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How To Save on Fuel Costs: A Guide for Truck Drivers

Gas is the silent killer of profit. Fuel is the largest cost of operation for motor carriers, and in times of instability and changing prices, it can be a big expense to operate a truck or commercial vehicle. The cost of fueling your vehicle can be the difference between making a profit and losing money. Knowing how to cut down on fuel costs can prepare drivers to handle unpredictable changing prices in diesel. Fueling up your truck is a necessary part of the job, but there are a few ways to keep costs down.fuel savings cut costs on diesel for trucking and truck drivers in united states and canada

Driving Habits 

  • Avoid Idling: One (1) hour of idling will result in about a gallon of fuel lost.
  • Drive On Properly Inflated Tires: Ensure the tires are always properly inflated, as under inflation can decrease fuel economy. Tire pressure should be checked in pre-tip inspections or at the least once a week. For every 1 PSI drop in the tire pressure, you can expect about 0.2%-0.3% decline in fuel mileage, which adds up over time.
  • Cruise Control: Cruise control or using a consistent cruising speed is an important tool for saving on fuel, because it limits unnecessary acceleration or deceleration. Every time you slow down, it takes fuel to speed back up, causing loss. It takes a lot of fuel for larger vehicles to get going after slowing down, which is an added expense. You can save upwards of 6 to 7 percent in fuel consumption by following this rule. Your cruise RPM can help increase fuel efficiency, because it lessens the pressure on the engine. You want to aim for an RPM of 1300-1500 (ideally 1250-1350) range. Reduce braking by leaving more distance between you and vehicle in front.
  • Cruising Speed: Driving faster burns more fuel, meaning for every 1 MPH increase, there is about an equal 0.14 MPG decrease in fuel economy. The best speed for better fuel economy would be in the 55-60 mph, due to head winds, which means following the speed limits may actually help with fuel consumption, not just safety. You will want to keep your revs down unless necessary for more power, such as on hills or overtaking.
  • Gears: Drive in high gear when possible, because driving faster in lower gear burns more fuel than needed. When shifting gears, you may want to try using block gear changes (if it safe to do so), which is skipping a gear and shifting two at a time, to reduce wear on the gearbox and avoid wasting the engine.

Preparing Your Truck For Trips 

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  • Cargo Distribution: Ensure the cargo is loaded evenly and low, to reduce trailer drag. Your vehicle can take off and move quicker if the load is evenly distributed. Load heavy items toward front of trailer when needed.
  • Axles: You can benefit from considering the axles you are using, when possible. If you are hauling lighter loads or are not driving in slippery conditions, you can shift from 6x4 to 6x2 axles, where the trailer has two sets of four wheels under the turntable, but one axle is a drive one while the other is a dead axle. This means the engine has to only drive one axle which improves fuel economy. Make sure you assess the safety of this first, before doing so, based on your truck and load you are carrying. 
  • Weight ConsiderationAvoid maxing out your weight, and use partial tanks if you need to. Diesel weighs about 7 lb per gallon, which means it’s important to take partial tanks when needed if you are close to the max. The more pressure and weight on the truck, the more fuel is needed to keep it moving.
  • RefuelingPumping your fuel at lower settings minimizes vapors, which can help you make the most use of the fuel space in your tank. If you can, use premium diesel fuel. 

Truck Maintenance and Usage 

  • Air Conditioners and Cooling: The vehicle uses more horsepower if the fan is running more often, which can become a problem if there is an issue with the engine, causing the fan to run more often. Keep the engine maintained to avoid frequent fan use. Air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by upwards of 20% due to the amount of energy it takes, so pace yourself when using the A/C and hit the re-circulation button while in use, as this is cooling the air already in your vehicle and not bringing in more hot outside air.  
  • Filters: Change fuel filters once a month minimum, and keep an eye out for more frequent checks in winter months. Air filters should be changed every year or ideally every 6 months.
  • Wheel and Axle Alignment: Vehicle alignment is an important part of fuel saving, as tires out of alignment will travel sideways as opposed to straight, and misaligned tires drag, causing a drop in mileage. Misaligned tires can decrease gas mileage by upwards of 10%.
  • Battery Cables: The alternator works harder if the battery cables are not in good condition, so to ensure they are not corroded,  and clean and check them with each engine check-up.
  • Oil: Manufacturer recommended grade of motor oil improves fuel mileage, so make sure to know what your truck uses and needs, to stay in the most efficient usage zone.

Add-Ons

  • Aerodynamics: Improving the vehicle’s aerodynamics is one very effective way to increase fuel efficiency. Trucks burn fuel when pushing up against air resistance to reduce aerodynamic drag, especially at high speeds. To improve fuel consumption, adding aerodynamic features can help the truck save fuel. Roof mounted cab deflector and angled bumpers help in the case of the trailer being taller than the tractor. You can also use side fairings, to move air down the side of the trailer, preventing turbulence under your trailer.
  •  Fuel Additives: In some of the colder areas, truckers use fuel additives, which mixes with fuel to prevent gelling and improve performance.

Fuel economy isn’t just for your truck. It’s for you, too. Fuel costs are the number one expense for trucking companies and drivers. Profit margins are already tight and the instability of the economy is adding more pressure. By using the small, effective methods to cut down on fuel consumption; in the long run the numbers add up to significant savings. With a little know-how, you can minimize your cost of keeping your truck on the road.

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