While still in the midst of a global pandemic, we are all trying to find ways to be more mindful of where our money is going and how it’s being spent. In the trucking industry, fuel is one of the leading expenses. Did you know that the average semi truck uses approximately 20,500 gallons of fuel? According to TheTruckersReport.com, “fuel is 39% of an Owner Operators total operating cost which generally is comes out to around $70,000 per year”*1. The average semi truck hooked up to an empty trailer weighs around 35,000lbs and only gets an estimated 6-6.25 miles per gallon (some trucks get less). You can start saving your money by practicing awareness of how the fuel in your truck is being used. We put together some tips for those of you out there looking to save a few extra dollars each trip, below you will find some information on “How to Save on Fuel”:
Don’t Overfill Your Fuel Tank - Let’s start from the very beginning, fueling up the right way. When you’re filling up your fuel tank, it’s common to double pump. Double pumping is pulling the pump lever again to get that tiny bit extra after the pump has clicked off already. This actually has a negative impact on your truck and your wallet. When you overfill your fuel tank, it can not only hurt your engine but it actually could cost you extra at the pump. It could damage your engine but it causes more vapors to be released and potential fuel to spill into your engine. It could cost you extra at the pump because the vapor recovery system that is installed at the pumps is designed to recognize when you have overfilled and so to protect your car and the environment, the system will pump the additional fuel back into the gas station’s tank. So that little bit extra you think you are pumping into your car, is actually going back into the gas station’s tank but you’ll still be paying for it. Lastly, the extra weight from the additional fuel will weigh down your truck more so and slow you down. When the pump clicks off and stops pumping gas, try to stop yourself from pulling the lever just one more time to get that last little bit in there.
Maintain Properly Inflated Tires - As someone commented on our Facebook page the other day, “try putting a ton of bricks in a wheel barrel that has a flat tire then rolling it down the hill”. You won’t get very far! The same applies to your truck tires. When your tires are properly inflated, it increases your fuel efficiency by .3%-.5%. To explain the emphasis on ‘properly’, overfilling your tires can cause less road traction which can lead to reduced handling and traction which still leads to burning more fuel and unsafe driving conditions. It’s important to inflate your tires to the proper PSI for your tires, the proper PSI for your tires will depend on the weight of the load and the outside temperature. It is important to remember that tires will deflate, it’s unavoidable. So make sure you are checking your tires regularly, add more air as needed, check your tires during your pre-trip inspections to catch any underinflated tires. All that being said, change your tires before they get too low and cause a blowout. A few signs it’s time to change your tires would include cracks or blistering in the tires, the truck vibrating/shaking too much, and the tread depth being 1.6 milliliters deep or less.
Regulate Your Speed and Braking - Maintaining the same speed rather than constantly accelerating puts less stress on your truck’s engine and uses less fuel. Keeping a constant speed with the posted speed limits will keep a constant and even burning of fuel. The more you accelerate and the faster you accelerate, the more fuel you are burning. On the flip side, when you are braking keep in mind that getting your truck back up to speed from a dead stop will burn more fuel than if you were able to slow down enough in advance. This takes us back to managing your speed, accelerating burns more fuel than maintaining. Slow down in time and potentially avoid having to come to a complete stop, burn far less fuel.
Use the Momentum of a Decline - Now the seasoned truck driver is probably thinking to himself “thanks, Captain Obvious”. But not everyone knows this! If you can, accelerate while you are going downhill to increase fuel efficiency. Though this is a great way to maximize your fuel efficiency, use this method carefully. When you are rolling down the hill and using gravity to accelerate, your truck’s engine is no longer in full contact with the wheels which means you can’t use the engine’s gears to slow down but rather you will have to press down on the brakes harder to slow down and that can cause more wear on the main brakes. When using this method, do so when it makes sense for that situation. For example, you’re rolling down the hill and just at the bottom of the hill is a sharp right turn - this would not be the method to use as you will have to quickly come to a stop when you’re approaching the bottom of the hill in order to safely make that turn thus losing all of that momentum by accelerating on the decline and wearing down your brakes in the process.
Be Mindful of Slick Roads - If the roads are wet, your truck tires get less traction. Less traction means your tires will spin more to grip the road, which leads to a need for harder acceleration. A typical road surface is made up of tiny pits that the rubber of the tires will use to push into and “stick” to the road. After it’s rained, the water will fill in those tiny pits causing the surface to be more slippery than when the road was dry. After it’s just rained, accelerate slowly and cautiously to allow your tires to get some traction and avoid burning unnecessary fuel.
Find a Motor Carrier that Offers a Fuel Card - Most motor carriers offer fuel cards, though almost every company has a different fuel card program. Having a fuel card through your motor carrier is beneficial because the payment for fuel is deducted from the week’s settlement rather than always having to pay out-of-pocket at the pump. It’s important to find a good motor carrier that will have a fuel card program already established for you to sign on with. When you’re calling around looking for Owner Operator jobs or Company Driver jobs, be sure to ask the company’s recruiter if they offer a fuel card program.
Thanks for reading! If you have any tips on how to save money while you’re out on the road, please email firstname.lastname@example.org - we’d love to hear it!