How much are you spending on fuel compared to other owner-operators?

As we have now talked about a few times, as an owner-operator truck driver, fuel is your most expensive controllable cost. So are you spending more or less than others on fuel? To answer this question we need to understand the various ways we can look at fuel costs, described in the methods outlined below.

How much are you spending on fuel per gallon?

The easiest way to look at fuel costs is simply by looking at the cost per gallon every time we fill up our tank. As of May 10, 2021, the average national diesel fuel cost was $3.18/gallon. So if you were paying less than this you might think you were getting a good deal. However, based on those same averages, depending on the region you were operating in you would have paid an average of $2.96/gallon in the Gulf Coast States or $4.00/gallon in California. You can use the Department of Energy website to check these averages each week. In future articles, we will discuss ways to save on fuel purchasing, but a good target is to buy your fuel somewhere between 5 cents to 30 cents below the DOE averages.


How much are you spending on fuel as a percentage of your revenue?

The next way to look at your fuel costs is on a percentage of revenue basis. To do this you simply take the dollar amount spent on fuel over a period of time divided by your revenue generated over the same period of time. For all of 2020, the average owner-operator spent 25.2% of their revenue on fuel. This number can vary depending on the type of freight and weight you are hauling. Dry van owner-operators spent 23.6% of revenue on fuel, Reefer owner-operators spent 33.5% of revenue on fuel and Flatbedders spent 28.3% of revenue on fuel. Fuel costs have increased in 2021 and for the first quarter of 2021, the average owner-operator has spent 27.6% of their revenue on fuel.

How much are you spending on fuel per mile driven?

Another way to look at fuel costs is to determine how much money per mile you spend on fuel. To do this you simply divide your total fuel costs over a period of time by the total number of miles driven during that same time period. For all of 2020, the average owner-operator spent 34 cents per mile on fuel. This number can vary depending on the type of freight and weight you are hauling. Dry van owner-operators spent 34 cents per mile on fuel, Reefer owner-operators spent 30 cents per mile on fuel and Flatbedders spent 38 cents per mile on fuel. For the first quarter of 2021, the average owner-operator has spent 41 cents per mile on fuel.


How much are you spending on fuel over time?

The final way to look at fuel costs is simply the total dollars paid for fuel over a period of time. For all of 2020, the average owner-operator spent $35,744 on fuel. This number can vary depending on the type of freight and weight you are hauling. Dry van owner-operators spent $36,860 on fuel, Reefer owner-operators spent $35,161 on fuel and Flatbedders spent $33,073 on fuel. For the first quarter of 2021, the average owner-operator has spent $10,408 on fuel. If this number were annualized it would mean the average owner-operator will spend $41,632 on fuel in 2021.


What can you do with all of this information?

Hopefully, this information gives you some benchmarks to know how you stack up with others in terms of your fuel costs. If, based on this information, you think there is an opportunity for you to save more money on fuel, stay tuned, we will be providing more fuel savings tips in future articles!


To read the previous article in the series, click here!

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