myriad of business-travel related areas tailored to meet the requirements of individual customers.
These could include rail travel, hotel accommodation through tie-ups with chains such as Premier Inn, flights, vehicle rental through Enterprise if a van is off road or restaurants.
What’s more the card also covers service maintenance and repair through 9000 garages (half the UK’s total) - bookings are made via the Epyx SMR software firm Fleetcor acquired in 2013, breakdown through the AA, windscreen repair through National Windscreens and tyre replacement through ATS, with discounts of up to 25% available.
Product vice-president Brian Flood says that as the card continues to evolve Allstar wants to see it extend to cover parking payments and restricted access costs such as the London Congestion Charge.
The key benefit of the card is its adaptability to match the customer’s needs.
“Fleetcor can turn the products on and off,” explains Flood. For example, the fuel element of the card could include a control to prevent weekend use or one to block it from paying for unleaded petrol rather than diesel in order to make sure it is only used for the business vehicle intended and not for personal vehicles. But Flood acknowledges that this could cause problems in the event of misfuelling if the customer has no other payment means and urges operators to think carefully about the controls they need installed.
But in general, by loading a variety of services onto a single card Flood says Fleetcor is able to deliver simplicity for its customers.
The Allstar One card uses a chip and pin payment method (like a debit or credit card) rather than the magnetic strips traditionally fitted to fuel cards. This is far more secure, Flood argues, as the old style cards are cheap and easy to clone. Currently the cashier is obliged to check the registration number of the vehicle when the customer pays but with chip and pin the registration can be embedded into the card. If the driver uses more than one van they can use “an agnostic card”, suitable for any vehicle.
Tell tale signs
Fleetcor is currently piloting an enhanced Business Mileage Monitoring system, BMM GPS, using the Masternaut telematics platform it acquired in 2014.
The aim is to give customers accurate information about driver behaviour through feeding Allstar’s fuel data into drivers’ telematics results.
Product vice-president Brian Flood says Allstar will be able to inform operators which drivers are using too much fuel through speeding as well as determining wear and tear on tyres through harsh braking.
Masternaut can predict when vans need servicing and the work can then be booked through Fleetcor’s software SMR business, Epyx,
The system can also flag up if it appears more fuel than necessary for the journeys covered has been purchased.
“It enables the fleet manager to get a wider picture,” explains Flood.
“If the driver is a steady driver but is using more fuel, where has the fuel gone?”
Flood claims BMM GPS will simplify businesses’ BIK (Benefit in Kind) procedures when it goes live in January.
Allstar will provide operators with a log of journeys recorded on the GPS allowing customers to easily tick off business and personal mileages.
Summarising Allstar’s expansion of its services overall, Flood says: “We can generate stickiness with extra products because they generated convenience and savings.”
Fleetcor’s UK boss Pete Bridgen echoes these sentiments.
“To take a step ahead we need to look at other products fleets require – which are complimentary to fleet travel.”