The Future of Fleet Payments with Jay Dearborn, WEX

This is an overview of our interview of Jay on our podcast, Commerce Conversations. Listen to the full epsiode here.

Commerce Ventures
5 min readMay 8, 2023

Over 70% of all American consumer goods are moved by the nearly 3.5 million truckers behind the wheel each year. These truckers are the backbone of American freight and represent meaningful economic power with regards to their spend on fuel, repairs, ancillary services and consumer goods. Fuel specifically represents nearly 40% of the operating cost for a given trucker, and drivers spend tens of billions of dollars a year on diesel alone. Given the volume of this spend, entire industries have formed around the commercial fuel spend market. Dating back to the early 1960’s companies like FleetCor, Wex, Pilot FlyingJ, Casey’s, and others have served operator & fleets’ fuel and fuel payment needs. While technology has come a long way (the first generation of fleet fuel solutions involved pumps that had locks to which only specific fleets had the keys), there still remains a tremendous opportunity to better serve the millions of drivers and fleets with digital, driver-friendly and cost-effective financial solutions.

A Growing B2B Fleet Payments Opportunity

According to Jay Dearborn, Chief Strategy Officer at payments solutions provider WEX, the digital B2B payments revolution has been underway for decades and is finally reaching a critical mass, creating a massive market opportunity.

“When we look at the total addressable market (TAM) on a global basis, it’s approaching double-digit billions and growing. Of our $2.4 billion in revenue, our fleet business was $1.4 billion. There’s a lot of runway in this space, for us and everyone else.”

Between the exponential growth of the market, the increased prevalence of electric vehicles, and the continued influx of venture funding into startup challengers, the world of fleet payments is entering an exciting new future.

B2B Payments Go Digital

Automated, digital payments are present in nearly every consumer application , but the B2B space remains a laggard to its peers in that regard, still largely reliant on manual payment methods. “B2B is the last bastion of manual payments, and that’s a long-term, secular trend that will continue to affect B2B,” says Dearborn.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the freight industry, revealing weaknesses in the global supply chain and forcing businesses to reassess their entire operations. Dearborn points to the crisis as a “great accelerator” that had the effect of pushing more businesses into digital, even those that have been hesitant to in the past. He says this push towards digitization in the past few years benefits the entire industry.

But simply offering digital payment methods is just the beginning. Fleets and drivers need easy-to-use, but sophisticated tools that help them enrich, analyze and manage either spend / transaction data. Fleet managers specifically need help with ingesting fuel spend data, creating industry-specific rules & restrictions, and deployment digital spend methods to drivers.

“It’s all about how do you take the payments, the data, and the technology, put those three things together in a way that’s bespoke for a particular segment. And you see that rinse and repeat, not only at WEX with our three segments, but in the industry as a whole,” Dearborn says.

The Rise of Electric Vehicles in Trucking

Over the last decade electric vehicles have started rolling into the transport segment, with legacy players like Daimler and Volvo introducing all-electric big rigs alongside startups like Nikola Motors and Rivian. Although this has the potential to disrupt existing fuel reimbursement models, Dearborn says pure-play EV fleets are a long way off, and that in the meantime the industry would be better served focusing on accommodating mixed fleets instead.

“We need to stop talking about the transition to EV. It’s about how do we transition to mixed fleet, and how do we serve up products that give customers who over the next decade will have a little bit of EV, and increasingly so, the ability to manage that in conjunction with their historical internal combustion engine spend,” he says.

“What we’re really focused on is how do we deliver that mixed fleet solution elegantly through software that enables a fleet manager to richly understand it or for a business owner to simply understand it.”

Rapid Influx of VC Funds into the Trucking Value Chain

For decades the fleet payments market has been dominated by large legacy players. But in recent years, investors have poured billions of dollars into logistics sector startups in hopes of capitalizing on the wave of disruption permeating the industry. According to Dearborn, this influx of private equity has in turn begotten an entire market of great ideas, fostering both competition and innovation.

In looking at how this phenomenon has played out in the payments space, Dearborn points to the example of MasterCard’s multi-year headstart over top rival Visa in focusing on the B2B segment. Visa has since shifted strategies under its new CEO, launching their own versions of payments products which are starting to pick up steam. Dearborn says the increased ease of developing software along with payments giants bringing their own offerings to market “enables the industry to have more tools at its disposal to be able to serve customer needs.”

“We have 800,000 customers in our customer set. We’re privileged to serve everyone from the Federal Government to large Fortune 100 corporates to Ice’s Plumbing and Heating in Burbank. For us with that installed customer base, it’s about how do we continue to deliver value.”

Listen to the full episode by clicking below.

Our Perspective

We’re excited to work with our partners and portfolio to build & deliver next-generation financial services to this critical segment of the American workforce. We’re fortunate to be investors across the value chain in load matching (FleetOps) as well as fuel discount networks (Mudflap) and are actively looking to invest further in the category. If you’re a founder, operator, executive, or investor that is thinking about this category, please reach out — we’d love to brainstorm with you!



Commerce Ventures

Early-stage venture capital firm investing in technology innovators in the retail and financial services eco-systems.