Trucking Fuel Management Best Practices To Reduce Costs In 2023 [Updated for 2024]

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Trucking Fuel Management Best Practices To Reduce Costs In 2024

In this era of low demand and low rates, any trucking company that’s not trying to cut expenses and find efficiencies runs the risk of operating at a loss and possibly failing as a business. Forward-thinking owner-operators are continuously on the lookout for new solutions to lower their cost-per-mile and remain profitable.

Fuel is one of trucking’s biggest expenses. A typical commercial truck guzzles an astonishing 20,500 gallons of fuel yearly, translating to an annual diesel fuel bill surpassing $70,000. As fuel prices continue to rise, costs escalate, underlining the critical need to optimize fuel consumption.

Let’s dive into fuel management best practices – unearthing hidden strategies that can significantly enhance your operational efficiencies and reduce costs. From leveraging cutting-edge technology to revamping driver habits and more, these fuel-saving tips could help you to make smart investments that optimize fuel efficiency, reduce costs, and improve bottom-line strength.

1. Using weigh station tools

Being diverted and idling at weigh stations and toll booths can waste time and fuel. Luckily some services can help you bypass these lengthy delays.

Services like Prepass allow your drivers to skip weight stations and roll through toll stations at average highway speeds.

Here’s how it works: Your trucks are pre-cleared, communicate their status to weigh stations, and link with electronic scanners at toll booths through transponders. Pre-cleared vehicles can continue at highway speeds without slowing, stopping, and idling while waiting to be processed. Uninterrupted travel saves both times and maintains higher fuel efficiency.

2. Use a fuel card

Using fuel cards can provide considerable savings on your company’s highest operating cost. Accepted at most truck stops nationwide, you can profit with significant discounts on the price of diesel, plus benefit from additional features to improve cost control and facilitate tax reporting.

Here are a few features the best fuel card programs provide:

  • Up to $.20/gallon discount off the cash price of fuel.
  • Pre-approved fuel credit of $5,000 per card.
  • $100 per day cash advance options.
  • Simple-to-use fuel management portal with access to IFTA reporting.
  • Purchase diesel exhaust fluid, oil, reefer, and windshield washer fluid.
  • No monthly or annual fees.

Research which fuel card will provide the most comprehensive benefits for your trucking company by reading lists like this fuel discount program analysis by Freightwaves.

3. Consider wheel options

A typical steel wheel can weigh over 70 lbs. Aluminum wheels weigh, on average, just under 50 lbs. Fuel use increases with each pound of weight you add to your trucks, so by reducing weight with aluminum wheels, you can also reduce fuel consumption. Aluminum wheels can reduce fuel consumption by 3% or more when combined with low rolling-resistant tires.

4. Increase aerodynamics

Small changes to the aerodynamic design of a truck can net your company significant savings over time. Over 50% of the available energy in any big rig goes toward overcoming the aerodynamic drag of air friction and pressure. Semi-truck aerodynamic kits can reduce both types of drag to improve fuel mileage and save costs. Kits may be available as part of an upgrade package from OEMs, or they may be after-market products.

5. Be more traffic-aware

Little frustrates truckers more or wastes more fuel than being stuck in traffic.

When tallied all together, highway freight shipments experienced over 27 million days of delay in 2019. That’s the equivalent of nearly 75,000 years. Those delays cost trucking companies time and waste gallons of fuel.

Avoiding delays and idle time due to congestion is tough. Plan around traffic problems using route-planning software or GPS. Copilot Live Truck, for example, allows you to find the quickest way to get to your destination and displays traffic-related delays.

Trucking companies are also re-assessing how they plan pick-ups and drop-offs. New strategies include negotiating overnight parking for trucks at shipper locations. This means drivers do not have to idle while fighting heavy commuter traffic to meet critical early morning schedules.

Another emerging strategy is to leverage drivers’ experience and knowledge of significant routes giving them more say in what routes they take and when.

6. Find new air conditioning solutions

Long, hot summer months are becoming more costly as global temperatures reach new records. A truck’s in-cabin air conditioner can eat up a good amount of fuel, even if supported by a battery-powered HVAC system. These battery systems cannot typically make it through mandated off hours. If your trucks aren’t equipped with self-powered alternate air conditioning units, such as solar-powered HVAC units, drivers may be more likely to idle during non-driving hours to stay cool.

One estimate suggests a heavy-duty truck idling 50 percent of the time for one week would burn about 19 gallons of diesel. This compares to burning around two gallons of diesel (to charge the system) using a battery HVAC system augmented with solar panels.

Solar HVAC units have been found to significantly reduce idling time, allowing drivers to stay cool without incurring excessive costs.

7. Investigate speed control

Every mile traveled over 55 mph equals a 0.1 mile-per-gallon drop in fuel economy. Take the case of a driver hauling a load 1,000 miles with the fuel cost set at $4 per gallon. If the truck got six mpg by averaging a speed of 60 mph, the trip’s fuel cost would equal roughly $667. If the driver reduces speed to 55 mph, fuel efficiency increases to 6.5 mpg. This brings the fuel cost down to approximately $615 for the same distance, saving $52. According to the ATA, most long haulers travel 100,000 miles per year. So, by slowing down five mph, the driver saves over $5,000 per annum. That’s a significant saving to bolster your company’s bottom line!

A recent poll shows that speed governors are a popular solution for limiting speed and improving fuel mileage.

8. Maintain proper tire pressure

It might seem obvious that low tire pressure can drag your fuel mileage down, yet thousands of truckers lose money every day due to underinflated tires. About one out of five tractors/trucks operates with one or more tires underinflated by at least 20 psi, according to estimates by the North American Council For Freight Efficiency (NACFE). This council estimates that a truck running with all tires underinflated by just ten psi means a 0.5% to 1% increase in fuel consumption.

Automatic Tire Inflation Systems can help monitor pressure and keep tires at the optimum level of inflation.

Conclusion

If you want new solutions to lower your cost-per-mile and remain profitable, get creative to reduce fuel consumption. Investigate new technologies, revise driver habits, and make adjustments to route planning with a focus on fuel efficiency.

Incorporating these tactics can assist in maximizing fuel savings and optimize overall operational performance to help stay profitable in an era of low freight rates and low demand.

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