Fuel Management

Fueling Florida's Fiscal Fitness

January 2008, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

Due to the state of Florida’s susceptibility to such natural disasters as hurricanes and tropical storms, state fleet managers may have a longer-than-average list of potential concerns, including how to clean up after a catastrophic event, and how to better prepare for the next one.

One worry Florida fleet managers share with their counterparts nationwide is the ever-present menace of budget constraints and increasing gas prices. Facing budget shortfalls, the state of Florida found a way to make the best of its circumstances while preparing for the worst by implementing a fuel card services program.

By placing fuel purchasing cards in the hands of drivers and giving control of card use to fleet managers, Florida can now closely monitor fuel expenditures and secure better prices on gasoline.

Comparison Shopping Ends

Florida’s fuel card program was a result of the collective effort of a number of Florida agencies interested in easing budget constraints.

"The program came together through the efforts of several key departments that were charged with balancing fiscal limitations in an era of ever-fluctuating fuel costs," said David Bennett, transportation and energy contracts team lead for Florida’s Department of Management Services. "The concept is based on leveraging the most advantageous pricing possible through the combined volume of the public sector fleets in Florida."

By implementing a statewide fuel card program, Florida agencies take advantage of wholesale pricing based on a weekly average Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) rack price for four geographic regions of the state, plus an agreed-upon vendor markup. That means no more shopping around for the best price per gallon — no matter where drivers stop. When they use the fuel card for gas purchases, they are guaranteed the same price per gallon as every other station in the region. In addition, the Comdata MasterCard is accepted universally, so drivers are never limited to specific stations.

Card Use is Flexible

Florida’s fuel card program also allows fleet managers more flexibility. While the Department of Management Services oversees the program — handing out cards and assigning driver identification numbers — each fleet manager chooses which specific controls are placed on drivers’ cards.

"With the Comdata MasterCard, the state has a vast array of controls that allow agencies limitless flexibility to carry out their assigned duties, while remaining consistent with the business rules of each agency operation," said Tom Gustin, national account manager for the Comdata Corporation. "Cards can be restricted by location, time of day, day of the week, pay inside or pay-at-the-pump only, by dollar amounts, or the number of transactions."

In addition, fleet managers can see these transactions as they happen, rather than waiting until the end of the month to balance their budgets.

"Fleet managers have the ability to directly manage fuel and fleet expenditures and observe vehicle performance and driver behavior by viewing purchases in real-time, as transactions occur," Bennett said.

That means no budget surprises when statements arrive at the end of the billing period. Fleet managers can check on driver purchases as often as needed. This ability helps fleet managers minimize lost dollars that may otherwise be spent at higher-priced stations or unauthorized purchases of food and beverages for drivers.

Furthermore, the card isn’t just for gasoline — it covers other fleet expenses such as maintenance and repairs, streamlining fleet maintenance and fuel purchasing processes. Rather than dealing with several cards and their related databases, fleet managers track just one card.

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