The Owner-Operator and Fleet Owner's Guide to Trucking Fuel Cards

Fuel cards are a great way to save on one of the biggest expenses for trucking companies of all sizes.

So You're Curious About Fuel Cards

Fuel cards are becoming synonymous with savings in the trucking industry. Fuel is one of the biggest expenses for trucking companies of all sizes and even small discounts on each gallon can lead to big savings over time. Even though most carriers have fuel cards, and many fuel stations and truck stops accept fuel cards, not all fuel cards are the same.

Because of this, it is important that trucking company owners and business managers do the research to understand which fuel card is best for their fleet. Depending on if you’re an owner operator or manage a thousand-truck fleet, your fuel card needs may be different, making finding the right card a big decision.

What Are Fuel Cards?

Fuel cards, also known as fleet cards, are a way for carriers to purchase diesel at fuel stations or truck stops. Some also refer to this type of fuel card specifically as freight fuel cards or diesel fuel cards. Fuel cards typically give carriers a discounted rate for fuel, allowing them to purchase it for under the cash price. Beyond just fuel, company owners can provide their drivers with fleet cards to better manage spending on business expenses. Some carriers set spending limits for drivers in specific categories so that they can manage cash flow going towards fuel, repairs, maintenance, or even food from specific locations, rather than requiring individual expense reports.

How Do Fuel Cards Work?

Fuel card providers work with fuel station brands to offer discounted fuel prices. These fuel stations create a network where carriers can enjoy discounted fuel rates by using their fuel card. Depending on the provider, the card will either function as a credit card – allowing carriers to pay for fuel using a line of credit that they then have to pay off, or as a debit card – allowing carriers to add funds to their card before transacting at the fuel station.

Are discounts the same for all fuel stations in a network?

No, each fuel card works a little differently so you should look at your business needs and determine which option is right for your business. Some fuel cards take a “market-minus” approach in which the fuel card provider takes the market rate for fuel and subtracts a set discount and passes that along to the carrier. Other cards operate on a “cost-plus” model where the discount is based on the fuel station’s cost of buying fuel, and adding a percentage fee on top of that. These fees are lower than typical markup for fuel at these stations, allowing for consistency and maximum savings for the cardholder.

Do I need to be part of a fleet to get a fuel card?

A fuel card can be used by an owner operator, a driver in a fleet of 1000 trucks, or anyone in between. If you are looking to save money on diesel, then a fuel card is the tool for you.

Are fuel cards free?

The cost of your fuel card depends on your provider. Some fuel cards, like the Convoy-recommended TCS Fuel Card, are free to use and have no associated fees for in-network transactions. Many fuel cards, however, have monthly, transaction, or funding fees. To maximize savings, it is important to understand all the discounts and fees of your fuel card options before selecting the right one.

Do Fuel Cards Actually Save Money?

Yes, trucking fuel cards are an excellent way to save money! For truck owner operators, the discounts are generally higher than you would receive from paying with cash, or a credit card. For carriers with drivers, not only do fuel cards provide steep discounts, they also give fleet managers a way to securely manage business expenses, saving them time and hassle.

How big of a discount can freight fuel cards provide?

Fuel card discounts can range from 1¢ per gallon to over $1 per gallon depending on the season. The benefit of fuel cards operating in a cost-plus model is, the hotter the fuel market becomes, the better discount the fuel card will provide.

Is it worth getting a fuel card?

Absolutely! Since many fuel cards have no spending requirements and are free to use, there is little-to-no risk in getting a fuel card. Because of this, it can be beneficial for carriers to have fuel cards to allow them to compare prices before making a purchase to ensure you are paying the lowest price for diesel each time you’re at the pump.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know About Diesel Fuel Cards?

While all freight fuel cards are made to save carriers money on fuel, each card is unique in terms of savings, fees, and funding methods, so make sure you do your research before deciding which is best for your business. Before signing up for a fuel card always ask the following questions:

  • What discount will I receive?
  • Are there fees for using, funding, or having the card?
  • Is the card a market minus or cost-plus discount?
  • What kind of controls and limits are available for business owners/fleet managers?
  • What stations are in-network? Do they have my lanes covered?
  • How can I fund the card?
  • Does the card have a credit line?
  • Can I use the fuel card for purchases outside of fuel?

What is the Best Trucking Fuel Card?

One of the best things about freight fuel cards is that you don’t have to pick just one! We’ve got the top four freight fuel cards recommended by carriers who use Convoy listed below. Take a read through our list of the best trucking fuel cards, pick the card (or cards) that sound right for your business, and start saving!

  1. TCS Fuel Card
  2. Flying Pilot J
  3. NASTC
  4. Fleetone

What Does the TCS Fuel Card Offer Carriers?

Carriers can use the TCS Fuel Card at over 1,200 in-network stations nationwide. In-network stations include TA Petro, TA Express, AMBEST, Sapp Bros, Roady’s, Fuel City, and many other independent fuel stations. TCS uses a cost-plus discount model which makes discounts variable, but drives high savings rates in all markets, especially as fuel prices rise.

In addition to industry-leading discounts, there are no monthly fees, or in-network transaction fees, and low out-of-network fees.

Not sure if a fuel card is right for your trucking business?

Do you like saving money on gas? Then a fuel card is likely the right choice for you! The biggest benefit of having a company fuel card are the savings that your business gets every time you fill up. As your business grows, there are additional benefits such as the ability to track your fuel spend, set budgets for drivers in your fleet, and easily limit your exposure risk to fraud that will make a freight fuel card worthwhile. Find the card, or cards, that best meet your needs and start saving today.

Request Info About the TCS Fuel Card