With taxpayers demanding greater insight into how government spends their hard-earned dollars, scrupulous oversight of operating costs is more important than ever. Luckily, advances in fuel management software and technology make this possible.
Also known as fuel control systems, card lock systems enable fleet administrators to carefully manage fuel expenses by providing authorization and accountability.
Most systems are made up of two pieces of equipment: a fuel island terminal and a site controller. Drivers request access to fuel by swiping a card, inserting a key, punching in a personal identification number, or some combination thereof. The terminal sends the request to the site controller, which validates the driver’s credentials and then authorizes the driver to fuel. The controller also records how much fuel is pumped.
These controls enable fleet managers to establish parameters, such as quantity restrictions, and spot consumption irregularities that could indicate theft. Whether gasoline and diesel are $2 a gallon or $4 a gallon, theft can devastate an already stretched budget.
Entry-level site controllers, which sometimes come with the fuel island terminal, are typically used in smaller fleet applications to give fleet managers essential inventory data.
When combined with tank monitoring systems, more advanced controllers interface with PC- or web-based fuel management software to aggregate inventory and transaction data.
Featuring reconciliation, comprehensive reporting functions, and the ability to push data to back-office accounting and common fleet asset management software, fuel management software provides highly actionable information. Most of these programs are proprietary, engineered specifically to speak the same language as the card lock manufacturer’s site controller. Therefore, they may not be compatible with an agency’s existing brands of island and controller equipment.
However, they can vastly streamline processes and procedures.
Automated reconciliation, for example, eliminates manually collecting, calculating, and reporting fueling trends every week. It’s also more accurate because it’s not subject to human error.
Every drop of fuel
The programs enable fleet managers to account for every drop of fuel, from the time it’s loaded into the storage tank to the time it’s pumped into an authorized vehicle. Through instant visibility into volumes and anticipated usage, managers can optimize timing and pricing of fuel deliveries.
Advanced site controllers also automatically export mileage data to fleet asset management software. By facilitating the process of scheduling maintenance, this information helps prevent unexpected downtime.
The fuel island terminal is more expensive than the controller, but they work together as a system. Not surprisingly, the more bells and whistles, the more expensive it is.
One way to reap a long service life is to partner with a manufacturer that designs its equipment with upgradeability in mind. By significantly improving system capabilities, upgrading select components cuts costs by increasing efficiency.
For example, a basic site controller costs about $3,000. A controller with more capabilities would cost more, but would enable a 25-year-old card lock system to run on a more robust, user-friendly software platform. In addition to improving asset management tools for an incremental cost, this strategy preserves and maximizes the municipality’s original investment in the system.
An experienced fuel management equipment representative can advise you on upgrade options available for your system and make recommendations for cost-effectively optimizing it.
Bobby Hayes is the domestic sales manager at OPW Fuel Management Systems in Hodgkins, Ill. Visit www.opwglobal.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.