As an owner-operator you are keenly aware of even small changes in the cost of fuel, and finding ways to maximize fuel efficiency is always a good strategy. The more that you can save on fuel costs the more profit you will make and the lower the cost of doing business will be. This may also give you the edge in bidding on contracts since you have lower overhead which, in turn, can drop your bid price and earn you additional business.
In an interesting study prepared by the Trucker’s Report the following statistics made crystal clear the need to maximize fuel efficiency to boost profitability:
- It costs an average of $180,000 per year to keep a commercial truck in the United Sates on the road.
- The average cost of diesel fuel for a typical truck in the USA is $70,000.
- The cost per mile of operating a commercial truck is approximately $1.38.
- The average trucker fills up the truck with 20,500 gallons of fuel per year while the typical car uses just 500.
There are several different options that you can easily implement to reduce your fuel costs on a routine basis. These six strategies are effective when used individually, but they become major cost savers when used together. To see the results of a bit of effort on your part start logging your fuel use prior to implementing the strategies and then as you build in fuel-saving ideas to your daily routine.
1. Overall Vehicle Maintenance
Overall vehicle maintenance is number one on the list because it is one of the most important factors in how efficient the truck will run. If your vehicle is running rough and not well maintained you are going to waste energy and power and ultimately use more fuel. Routinely checking the engine for any signs of leaks, damage or problems is important, as is checking the oil and fluid levels.
You can easily do this on your own and have a mechanic check the vehicle on a routine basis as well. Generally if you have a good working relationship with the mechanic or shop this is a minor cost every couple of months that can end up saving you hundreds in fuel not to mention issues with breakdowns.
Tire air pressure needs to be correctly maintained as well. Over-inflating or under-inflating tires is unsafe, lowers your control over the truck and trailer, plus it also increases fuel consumption.
2. Idling and Parking
Believe it or not simply idling your truck results in fuel consumption of about a gallon of diesel for every hour idling. While this may not seem like a lot if you idle your truck a couple of hours a day for a week that is at least 14 gallons of fuel. At $3.50 per gallon that is a total of $50 per week or $2600 per year.
Parking in the shade and out of wind and weather also helps in reducing the impact of heat and cold on the fuel and the vehicle when idling or when warming up and cooling down.
3. Plan Your Route And Turn Right
You cannot avoid left turns in traffic completely, but whenever possible try to plan your route to include right turns rather than across traffic lefts. That extra couple of minutes sitting there waiting for a clear opportunity to turn increases your idling time per day, decreasing fuel efficiency.
In addition left turns mean you have to fully gear down, stop and then gear up during and after the turn, each step which is fuel inefficient.
4. Aerodynamic Designs Reduces Wind Resistance
Many new styles of rigs have gone from the traditional square, boxy and classic shapes to the more streamlined curved lines. This change is not just for appearance, smooth, curved lines decrease wind resistance and help with fuel efficiency.
Make sure all deflectors are correctly located to push the wind up and over the highest point of the load. This takes just a few minutes to check and is easy to do by looking at the angle of the deflector and the high point of the load.
5. Minimize Gearing Up and Down
When at all possible limit the number of times that you have to gear up or down since this is a high fuel usage point for the engine. Instead try to adjust speed well out from having to slow down significantly or come to a complete stop. The more than you have to fully stop and start the more fuel you will use. While you may not be able to prevent this in busy traffic areas, choosing the time of day you hit these areas can really help.
6. Drive A Fuel Efficient Speed
Driving at a steady pace of 60 to 65 miles per hour may not get you to your destination as fast as driving 70 or 75, which may be the posted speed, but it is going to leave you with more fuel in your tank when you reach your destination.
Higher rates of speed also add to the costs of vehicle maintenance, tire replacement and wear and tear on the truck and trailer. Driving a bit slower is also safer, making it a good option on virtually any roadway.
Making a few simple changes to the way you drive will help cut your fuel costs. These strategies can become a part of your daily driving routine that will add up to thousands of dollars in fuel savings per year.