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Fleet And Fuel Cards

Preventing 4 Common Methods of Fleet Gas Theft With Smart Fuel Cards

Gas theft routinely creates a dent in fleet fuel management. Here’s how smart fuel cards help you solve the problem.

A van drives down a suburban road

Gas theft methods become more sophisticated every year and challenging economic conditions are making it more prevalent. As a fleet manager, if you’re relying on paper receipts and spreadsheets to stop gas theft these days you’ll lose before you even begin.

The good news is smart fuel cards can help you combat almost every form of fuel theft. Unlike older gas cards, a smart card gives you granular control over spending, links with telematics, and gives you real-time visibility into drivers’ transactions.

Best of all? They do this without inconveniencing your drivers or disrupting your work processes, ensuring a smoother experience for everyone.

Here are 4 common fleet gas theft methods and how smart fuel cards stop them.

Gas Theft Method #1 – Misreporting Mileage

Misreporting mileage is one of the most common methods of fuel theft. Drivers report higher mileage than the actual distances they cover, justifying a higher fuel expense. Tracking paper receipts or even using older-generation fuel cards does little to stop such theft, since there’s no connection to technology like GPS tracking..

For one, drivers can falsify or “lose” paper receipts. Paper is also prone to damage, complicating fuel tracking. You might think an older-generation fuel card will give you more control—but this isn’t necessarily the case.

Unlike a smart fuel card, older cards do not give you granular control over fuel spending. They reduce inconveniences for your drivers but do little else. For example, an older fuel card relies on drivers manually entering odometer data, opening the door for errors.

A smart fuel card links with your telematics platform to help you nip mileage misreporting in the bud. Here’s how it works:

  • Set up geofences—pre-approved routes and fuel stations—in your telematics platform.
  • Connect your smart fuel card to telematics to ensure it works only within those areas.
  • Verify driver odometer readings with automated telematics data syncs.
an image showing and example of geofencing that prevents drivers from making unauthorized fuel stops

Geofences prevent unauthorized driving routes and fuel stops

Your smart fuel card will record expenses on an online dashboard in real time. Compare your driver’s odometer readings to ELD records in your telematics platforms to verify the distances driven.

In short, your smart fuel card significantly reduces the odds of drivers stealing fuel by misreporting mileage. With backing from telematics, the chances of fuel theft become minimal.

Features like these helped JED Transport clamp down on fuel fraud while enhancing driver satisfaction. Previously, the company struggled to contain fuel fraud, failing to recover money in several instances.

With granular control over expenses thanks to Coast, JED’s team can focus on increasing their fleet’s efficiency and margins.

Gas Theft Method #2 – Falsifying Fuel Receipts

Let’s address the (paper) elephant in the room. For the longest time, paper receipts have been a fleet manager’s first line of defense against theft. However, receipts have plenty of downsides. 

They get damaged, lost, or can be falsified. You can impose stricter controls and verification processes, but these methods don’t address the inherent weakness of relying on paper.

For example, if a driver reports losing a receipt or submits a heavily damaged one, how can you figure out if their actions are malicious or a genuine mistake?

Removing paper from your fuel expense reporting process prevents such tricky situations from coming up in the first place. All your drivers’ purchases show up in real time on a secure electronic dashboard, giving you deep visibility into your fleet’s spending patterns.

An image showing Coast’s dashboard that centralizes all fleet spending data by driver and vehicle

Coast’s dashboard centralizes fleet spending data, giving you a single source of truth.

Removing receipts from your workflow also helps your drivers. They don’t have to worry about storing paper or losing receipts by mistake. They use a smart fuel card tailored to them, purchase any additional items like supplies (if their policies allow), and continue on their way.

The smart fuel card automatically categorizes every purchase, making your and your drivers’ lives easier. If you want receipts, you can ask your drivers to take a photo on their phones and send it to you.

Smart fuel cards also simplify auditing drivers’ expense claims and fuel spending. Thanks to integrating with telematics and fleet management systems, you can instantly compare and verify important data.

Instead of spending days finding, organizing, and analyzing paper receipts, you simply look at a dashboard that highlights discrepancies.

