“Drive like there’s an egg under your fuel pedal and you don’t want to break it.” – Author unknown
An old-time trucker was once quoted as saying this was the best way for a truck driver to conserve fuel. Apply pressure to the gas pedal gently and conservatively. Use light pressure when increasing and decreasing speed and you will enjoy better gas mileage.
Almost every truck driver has a way to save fuel and increase the miles per gallon ratio. Some methods, of course, are tried and true. Others work for some, but not others. Nonetheless, saving fuel is important and a basic means of increasing your bottom line.
It is no secret that fuel is the No. 1 expense in driving a truck. Even today, with diesel fuel prices inching toward its lowest price in more than a decade, fuel cost is a major factor in turning a profit while driving truck. There are several ways to increase fuel efficiency. Let’s take a look at some.
Reduce Your Speed
Many of today’s highways and freeways have increased speed limits in the United States. Even for trucks, those speed limits have gone up and up. While this does allow drivers to reach their destination in a shorter time period, the reward may not be worth the penalty.
On average, trucks will see the best fuel efficiency between 55 mph and 60 mph. That may be an unrealistic speed for most trucks, but keep this in mind.
For every one-mile per hour increase in speed (generally above 60 mph), there is a corresponding .14-mile-per-gallon falloff in fuel efficiency.
For instance, a truck traveling at 65 mph will experience an fuel efficiency increase of about 27 percent, compared to a truck traveling at 75 mph. Lower speeds reduce aerodynamic drag and decrease fuel consumption.
Keep in mind, though, that safety risks increase if a truck travels much closer than other traffic, a problem that has been voiced by truck drivers. As well, drivers will contend that slower speeds translate into less income. Speeds over 60 mph are greater in fuel economy loss than time savings.
Higher speeds also cause more wear on engines and tires.
Changing Gears Uses Fuel
Use progressive shifting techniques and shift efficiently. Use a combination of braking and shifting to slow down. Maintain as high a gear as possible and stay 200 to 300 rpm below the governor at cruise.
Using packages that reduce wind resistance also help improve fuel efficiency. An aerodynamic profile tractor could save thousands of dollars of fuel each year over a classic long nose tractor. Add-ons for the trailer could save an additional 5 percent to 7 percent in fuel economy benefit. Maintain as narrow a tractor-trailer gap as possible.
On flatbeds, use tarps and smooth out the load as much as possible to make it more aerodynamic.
Tires, Tires, Tires
Low rolling resistance tires are a great improvement to a truck, both in wear on the tire and fuel efficiency. For every 3 percent rolling resistance improvement, 1 percent fuel efficiency is seen.
Single-wide tires can improve fuel efficiency by 4 percent to 8 percent and are lighter in weight. Single-wide tires also have lower maintenance and repair costs with less downtime, service time and brake wear.
Keep tires inflated. For every 10 psi under-inflation can increase fuel consumption from 1 percent to 1.5 percent. Automatic tire inflation systems or a stringent tire maintenance program are the best way to make sure tires are properly inflated and can increase fuel efficiency.
Properly inflated tires also reduces wear on tires.
Consider Low-Viscosity Lubricants
Low viscosity lubricants can improve fuel economy by about 2 percent, while the new formulations have been know to increase efficiency by up to 4 percent.
Other Facts and Advice
- Add a bottle of fuel injector cleaner to your tank every month. It will prolong the life of your engine.
- In the more northern states, or Canadian provinces, mix “additive” with your fuel to prevent gelling during the colder months.
- Plan your trip. Fill up before heading into unknown areas or urban areas. Make sure not to run low on fuel or you could be sitting at the side of the road.
- Diesel weighs approximately 7.2 pounds per gallon. If you are close to maxing out on weight, carry only partial tanks of fuel to reduce gross weight. Every 1,000 reduced weight improves fuel economy by about .4 percent.
- Look for truck stops with a point system. Some offer discounts as well as discounts on retail items, free showers or free parking.
- Shop online for the best prices before you leave. Price shopping online can save a lot of money. Simply crossing a state line to fill up can often save a good amount of cash.
- Reducing unnecessary idling can save money. Truck engines use about one gallon of fuel per hour when idling. Auxiliary power units use only .2 gallons per hour or less.
- In a headwind, reduce speeds to 50 mph to 55 mph for best fuel efficiency. Headwinds are very hard on engine efficiency.