What Is Cardlock Fueling and How Does It Work?

July 4, 2024
what is cardlock fueling

Fueling costs is the biggest financial cost for commercial fleets. Fluctuating prices and unauthorized use can increase expenses significantly. Cardlock fueling is a system used by commercial fleets to manage fuel access, allowing controlled fueling through secured stations. This system tracks fuel usage per vehicle, making it easier and more cost-effective to manage and budget. 

This method also ensures that only authorized vehicles are refueled. So you don’t have to worry as much about the risk of misuse and theft.

What is Cardlock Fueling?

Cardlock fueling is a controlled fuel access system designed for commercial and fleet vehicles to automate unattended fueling stations where drivers access fuel via a secured card system. This setup allows fleet managers to monitor fuel usage and costs more accurately and effectively.

The origin of cardlock systems dates back to the 1980s when these systems provided a solution for fleets needing fuel outside regular business hours. Today, they have evolved into sophisticated networks with extensive control over fuel transactions for the benefit of commercial fleets. Now you can track more accurately the vehicles refueled, the amount of fuel dispensed, and the time of transaction, which can help in controlling fuel expenses.

The system is also designed to eliminate unauthorized use and improve efficiency by allowing fleet operators to set parameters such as fueling times and limits per vehicle, which helps manage budgets and reduce waste. 

How Does Cardlock Fueling Work?

cardlock fueling station

The process is straightforward. As you can guess from the name, these fuel stations are locked unless you have a special card.

These cards are designed for both fleet managers and drivers. Each driver is issued a fuel card that is linked to the company’s account. It is the way they can access these special fueling stations. This keeps control tight.

When a driver needs fuel, they just insert their card into the card reader at the station and just like other POC devices, the system will ask for a PIN and sometimes other identifiers like vehicle or odometer readings. Once verified, the pump is activated.

Each transaction is automatically recorded with details such as the amount of fuel, the cost, the time, and the location of the transaction, which are sent to the fleet manager for monitoring.

Benefits of Cardlock Fuel System for Fleet Management

By controlling fuel access and monitoring usage, fleets can prevent unauthorized fueling. This reduces wasted resources and helps in budgeting and forecasting expenses accurately since everything is tracked.

Better fuel management capabilities come from this detailed transaction tracking. Fleet managers receive data on every fueling event, including the amount of fuel, the cost, and specific details about the vehicle and driver. This information allows for precise management and efficient allocation of resources.

Accessing fuel late in the day can sometimes be challenging due to closing times. But cardlock stations are available 24/7. Drivers can refuel at any time without the need for staffed fuel stations as long as they have their card. 

Security is also a big plus for cardlock fuel systems because, through the use of fuel cards and PINs, you are restricting fuel access to authorized users only. This limits the damage of theft and fraud.

Difference Between Cardlock Fueling Stations and  Retail Gas Stations

Both of these stations target a different type of user. As mentioned in this guide, cardlock stations are primarily for commercial fleets, not the general public due to the features it offers. Individuals can’t just go to a cardlock station. The only way a vehicle accesses the fuel is through the company card.

Plus, this type of station is ideal for large vehicles and is available 24/7. Large truck drivers need these features to reliably get fuel.

Another main difference is that cardlock fueling stations track all data available and send it to the manager. This feature is not really necessary for individuals. Fleet drivers have tight fuel budgets that affect the whole business. So, with all this information available, they can make the best decisions to maximize their fuel usage.

People are used to traditional retail fueling stations. While some provide diesel fuel, large vehicles aren't their main customer. Otherwise, with the limited space, there would be a lot of traffic and complications. Plus, they are not automated as cardlock stations. 

In traditional fuel stations, you might also be able to use a company card to make your purchases. However, you don't get the security or tracking features. In cardlock stations, you can't get fuel without a card. In retail ones, you can. 

Types of Fuel Available at Cardlock Stations

cardlock fuel

The most commonly available fuels are diesel and unleaded gasoline, the most popular fuels for this type of vehicle. Diesel, especially, is a staple at these stations due to its prevalence in heavy-duty vehicles and trucks that require robust fuel options for long-distance and high-load transport.

In addition to standard fuels, cardlock stations can also offer biodiesel, which is a cleaner-burning alternative made from natural, renewable sources. Companies that want to reduce their carbon footprint choose this fuel for that reason.

In some cardlock locations, you can also find specialty fuels. For example, propane and kerosene, which may be necessary for specific vehicles or equipment used in certain industries, such as agriculture or construction. 

High-octane racing fuels or aviation gasoline are less common but you could have the luck of finding them in certain stations. Obviously, traditional retail fuel stations don’t over the variety that heavy-duty vehicles require.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Here are some of the main questions people often have about cardlock stations. Don't see your question here? Check our main FAQ page.

What does CFN stand for?

CFN stands for Commercial Fueling Network, a network of cardlock fueling stations that primarily serves commercial vehicles and fleets across various regions. This isn't the only cardlock fuel station network available. Another common one is Pacific Ride. Keep in mind that not all cards have access to all networks. It will depend on the card provider's partnerships. 

Is using a cardlock less expensive than retail stations?

Using a cardlock system is generally less expensive than retail gas stations for several reasons. Cardlock stations typically offer lower fuel prices due to the absence of retail markups and overhead costs associated with convenience store operations. 

Cardlock systems also provide detailed tracking and controlled access, which can lead to significant cost savings for fleet operators when managed appropriately.

Can I use my fleet cards at any cardlock station?

It will depend on your card and fuel network. Most cardlock networks, like CFN or Pacific Pride, allow interoperability among participating cardlock stations. But you need to check your card to see which networks are compatible. 


Cardlock fuel stations are a solution for commercial fleet drivers and operators to gain control over their fueling. Specifically for this use case, the features of these stations are very different from those of retail ones. 

Truck drivers and other heavy-duty vehicle drivers need stations with special accessibility for them. Cardlock stations have the right space and access for large vehicles to continue on the road easily.

Tracking is also a huge deal for fleet operators. Companies can access crucial data that can help them make smarter decisions about their fueling. They can identify potential saving opportunities and ensure that everything is in order. This can make the difference between a profit and a loss.

Other things like fuel variety and 24/7 accessibility make these stations the right solution for this type of business. Contact us today if you need help selecting a card provider for your fleet.

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