Fuel fraud and other tricky topics for fleet managers

Graham Wood 09/20/2019 Vehicle Management

Fuel fraud. It’s one of the most common issues that a fleet manager will face. Your fleet drivers may be excellent professionals, but the temptation is always there. Let’s face it, it’s an easy way for someone to make some extra money.

In the end though, if any of your fleet drivers do partake in fuel fraud then everybody loses, not just the business. Fuel fraud is not the only danger or risk you are exposed to as a fleet manager. There are of course a few other sticky subjects which we will also cover in this post.

But for now, let’s start with fuel fraud. What it is, how to spot it, and how to handle it with your fleet drivers.

Fuel fraud: the problem

We know, managing a fleet of vehicles is not easy. From managing your fleet’s schedule to handing emergencies, there’s a lot to look out for and be wary of. And that’s just before you get started with the working day. It’s a demanding role which requires a multi-talented, multi-faceted approach. Sometimes it’s how good your soft skills are which will define your success.

Perhaps arguably the most important aspect of your role is managing your drivers themselves. Even the most experienced and right-minded professional may make your role difficult by lying about something or, even worse, stealing. And this is where fuel fraud comes in.

Problematic scenarios

Delivery delays

There may be times when your drivers use your vehicles for their errands. For example they may stop off to see a friend or relative, or to do some other errands without asking for prior permission. To hide the fact they may tell you that the delay was due to traffic or an accident or being stopped by the law enforcement authorities. Another common one is when they make long distance journeys but decide to go their own way rather than staying on the agreed route. This may cause more expense in terms of fuel costs.

Increased repair costs

This can come about when there’s no well-defined ownership concerning your vehicles’ repair. Likewise, if your drivers are exclusively or not responsible for your vehicles’ maintenance. For example, there may be cases where your drivers commit fraud and charge you with unnecessary repairs, or things like an oil change. These claims can also be fake, which is even worse. You may not be able to know exactly what’s wrong with your cars. Moreover, what if all these repairs are due to bad driving behavior? If you have a fleet tracking solution like Veturilo, then you can know about such things in advance.

Classic fuel fraud

What are some cases of the more ‘classic’ fuel fraud, then? Well, for starters it’s simply stealing fuel and using it for their own benefit. Sadly it’s a quite common practice across industries since automated fuel dispensers have become available. It’s especially a problem when drivers use fuel cards (because it’s much easier this way - a huge problem for fleet owners). Drivers may purchase fuel quantities that are greater than the tank’s capacity without you even noticing. Also, your drivers may even exchange fuel cards between themselves for any reason.

‘Grey fleet’ reversed

The issue is even more complex concerning grey fleets. A Grey fleet is of course the term used to describe any vehicles that do not belong to the business, but are used for business travel. In this case there are many ways in which your drivers can take advantage at you business’ expense. For example, using your vehicles to transfer cargo, and/or people and make money out of it. While this one is more common for VIP fleet vehicles, it may also happen to you; no matter what kind of fleet vehicles you have.

The solution

So what can you do about fuel fraud, bearing in mind your main concern is prevention? We’re glad that you asked. The best thing is having detailed appendices in any vehicle and job contracts which stipulate the exact use cases that the vehicle should be used for, as well as policies for all related fuel matters. So that’s your starting point.

However, you can do a lot more than that. If you have a fleet management solution like Veturilo, you can get a lot of extra help with a minimum of fuss. You’ll have instant access to vital data which will unravel any fuel fraud mysteries. Try some of these for size:

  1. Vehicle trip logs. If you know exactly where your vehicles are at all times, and have a complete history, then you can challenge any driver when you smell a rat.
  2. Driving behaviors. One of your drivers may get his deliveries out faster than any one else. But there’s no use in that if he/she does it while driving badly or stealing fuel to do it. With a complete log of journeys and driving behavioral data, you have all the info you need to make a sound judgement and detect fuel fraud.
  3. Diagnostic notifications and alerts. Settle any claim about any malfunctions or problems with your vehicles that your drivers may claim easily with your diagnostic trouble codes. Also in this way you’ll be well prepared for the cost of repair; and also notice any frequency in a specific malfunction which could be related to driver behavior.
  4. Fuel consumption per trip. By tracking and keeping logs of all the fuel consumed by your vehicles per trip (versus the route taken and driving speeds), you will again have the upper hand, in any debate. A fuel mileage tracker is essential for the correct allocation of business and personal mileage for Grey fleets.

Using technology in your favor

At the end of the day, as harsh as it may sound - and actually dangerous to some people, it’s difficult for anyone to hide from technology. And this is especially the case for fleet management and the issue of fuel fraud. As we outlined above, there are many scenarios where technological advancements in fleet tracking solutions can help fleet manager’s lives get much easier in this area.

And so, in our opinion, if the technology is there then why not use it? As a fleet manager, you need all the help you can get in this area - and overall in fact.

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