By Paul Jackson, managing director, The Miles Consultancy
Such is the power of today’s data networks that most of us simply take it for granted that ‘our’ data will always be there whenever we want it.
Most of the time, it all works. When was the last time you needed to query a transaction handled by a top processor like Visa, for instance?
Businesses rely hugely for their operations on flows of timely, accurate data from multiple sources.
This is particularly true with information about fleets’ second-largest overhead, fuel.
Timeliness is as crucial as accuracy because many companies have to settle drivers’ fuel expenses within each pay period deadline to keep their tax affairs tidy.
As fuel cards ring-fence the fuel budget, businesses commonly use them to buy all the fuel that goes into company vehicles. They then recoup the cost of private fuel from their employees.
Some do this via an internal process while others use external specialists – but almost everyone needs fuel card data to do the job.
If this flow of information breaks down, as it did in January at the UK’s main fuel card provider Allstar, it is more than an inconvenience.
Without invoices or online access to their data, many customers had to resort to workarounds to avoid fuel BIK problems later on.
For everyone concerned, the situation was a thankfully rare warning against putting all one’s eggs in the technology basket.
But it would be a pity if the travails of Allstar customers ended up undermining confidence in the usefulness of fuel cards.
Don’t forget that fuel cards successfully pre-date both electronic payments and the internet.
Compared with pay-and-reclaim expenses, which are effectively a way for corporates to buy fuel or mileage from employees without knowing what they paid for it, they are an extremely sound business proposition.
Any technology can only be as robust as the platform it runs on.
But with that in mind, a multi-brand fuel card, accepted almost everywhere, will always be one of fleets’ most convenient, powerful and versatile cost-control tools.