A question of fuel management

As fuel prices fluctuate and the overall number of petrol stations decreases, drivers in the UK face unpredictable hurdles when it comes to filling up. This is particularly problematic for businesses that rely on drivers to keep the wheel of profit turning; with these unchangeable external factors, how can you make sure your costs stay low?

Giving your drivers freedom when it comes to choosing a petrol station is a good place to start. If they can simply pick the most cost-effective location, then you’ll naturally be putting a cap on your outgoings.

But how easy is this if you use fuel cards that are exclusive to a particular brand of station? Most providers advertise considerable coverage, but often the number of suitable stations isn’t as high as it could be. In conjunction with Open Street Map we’ve put together a map of petrol station distribution in the UK so we can take a look at which brands are leading the market.

Read on to see how this could affect your business and why it might be time to think about a more flexible payment option.

Petrol station distribution

Evidently, the picture of petrol stations is different in each nation of the UK. BP may be the leading brand in Scotland, but it’s Shell who leads in most regions of England. And these brands barely factor when you look at Northern Ireland and Wales, where Maxol is top in the former and Texaco leads in the latter. The table below shows this distribution in more depth.

List of the most popular service stations by region in the UK

ScotlandNorth-eastNorth-west Northern IrelandYorkshire and the Humber West Midlands East Midlands WalesEast of England LondonSouth EastSouth West
Shell9.6%12.2%22.1%14%14.4%11.3%10.3%14.1%24.7%19.7%10.6%
BP11.5%7.4%12.3%4.2%13.7%12.2%15.2%17.4%18.2%15.4%10.1%
Esso8.8%13.5%8.1%8.4%8.9%10%7.1%9.6%15.8%17.1%12.5%
Texaco7.8%8.4%8.9%18.2%8.2%8%12%
Jet12.2%10.7%8.40%
Tesco7.50%
Gulf7.1%7.60%
Maxol12.1%
Independents63%54.7%49.8%71.10%53.20%55.60%55.20%56.90%51.30%33%39.80%54.90%

Whilst Shell has the highest brand coverage in the UK, its distribution varies wildly, much like other brands. For example, in England alone, Shell goes from a 22.1% share in the north-west, to just a 10.6% share in the South West. This kind of fluctuation occurs all over the UK, meaning the abundance of a particular brand is unlikely to be consistent across the country.

But perhaps the most striking aspect of this isn’t which brands are leading in which areas, but the fact that independent stations are top of the leaderboard in every single region.

This has interesting ramifications when it comes to managing fuel spend as a business owner.

Fuel card downfalls

As the map shows, independent petrol stations are top of the list in every region of the UK. This means that the brand exclusivity required by some fuel card providers is significantly limiting when it comes to refuelling.

For example, BP advertises a network of over 1,200 filling stations. This may sound like a lot, but the figure seems much smaller when you consider that the UK has more than 8,000 petrol stations in total. In fact, no one brand has more than 30% coverage of the UK’s stations, so opting for a specific brand’s fuel card could leave your drivers in the lurch.

This means that if employees are having to travel cross-country, the stations that their fuel card supports may be few and far between in some areas. For example, an employee who usually drives in the East of England, where BP leads the brands, may struggle if they have to drive up to the North East, where Esso is in pole position.

This leaves them with two choices: either go out of their way to find the right stations, or go to the nearest one and use a debit or credit card instead. Neither of these options are efficient or cost effective.

This problem is exacerbated if your team has to travel into Europe or elsewhere, as the fuel map will look completely different, offering even fewer options.

On top of this, applying for a fuel card can come with its own issues regardless of access. Some fuel card providers require a credit check, which can be problematic if you have bad credit. And many of them have a minimum monthly spend, which may not be achievable for smaller businesses.

With Soldo, however, there’s no need for a credit check, and no minimum spend. Sign up now and you could be up and running tomorrow.

The Soldo solution

With a prepaid system like Soldo, your drivers can access every single petrol station in the country. Our fuel cards aren’t associated with any brand of fuel, giving you and your employees the freedom to seek out the cheapest station, or simply to go to the nearest.

And because you’re able to use whichever fuel site is the most convenient, you save time and money that otherwise would have been spent finding specific stations.

Soldo’s universal fuel cards offer flexibility for drivers and visibility for managers. The cards are connected to expense management software that lets you see every transaction as it happens, so you always know where the money’s going.

On top of this, drivers can use the Soldo mobile app to log photos of their receipts, so they don’t need to keep track of stacks of paper. This makes life easier for them, you, and your finance team. This system is also great for keeping on top of mileage allowance and other vehicle-related finances.

And Soldo’s cards aren’t exclusive to fuel. Our prepaid system works as a complete spending solution, providing the infrastructure your business needs to make spending visible and to keep costs down.

Fuss-free fuel

A fuel card system can be beneficial to any business that relies on drivers, but many of the popular providers come with downsides. Brand-specificity and minimum monthly spends can prove to be logistical and financial hurdles.

Branded fuel stations aren’t always conveniently located, meaning your drivers may be forced to travel further, or use a debit card instead. The first option means more money spent, the second means you have a more complex paper trail to keep track of.

For a more versatile alternative, why not switch to Soldo? With fuel cards that can be used anywhere in the country, and an intuitive expense management software to go with it, driving and reconciling has never been so simple.

Simplify fuel management with Soldo

Soldo’s fuel cards give you unlimited access to the UK’s petrol stations.

Flexible fuel-spend

With no brand exclusivity, Soldo’s fuel cards can be used at any petrol station in the country, giving drivers total freedom

The complete spend solution

Soldo isn’t just for fuel, you can use our smart prepaid system to revolutionise the way you manage business spending.

Digital receipt capture

Travelling employees don’t have to worry about stockpiling receipts. Simply snap a photo at the till and upload it to Soldo.