Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced in the Budget that fuel duty would be increasing from October 1 by 1.28 pence per litre. Because of price fluctuations caused by the war in Iraq, Brown decided to delay any increase until then.
But speakers at the Fleet News Budget Briefing warned delegates that a delay in duty increases did not mean fleet decision-makers could postpone taking action to keep track of fuel costs.
Stewart Whyte, managing director of Fleet Audits and a director of the Association of Car Fleet Operators, said: 'Fleets would be better off with a card to monitor fuel use. It makes good sense and is a way to control fuel in terms of costs. Reducing fuel use also protects the environment.
'Many fleets still believe that they don't need to, can't or shouldn't bother monitoring their fuel use and cost on a careful basis. But fleets should review, revise and re-appraise their entire fuel management strategies.'
His stance was backed by Alastair Kendrick, director of PAYE and NI solutions at Ernst & Young.
He suggested that fleets not offering a fuel card as part of an employment package could be at a disadvantage, both financially and in terms of offering the best package to potential employees.
He said: 'It is a matter of practice that reps get a fuel card and it is a seen as a disadvantage if a fuel card is not offered.'
Some fleets might mistakenly think that providing a fuel card automatically means providing free fuel for private mileage.
However, the audience heard that even if drivers paid for their private fuel, a fuel card would still help manage fuel costs by correctly identifying the cost of private and business fuel.
Petrol and diesel bills are the second highest expense for employers after wages, said Danny Clenaghan, director of fuel and business solutions at event sponsor Arval PHH.
He said: 'Fleets need to capture mileage information for drivers. This keeps costs in check, ensuring that you know the challenges you face in terms of costs and can plan for them.'