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App promises fleet fuel revolution

Date: 07 August 2018   |   Author: Sean Keywood

BP is hoping to woo fleet managers and drivers alike with its new mobile payment service. Sean Keywood reports.

A new app allowing fleet drivers to pay for fuel using a mobile phone can deliver clear benefits for them and their employers, according to BP.

The oil giant introduced its BPme payment app earlier this year, initially aimed at ordinary motorists with regular payment cards, but now, with fuel card compatibility added, it is opening the service up to businesses.

BP says it is the first mobile fuel purchasing app in the UK that connects to fuel cards.

The firm's UK fuel card manager, Andy Allen, said BPme's key selling point
for fleets was the time it could save managers and drivers. 

He said, "If a fleet manager has a new driver, at the moment they need to order that person a fuel card, which can take up to ten days to arrive, so they have to work out how they operate without a fuel card for a period of time. 

"BPme allows them to send a digital version of that fuel card within 24 hours.

"For drivers, they want to be served in our service stations quickly - they don't necessarily want to queue behind people with shopping."

To pay using the app, drivers begin by driving to a compatible BP filling station - which the app can help them locate.

The app then takes their phone's location data and cross references that with the BP network, to make sure the driver is at a filling station, then prompts the driver to select a pump number and obtains a list from the station of what pumps it has and which are currently available to make sure this is valid.

The driver is then given options to pay, with the app capable of storing multiple fuel cards to select from - allowing them, for instance, to use a company fuel card during the working week and a personal payment card at weekends - then the vehicle's registration number and mileage is requested.

After filling is completed, there is the option to collect Nectar points - another driver perk, BP says - and have an email ticket sent out with the same detail as a standard till receipt, which can go to the driver and directly to the fleet manager.

The whole transaction can be cancelled at any point until the driver lifts the filling nozzle, and even then there is a short time where if they choose the wrong one they can replace it and select another. 

BP global marketing technology manager Chris Bush said that anecdotal evidence from speaking to customers suggested using the app saved them three to five minutes with every fill-up.

With the system allowing the driver to complete the whole process without moving away from their vehicle, BP says there are also security benefits, particularly for commercial drivers.

According to Allen, another benefit of the system compared with a conventional fuel card is in preventing fraud.

"If you have a piece of plastic out there, it can get passed from person to person, and it opens up fraud if the card is lost or stolen," he said.

"People tend to be a bit more protective of their phones."

Bush added that distribution of a virtual fuel card can be limited to one specific phone, and the app also allows fleet managers to deactivate and to move a card from phone to phone.

Allen said BP will continue to issue physical cards to its fuel card customers as these are also accepted at Esso, Texaco and Gulf filling stations.

Currently, the app allows payments to be made at around 900 of BP's 1,280 UK filling stations, and it is being rolled out to more all the time.

Bush said there were only three sites in the UK where the mobile signal was not strong enough to work - two in North Wales and one in the Highlands of Scotland.

"Other than that, we're good to go. We only need 3G data to make this work," he said.

Currently, the app's functionality is limited to fuel payment, but BP says further developments in the pipeline include the ability to pay for Wild Bean Café products and car washes.

Bush added BP is also hoping to include data direct from vehicles in the future.

He said, "An area where we are working with car manufacturers is to leverage their on-board telemetry, so maybe in the future it can automatically upload the mileage and VIN, and certain aspects of the vehicle, to save time for the driver and to remove another opportunity for error. 

"So there's more to come and there's much more work to be done but we're excited by where we are at the moment."