Smart Fuel Strategies

Minimize consumption to control diesel costs

Savvy owner-operators know they must have a handle on costs across the board; however, making good decisions when it comes to diesel fuel usage should be a day-to-day concern. 

One of the most beneficial pieces of information you can have is your fuel economy. Since factors such as traffic, terrain, loads, and even the weather will impact fuel economy, you should calculate your miles per gallon (mpg) and cost per mile (CPM) after each trip. To calculate your mpg, track your mileage between fill-ups and then divide the total mileage by the number of gallons used. Once you’ve calculated how many gallons burned, multiply that number by the price of diesel to determine your CPM. Is the number too high? The worse your fuel economy looks, the more room you have to improve it. Here are some simple techniques to decrease your fuel consumption and costs while increasing your profit.

Slow down

It’s all too easy to get into the mindset that driving faster is preferred because you can make better time. Time is money, right? Well, so is diesel fuel. In fact, speed is the main reason for increased fuel consumption. You reduce your fuel economy by one-tenth of a mile per gallon for every mile per hour driven over 60 mph. With diesel prices hovering at all-time highs, that adds up over time. If you’re paying $4 per gallon for diesel and drive 130,000 miles per year, the difference between driving 60 mph and 70 mph adds up to $12,727.

In addition to controlling your speed, keep an eye on your acceleration and deceleration. Not only will this save wear and tear on your truck, but being gentler with both will consume less fuel.

Limit idling

Idling burns approximately a gallon of fuel per hour, so it doesn’t take much time to rack up fuel costs. Idling is also harder on your engine than highway driving, so in addition to the extra thousands a year in fuel costs, you’re looking at higher engine maintenance costs as well. Evaluate your needs by keeping a log to determine why you’re idling and for how long. Once you have good records, you can seek alternate solutions that will meet your needs, such as APUs, remote starters, idle reduction technology or even small diesel-fired heaters or solar panels.

Program perks

Owner-operators can save money by participating in discount fuel networks, and fleets may have fuel optimizer programs available. Check with your associations – they often offer options to members, including directories of stops with the lowest prices.

Smart surcharges

Fuel surcharges are a common tool to protect the owner-operator against surging prices. If you have the authority to develop your own surcharge structure, be sure the rate sufficiently covers current diesel prices. Combined with your own fuel-saving strategy, you could make a nice profit on the surcharge.

Address issues up-front

Maintaining good habits will help keep your fuel consumption where it should be. Performing regular maintenance keeps your truck running efficiently – ensuring no drop off in performance. Your preventive maintenance routine will also catch issues that can lead to worsening fuel economy; make sure you’re scheduling everything at the required intervals to catch low oil, dirty filters, or leaks. Check the air pressure in your tires on a weekly basis

. Pulling a trailer with underinflated tires will certainly impact your fuel economy.

While fuel prices will always fluctuate, implementing strategies to control costs is vital to achieving success as an owner-operator.