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16 Practical Ways to Improve Trucking Fuel Economy

furthering your fuel economy

“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 average miles per gallon ratio. Of course, some methods are tried and true. Others work for some but not others. Nevertheless, saving fuel is an important part of being a carrier and a basic means of increasing your bottom line.

Diesel fuel prices go up and down, and regardless of the price of diesel being up or down, fuel cost is a major factor in turning a profit while driving a truck. In fact, it’s no secret that fuel is the No. 1 expense when driving a truck, and there are several ways to increase semi truck fuel efficiency. Let’s take a look at some ways you can increase your fuel efficiencies.

Improve Fuel Efficiency with Better Speed Control

Many of the speed limits on highways and freeways have been increased in the U.S. over the years. Even for trucks, speed limits have continued to go up and up. While this does allow truck 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 and 60 miles per hour (mph). That may be an unrealistic speed for most trucks, but keep this in mind:

For every 1-mile per hour increase in speed (generally above 60 mph), there is a corresponding .14-mile-per-gallon falloff in truck fuel efficiency.

For instance, a truck traveling at 65 mph will experience a fuel efficiency increase of about 27% compared to a truck traveling at 75 mph. Lower speeds reduce aerodynamic drag and decrease fuel consumption.

Keep in mind that safety risks increase if a truck travels too close to other vehicles in traffic caused by an increase in speed, a problem that has been voiced by truck drivers. Drivers will also contend that slower speeds translate into less income. Speeds over 60 mph are greater in fuel economy loss than time savings.

Not only that, but higher speeds cause more wear and tear on engines and tires which certainly eat into business costs.

Download the Cost Per Mile Worksheet (pdf).

Stay 200-300 rpm below the governor at cruise.

Improve fuel efficiency with better gear changing.

Changing gears uses fuel, so it makes sense that how you’re changing gears can have a significant impact. These tips might help:

  • Make sure you use progressive shifting techniques and shift efficiently.
  • Use a combination of braking and shifting to slow down.
  • Maintain as high a gear as possible.
  • Stay 200-300 rpm below the governor at cruise.

Using aerodynamic packages that reduce wind resistance will also help improve fuel efficiency.

Improve fuel efficiency by finding the RPM sweet spot.

Each engine has a unique RPM sweet spot. It can take time to figure out precisely what yours is, but it is worth it for your trucking fuel economy in the end. The sweet spot typically means you have to drive at a constant speed, sometimes slower than you would like. The harder your engine has to work to maintain certain speeds, the more fuel it will use. Since current engines are made to experience higher torque at lower RPMs, you want your engine to run at the lowest possible RPMs.

Generally, a truck’s good sweet spot will lie between 1250 and 1350 RPM. You don’t want to exceed 1500 RPM. Just remember that every engine has a slightly different RPM. Your owner’s manual should help you find yours more easily.

Improve fuel efficiency with an aerodynamic package.

Using aerodynamic packages that reduce wind resistance will also help improve fuel efficiency. An aerodynamic profile tractor could save thousands of dollars in fuel costs each year over a classic long-nose tractor. Add-ons for the trailer could save an additional 5-7% in fuel economy benefit. Make sure to 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.

Properly inflated tires also reduces wear on tires.

Improve fuel efficiency with low-rolling resistance tires.

Low-rolling resistance tires are a great improvement to a truck – both in wear on the tire and fuel efficiency. For every 3% rolling resistance improvement, you will likely see an increase of 1% in fuel efficiency and enhanced performance.

Single-wide tires can improve fuel efficiency by 4-8% and are lighter in weight. Single-wide tires also have lower maintenance costs with less downtime, service time, and brake wear.

Keep tires inflated. Every 10 psi under-inflation can increase fuel consumption from 1% to 1.5%. Automatic tire inflation systems or a stringent tire maintenance program are the best way to ensure tires are properly inflated and can increase fuel efficiency.

Properly inflated tires also reduce wear on tires.

Improve fuel efficiency with smarter braking.

Every time you brake harshly or more frequently than you should, you increase your truck’s fuel consumption. In turn, it reduces your truck’s fuel mileage significantly. It has this effect since braking causes your transmission to downshift or manually regain the momentum you lost when you braked. The lower the gear you are in, the faster your engine’s revolutions have to be. The higher your RPMs, the more fuel you waste and the harder you make it on your vehicle to haul your cargo.

Instead, brake smartly by going at a consistent pace and leaving plenty of room for the vehicle ahead of you.

Improve fuel efficiency with technology.

Technology has an impact on almost every part of our lives in the modern world. It’s no different for the trucking industry. There are all kinds of different technologies available to truckers. These technologies can help you map smarter routes since they can take all the conditions and variations of the road and adjust for them.

Luckily, you don’t have to look too far to find the right trucking technology for you. Truckstop has a feature called Fuel Desk to make everything easier before you hit the road. Fuel Desk not only allows you to map the smartest routes to improve your fuel economy, but it also helps you find the best fuel rates for your fuel savings. In addition, it helps manage IFTA reporting to give you numbers that have been reported directly into the system.

Using Fuel Desk, you can track your routes, the associated rates, and improve your trucking fuel economy to minimize your out-of-route miles. It allows you to fine-tune managing fuel consumption on the road. Trust us, your fleet managers will appreciate it.

Improve fuel efficiency with 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%.

Low-viscosity lubricants can improve fuel economy by about 2%

Additional Facts & Information

  • 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 an additive in with your fuel tanks 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, you don’t want to be the vehicle sitting on 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 pounds in reduced weight improves fuel economy by about .4%.
  • Look for truck stops with a point system. Some offer fuel discounts, in addition to discounts on retail items, free showers, and free parking.
  • Shop fuel prices online (or use an app) to find the best prices before you start the route. Price shopping online can save a lot of money. Sometimes just crossing a state line to fill up can often save a good amount of cash.
  • Reduce unnecessary idling to 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 speed to 50-55 mph for best fuel efficiency. Headwinds are very hard on engine efficiency.

Improve your fuel efficiency with Fuel Desk.

Now that you know all the tried-and-true methods available to those in the trucking industry, you should be ready to gently hit the road to keep your egg safe. To make getting the maximum fuel efficiency even more attainable, the Truckstop Load Board offers Fuel Desk.

You can track your fuel consumption to get estimates and guidance for your suggested routes and so much more. Use the Truckstop Load Board to reduce the uncertainty and mental calculations to figure out and better your fuel efficiency. See for yourself.

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