More than a year ago, I speculated that FleetCor would follow up on their acquisition of Allstar fuel by starting to build an integrated, non-leasing, fleet services business along the lines of Allstar’s original owner, PHH.

Sure enough, the notably aggressive (in its treatment of its own customers) FleetCor has bought up Epyx, whose 1Link system is used by many major fleets and leasing companies to handle smr and much more besides.

The fleet fuel and maintenance service business is all about controlling networks of garages and filling stations. And the best way to control networks is to be simultaneously the gatekeeper and paymaster.

  1. Own the mechanism (cards) used by fleets use to obtain fuel and servicing.
  2. Process the payments too wherever possible.

The original AllStar fuel business was able to dominate the fleet fuel market in the UK for two reasons. First, it owned the only card that could be relied on for acceptance at virtually any filling station in the country. Second, they also processed card transactions for thousands of fuel outlets through their ownership of the UK’s only non bank-owned polling bureau.

It wasn’t quite an outright monopoly – not enough to really concern the competition authority – but it it was more than enough for AllStar. The string of companies that owned AllStar before FleetCor, including PHH, Avis and Arval, also ran a maintenance card on similar lines. But like the old AllStar fuel card, the maintenance option was hamstrung by an awful legacy mainframe system. With so many owners trying to get their cash back, the necessary upgrades got put off again and again, allowing nimbler businesses like Epyx to forge ahead with better technologies.

FleetCor has now unshackled Allstar from its mainframe and acquired an up-to-date smr operation. That puts it into a pretty good position. All the same, if the fleet suppliers who use Epyx start to feel that they are getting f**ked over in the same way as many Allstar customers have complained about, it could all turn into a big lost opportunity for the new owner.