Rusty Barron, Shell Fleet Solutions: “More than a fuel payment service”
During my last trip throughout the United States, I had the pleasure to meet Rusty Barron who is VP of Shell Fleet Solutions North America, an arm of oil & gas giant Shell which is specifically focused on the fleet industry.
While Shell has some 44,000 branded sites across 70 countries, Shell Fleet Solutions has about 7 million branded B2B fuel cards in 30 countries. During the interview, we discussed the role of fleet managers, telematics, and new energies.
What is the focus of Shell Fleet Solutions?
Barron: Well, we like to differentiate ourselves by being more than a fuel and payment service provider. We want to build a relationship with our customers by learning their fleet management problems and then providing solutions for issues such as safety, maintenance, and fuel usage by way of telematics, mobility services, and others.
As for myself, I am responsible for business in Canada, the United States, and soon to be Mexico. Although we don’t have a specific launch date, we intend to be operating in Mexico by year-end 2019.
Could you tell me a little about the B2B cards you offer in North America?
Barron: We have three types of cards. The first is the Shell Small Business card for smaller fleets that operate in areas where there are many Shell stations. Moreover, we have Fleet Plus for mid-size fleets which demand more fleet management control.
And lastly, we have the more flexible universal card known as the Navigator Card which runs on the WEX platform.
What do you see is the largest concern for fleet managers today?
Barron: First of all, every fleet is different, so it varies. Among the most common concerns are those related to safety issues, reducing accidents, and cutting down on fraud (e.g. Is the liter you’re paying for actually a liter).
How does IoT, AI, and other new technologies affect your business?
Barron: The amount of data that can come into the hands of a fleet manager today is incredible.
To improve safety and optimize fuel efficiency, managers can acquire information about accidents and driver behavior (e.g. harsh braking, quick acceleration, and seat belt usage) by way of mobile apps and the vehicles themselves.
Still, only about 15% of fleets are using telematics today so there is a lot of room for growth.
Shell headquarters, The Netherlands (source: Shell)
Would you say that the fleet managers role is changing?
Barron: Absolutely, getting all this data is one thing but knowing how to use it to solve problems and increase efficiency is another. If its too confusing, find an expert that can teach you how to use the data.
Fleet Managers also need to help drivers overcome the fear of “big brother” watching. They may not like the constant monitoring, but it is being done to benefit them. Maybe they don’t even realize they are doing something wrong.
However, keep in mind that data privacy laws differ per country so don’t cross the line.
At the end of the day, fleet managers should be focused on getting workers safely home to their families. Being aware of the cost of a car accident is important, but we must remember the people side of the business.
What is key to providing good telematics service?
Barron: Collecting data is one thing but how is it going to be presented and what are you going to do with the data to solve problems is key.
Before doing anything, fleet managers must first identify a problem, then set parameters, and then set up a telematics program which acquires specific data aimed at solving the problem.
How is Shell dealing with the new energy options coming into the market?
Barron: Shell is embracing new energies and wants to be a leader in this transition. We are no longer just an oil company. We also work with gas and new energies such as electric.
In fact, Shell purchased charging station provider Greenlots a few months ago to prepare for the future and is looking at ways of integrating these types of charging facilities into our current service stations.
At Shell, we are focused on being economically, environmentally, and socially responsible and this is a trend that is growing in the U.S. It is not as strong as in Europe where carbon footprint and emissions get a lot of attention, but attitudes are slowly changing here.