Payment systems in the transportation industry are starting to resemble the “digital wallet” apps used by consumers.
Fleets may welcome this trend since traditional fleet cards and money transfer systems require a lot of oversight to manage.
A Comchek is an example of a traditional money transfer system. Full-service logistics provider Choptank Transport uses this system to give cash advances to owner-operators and small carriers to pay for fuel on loads.
On occasion, Choptank receives phone calls from people claiming to work for motor carriers that it does business with, says Marcia Wood, chief financial officer of the Preston, Md.-based company.
The callers asking for a cash advance on a load might be using apps to switch their actual phone number to a carrier’s number so that the caller ID appears legitimate, she says.
Whenever Choptank receives phone requests for cash advances, employees will hang up the phone and call the number listed for the motor carrier in the FMCSA’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) database.
“We verify the carrier and go through questions about the load,” Wood says.
In the consumer space, peer-to-peer (P2P) payment systems are growing rapidly. These cloud-based systems store the bank account or credit card information of the user to draw funds.
The user goes to a website or opens a smartphone app that becomes his or her “digital wallet” to pay for items or transfer funds to other users in the same network.
P2P systems include PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay and Android Pay. Similar technologies are coming to the trucking industry to create more efficient and secure payment processes. One of the unique features of these technologies is that the sender and recipient of funds have identifiers, such as e-mail addresses or ID numbers, that help combat the risks of fraud.
Fuel transactions are one of many possible applications for P2P payment systems in trucking. In 2018, U.S. Bank’s Voyager Network will be launching an app that will allow drivers to generate virtual single-use accounts to pay for fuel and maintenance if their fleet managers grant them access to do so, says Marie LeMoine, the company’s senior vice president.
“These virtual card accounts will have the same pre-established purchasing limits as drivers would have on their Voyager card,” she says.
Fleet managers will also be able to use the new app to pay monthly invoices to U.S. Bank from their mobile device and to order cards, close cards, reset PINS and change spending limits, she says.
LeMoine believes the new app is a logical step towards allowing drivers to store permanent card numbers on a mobile app and pay at the pump via their phones.
“This capability will likely coincide with the 2020 date by when all automated fuel dispensers need to make the switch to EMV ‘chip’ technology,” she explains.
A mobile Comchek
In April, 2017, Comdata announced a P2P system called Comchek Mobile. Developed exclusively for the trucking industry, the system expands on the capabilities of its Comchek Express money transfer system that has been around for more than 40 years.
Comchek Mobile includes a smartphone app. Once drivers or other parties sign up and are registered to use the app, they receive a unique Comchek Mobile ID number and a Comdata debit card.
Fleets can transfer funds to drivers or vendors electronically by using the unique IDs of each party. Drivers also can transfer funds to third parties such as lumpers or merchants using their Comchek Mobile IDs.
At any time, drivers are able to use Comchek Mobile to transfer funds to their personal bank account or to their Comdata debit card to make purchases at fuel stations, hotels and other locations over the road.
Comchek Mobile is already being used by freight brokers to manage payments for freight transactions. The technology simplifies the process by eliminating the need for a freight broker or shipper to collect payment information from the carrier since the only information needed to issue payment is the carrier’s Comchek Mobile ID number.
In April, 2017, Comdata announced a partnership with FR8Star, a web-based freight operations platform specializing in oversize, overweight and open deck loads. Carriers that book open deck loads from brokers using the FR8Star platform can receive payment through the Comchek Mobile system.
Using Comchek Mobile, carriers that haul loads booked on FR8Star.com are able to receive fuel advances at the moment of pickup as well as full payment quickly after proof of delivery is received.
The latest developments give fleets and drivers new options to increase the flexibility, convenience and security of payment processes. The technology can also eliminate costs, as P2P systems do not have the fees associated with traditional transactions.