Senate May Ask for Fleet Card Pricing Probe

The U.S. Senate may request that the Federal Trade Commission investigate commercial trucking fleet card programs to determine if unfair practices are being used.

In July, the Senate Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Subcommittee asked the FTC to study the programs in a report attached to a bill it passed July 25 that funds that agency.

“The Committee urges the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a study to determine if uncompetitive or unfair practices, or practices which tend to restrain trade, are used by companies which provide commercial trucking fleet card programs, and the effects of these practices on the truckstop industry,” the report said.

The subcommittee asked for a report within 180 days of the enactment of the appropriations bill. Such bills are usually passed before Oct. 1, but the process often lasts longer. At press time, the measure was still in the legislative process and its future uncertain.

The move drew praise from NATSO, the trade group representing America’s travel plaza and truckstop industry, which also took responsibility for the measure. “NATSO implored this Senate subcommittee to take action to stop the unfair practices of some large third party billing companies,” the group said in a release.

NATSO singled out Comdata, owned by Ceridian Corp., which is the largest provider in the industry. Comdata, however, said the market for its services is wide open to competition. “We believe we are a good business partner to all customers using our service, and offer a fair and honest value for our services,” says Mike Brewer, corporate communications manager. “Other providers have existed in the merchant services marketplace for a number of years, and we absolutely believe in – and invite – healthy competition. We are currently reviewing this matter.”

NATSO says its members were facing fee increases of as much as 500 to 800 percent over two years from fleet card providers. Independent truckstops in particular are threatened by such increases, NATSO said.