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20 Ways to Control Fuel Costs as an Owner-Operator

Your number one expense as an owner-operator is fuel. And with diesel prices hitting record highs, it’s important now more than ever to keep fuel efficiency top of mind. 

There are lots of factors that help determine your fuel efficiency, and cutting fuel expenses can help you make more money on every load. Check out this 20 tip guide to help reduce fuel costs so you can keep growing your business as an owner-operator.

diesel fuel pump

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1. Use technology to find the best fuel stops. 

The Truckstop.com Load Board offers owner-operators features like, Fuel Desk, which help identify the truck stop locations to fuel up route-by-route. Save on miles and money by allowing technology to tell you where and how much to gas up based on your average miles-per-gallon and the current diesel price.  

2. Reduce your average speed.

Freight Brokers and shippers often encourage speedy travel, so it’s easy for a truck driver to fall into the trap of driving fast to appease them. Yet experts agree that speed is the main reason for increased fuel consumption and reduced profit.

3. Limit the time spent idling.

Many drivers idle to power climate control and accessories at night. However, idling requires about a gallon of fuel per hour, which can really add up extra costs. Especially as the national average reaches $5.25 a gallon for diesel, according to a recent article in Transport Topics. Instead, look to invest in an auxiliary power unit which will pay for itself in no time.

trucks parked idling at night

4. Buy the right fuel.

In farming areas, it may be difficult to find ultra-low-sulfur diesel. Make sure to check labeling if you’re buying from any outlet that’s not clearly a truck stop.

5. Be careful with biofuel.

Biofuels tend to be more expensive and produce lower fuel mileage. Know the level of biofuel allowed under your engine warranty, and use only approved fuels.

6. Maximize fuel tank storage.

Opt for larger dual tanks when buying a truck. This gives you the option of stocking up on super-cheap fuel when you can and cutting down on the number of stops needed.

7. Spec your truck wisely.

Think about weight and maintenance when selecting a truck. A big engine and heavy chrome may be tempting, but think about aerodynamics if you want a bigger paycheck.

8. Perform regular truck maintenance.

Start a preventative maintenance routine to make sure you’re running efficiently. Low oil, a dirty air filter, or a compressor leak will all affect your mpg.

9. Check your MPG regularly.

Divide the number of miles between stops by how much fuel you burned. Do it at every single stop and track it in your phone a notebook you keep nearby. If it starts to change, figure out why. Many factors are outside of your control (weather is one example), but it’s important to stay in-tune to your truck.

10. Maintain tire pressure.

To reduce resistance, check the air pressure in all 18 tires and fill them up at least weekly to the manufacturer’s specifications.

11. Slow your acceleration and deceleration.

Save fuel, premature engine wear, driveline, and tires by losing the lead foot. Slowing acceleration is especially important running on hills because it helps reduce the effects of gravity.

12. Shift wisely.

Don’t drive by engine sound, but by RPMs. If you’re unsure, the manufacturer can help you determine the sweet spot.

13. Optimize your route miles for efficiency.

Try rethinking your route, keeping side trips to a minimum, and using precise directions you’ll see a pay-off in savings. Load boards like the Truckstop.com Load Board provide carriers tools that help optimize routes from the start. Fuel Desk provides simple truck routing by controlling your travel miles with practical directions to save on miles and money.

14. Try a roof fairing.

Airodyne reports a full roof fairing that delivers just a 10% increase in fuel economy can save $6,900 a year. Even more basic flat-style roof fairings can deliver up to 5% in fuel savings.

15. Consider low-rolling resistance tires.

A deep tread tire will have more rolling resistance when it’s new because it has more squirm in the tread. Low-rolling resistance tires have a more durable tread but at shallower depths.

16. Lighten up your wheels.

Yes, aluminum wheels can cost three times more than those made of steel, however most long-haul fleets use aluminum because the weight reduction is so dramatic. The resale value of aluminum wheels is retained for longer than steel wheels, too.

17. Add trailer side skirts.

Manufacturers say these devices can boost fuel economy by more than 5% and cost only $2,900 per trailer to install. Do the math to see how quickly they’ll pay for themselves.

fuel gauge at full

18. Try getting a fuel surcharge.

Many carriers charge a surcharge when the national average price for a gallon of diesel exceeds a certain price. As long as you know your truck’s fuel economy, you can calculate how well a fuel surcharge compensates you for rising prices.

19. Understand low-fuel-tax states.

When you select your fuel stops, make sure you understand the difference between pump price and the real cost of the fuel without taxes. This might mean that the cheapest fuel is in the next state even though the pump price is higher. High tax purchases are settled up when you file your IFTA report.

20. Use the right lubricants. 

Low-viscosity lubricants can improve fuel economy by about 2%, while the new formulations have been known to increase efficiency by up to 4%.

Better control your fuel costs with Fuel Desk  

To make getting the maximum fuel efficiency even more attainable, the Truckstop.com Load Board offers Fuel Desk. 

You can track your fuel consumption to get estimates and guidance for your suggested routes, pick the best fuel stops for your trip and so much more.  Contact us to get a demo today.  

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