Green Operations

State Fleets Adopt Fuel Cards to Reduce Cost

January 2009, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Staff

Every once in a while, fleet managers discover a magic solution — a simple and straightforward fleet management practice that solves a number of problems all at once. For the states of Illinois and Indiana, that magic solution was a fuel card program. Implementing the new program helped these fleets reduce costs, improve reporting, and will ultimately help them become greener fleets.  

Finding a Program that Fits

Prior to opting for a fuel card program, both Illinois and Indiana had fueling programs that didn't fit their fleets. For Illinois, state fuel transactions were spread across multiple vendors, which required manual processing and bill payment.

"There was very limited report capability due to the disaggregated spending," said Barbara Bonansinga, acting manager for the State of Illinois Central Management Services (CMS) Division of Vehicles. Paying bills was a costly and time-intensive process. Operating with several vendors and no central reporting system made it difficult for Illinois to closely track fuel purchases.

To minimize expenses, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich made it clear through a 2003 executive order that greater accountability for state fleet costs was expected. Since fuel is the top operating cost item, CMS Director James Sledge acknowledged, "Knowing fuel spend is key to compliance with the order and efficient overall management."

Indiana, however, tried its hand at a few fuel card programs, but found they offered limited capabilities. Previous programs offered cards for fuel, but didn't cover off-road vehicles or service and maintenance.

"In the past, the State focused the use of our fleet fuel card program on traditional passenger vehicles and their fuel usage only," said Michael Sturm, vendor manager for Indiana's Department of Administration Procurement Division. "As we changed to the Wright Express program, we realized we have a very diverse fleet, which includes your average four-door sedans, as well as everything from snowmobiles to airplanes, boats, and dump trucks. These vehicles need both fuel and services."  

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