An added benefit to these proactive measures is that your drivers will understand how serious you are about stopping fuel theft, helping you set the tone early in the hiring process.

This stops any thought of fuel theft before it starts, and establishes a culture of honesty in your fleet.

Gas Theft Method #3 – Fueling Personal Vehicles

A driver pulls into a gas station with your fleet vehicle, with another person pulling in the driver’s personal vehicle close behind. The driver fills your vehicle and without shutting off the pump, fuels their personal vehicle.

Their receipt (or legacy fuel card transaction statement) shows a single purchase, giving you no way to verify how many vehicles received fuel. Now, modern fuel cards give you a way of spotting discrepancies.

You can dive into telematics data to calculate mileage and figure out whether the fuel purchases stack up. However, this method does not work at scale. Imagine tracking the routes of over 50 vehicles over a month, matching receipts from all your drivers to vehicle telematics data.

And what if one of your vehicles has maintenance issues that decrease its fuel efficiency, necessitating higher fuel expenses? Tracking these issues and singling out actual fuel theft is beyond tedious.

Instead of chasing paper or losing yourself in a mine of data, you can automate alerts and controls with a smart fuel card. Smart fuel cards (like Coast) let you add each vehicle’s fuel tank capacity and receive alerts when the fuel filled exceeds it.

A gif illustrating how Coast helps fleet managers add each vehicle’s fuel tank capacity to prevent gas theft

Add each vehicle’s fuel tank capacity to prevent gas theft

Here’s a scenario:

  • You link a smart fuel card to your telematics platform
  • The odometer data syncs automatically
  • The telematics platform tells you how much fuel is left in the tank
  • The smart fuel card records the purchase and alerts you if your driver fills fuel exceeding this limit.
  • Telematics data helps you verify how much fuel was filled, giving you data to prove theft.

Add some of the features we previously talked about, like geofences, and you’ll eliminate any chances of station collusion and fuel fraud.

Austin-based pest control company The Bug Master uses these features to understand vehicle-level performance. Previously, the company struggled to uncover unauthorized fuel spending. Instances of card misuse were subtle, but really added up over time.

With real-time data, automated controls, and alerts, The Bug Master team manages their fleet efficiently and removes any loophole that could cause fuel theft.

Gas Theft Method #4 – PIN Sharing

PIN sharing is a glaring weakness in older-generation fuel cards. On the surface, a fuel card with a PIN offers more security. However, if the person using the card has malicious intent, a PIN doesn’t do much to prevent theft.

Your drivers might know each other’s PINs, enabling them to steal fuel. Or, someone could simply steal your driver’s PIN. Lack of PIN security muddies fuel theft tracking since your card’s transactions will reflect purchases from several vehicles.

Replacing fuel cards to stop such misuse won’t have an effect here, since the lack of secure PINs is an underlying problem. The best way to nip this problem in the bud is to tie card usage to one person—and technology can help you easily achieve this.

Coast’s SMS check-in process is an example of such technology in action. Drivers check in to their cards using SMS on their phones, validating their identity, and unlocking the card for purchases.

An image showing Coast’s SMS check in workflow that validates card users. This restricts card usage to only authorized users.

Coast’s SMS check in workflow ensures only authorized employees use your cards

Checking in ties card usage to just the person using it, eliminating any chance of theft by PIN sharing. This feature also stops card skimmers. A skimmer could steal your driver’s card information but cannot use it without checking in from a pre-approved phone number.

Couple this with backing from telematics data, geofencing, and fuel tank capacity alerts, and you have an automated system to prevent this modern form of fleet fuel theft.

Stop Fleet Gas Theft With Smart Fuel Cards

No one can predict the future, but it’s safe to say that fuel theft will continue becoming more sophisticated. Legacy fuel cards and paper receipts are holding back your fleet and hurting your bottom line.

While ordinary fuel cards offer more convenience while paying at the pump, they do little to combat fuel theft. Smart fuel cards like Coast give you the best of both worlds—offer your driver more convenience while securing your bottom line.

Easier, More Effective Fleet Management With Coast

Check out how Coast’s features and fees compare to the competition.