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iTECH: Cracking Down on Fuel Card Fraud

Technology Targets Drivers Who Collect on Fill-ups Charged to Fleets

By Dan Calabrese, Contributing Writer

This article appears in the June/July 2011 issue of iTECH, published in the June 13 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Drivers who carry corporate fuel cards have at their fingertips the opportunity to cheat carriers for personal profit, a reality John Ennis Jr., understands all too well.

Last year, Ennis, the vice president of JNJ Express, Memphis, Tenn., busted some of his drivers reselling fuel charged to the company. The drivers would dispense fuel into their own trucks, then wave forward other drivers — usually friends, family or owner-operators they knew— who paid cash to the JNJ drivers for fill-ups charged to the fleet’s account. The drivers were selling about 50 gallons at a time, large enough to make the scam worthwhile, but small enough not to raise suspicion — at least for a little while.

Ennis said JNJ began to notice some inconsistencies across its 300-truck fleet, and started interviewing drivers. Eventually, one of them cracked and disclosed the scheme.

No fleet wants to believe its drivers would perpetrate such a scam, but technologies under development and others available now can curtail these shady dealings through systems that require the truck and pump to link up electronically before the first gallon is dispensed, and through careful tracking of driver expenses.

These programs give fleets precise and instant information about the operation of their on-the-road assets and alert them when something isn’t adding up.

As Ennis’ experiences suggest, carriers that fail to monitor fuel costs carefully can unknowingly spend thousands of dollars for gallons of diesel pumped into someone else’s tanks.

Statistics on just how much money is lost annually to fraudulent fuel sales are elusive — neither the U.S. Department of Energy nor its Energy Information Administration maintains such records — but the industry is aware that it’s going on.

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