If you listened to The Dave Nemo Show October 20th on Road Dog Trucking Radio, SiriusXM 146, you may have heard Relay’s Executive Vice President Meghann Erhart talking about the ‘future of finance’ in trucking and logistics with host Dave Nemo. The conversation ranged from Meghann’s first experience in a truck to how Relay’s team makes it easier for drivers and carriers to pay for fuel and other over-the-road expenses with its digital payments network. And if you missed the show, read on for key insights for trucking professionals.
Route planning is key.
Dave pointed out that after payroll, the cost of fuel is the most expensive part of trucking and asked Meghann her thoughts. “One of the things we talk to customers about is route planning – how to make sure you don’t go out of route,” Meghann explained. She sees technology as an essential tool in helping drivers optimize their journeys and work efficiently, so they can make the most out of every load.
“As we continue to add locations with merchants to use our fuel payment product, we make sure we tell the drivers: ‘Hey, we don’t want you to go out of route to fuel. We know how much it costs if you do go out of route.’ So we make sure to work with them and plan their route well.”
Focus on price, not discount.
The discussion turned to the idea of hunting for discounts and looking for the cheapest diesel available, but Meghann was quick to point out that the deepest discount doesn’t always deliver the greatest savings. “Where we really focus as we talk to drivers and fuel managers is net price, where it’s not necessarily the discount but the total cost per gallon that you're paying for that diesel,” she said.
“A discount might be great – it might be 20 cents – but it still might be priced higher from a retail perspective to where, rather than that 20 cents, you can actually get it for a better price if you go down the road ten miles, still on route of course!
“In our app, we focus on net price, meaning what is the cost once you put all the discounts in, what is the cost you would be paying for that gallon of diesel fuel to make sure you’re being incredibly smart but not having to do the research and math yourself. The cost of fuel is really what matters versus just the discount, and net price allows you to see that.”
Loyalty adds up.
It’s important to note that fuel costs aren’t the only things that add up. Many merchants offer loyalty points and rewards programs that can make a difference for fleets and drivers. Those considerations also factor into route planning and into Meghann’s interactions with drivers.
“I know drivers have so many costs when they’re out on the road, and they live by those loyalty programs, whether it’s accumulating them so that they can get a great meal or they can get at least one meal a day,” she explains. “I’ve met drivers over the years that take all of their loyalty points and save them for Christmas time, for the holidays, or for someone’s birthday, to be able to surprise someone with something that they can buy in one of these truck stops using their points. So the loyalty play really does matter and factors into the decisions that drivers make.”
Relationships make all the difference.
Dave spoke about the need to forge strong relationships across the transportation industry, not only with carriers and drivers, but also with brokers, warehouses, merchants, and more, noting Relay’s reputation for relationship building.
“A lot of people have thought, as things have changed and especially in the post-covid world, this is going to be a transactional industry,” Meghann replied. “But it is not. This is a relationship industry, whether it be a driver with their dispatcher or their fuel manager or companies that they talk to for factoring or brokerage.” She explained the need to be able to call someone and have a conversation about loads or pricing, and how important it is to have people you trust and who trust you.
“And if you don’t make those calls, if you don’t reach out to people, then it becomes transactional,” she said. “But man, that’s a hard way to run trucks.”