Updated: Oct 5, 2022
A well-paying load is important, but long-term profits are built by looking at all areas of your trucking business. Owner-operators can reduce waste and be more efficient by focusing on truck specifications, speed, fuel, and unnecessary purchases. Here’s what you can do you help control waste and focus on keeping more money in your pocket.
1) Watch your specs.
Drivers are often tempted to build or spec a chrome-laden rig because it looks “good”, but this ends up costing you more in fuel and maintenance. There is the initial extra expense for the purchase, plus the added cost of using up fuel due to the increased weight as a “show tuck” weighs more than an aerodynamic truck. Not only will it save you money to have a more fuel-efficient truck, but the resale value alone will more than offset the selling price. As much as 22% less horsepower is required to maintain 65 mph in an aerodynamic truck. Every dollar saved goes directly into your pocket. 2) Speed.
“Slowing down will increase your miles per gallon significantly, easily putting more money in your wallet,” says Don Neil at ATBS. Owner-operators who reduce their miles per hour below 60 will see increased profits. Over the course of a year, the impact is significant and could exceed $10,000. With drivers being encouraged by other drivers, dispatchers, shippers and consignees to “drive fast” in order to make a deadline, it makes it difficult at times to want to do the responsible and cost-effective thing and drive at a safe speed. Since the number one reason that puts owner-operators (truck drivers) out of business is high fuel consumption, arriving a few seconds later is worth not stressing your vehicle, costing you more money and reducing your profits. Many drivers believe that if they drive faster, they can drive more miles and therefore make more money. This is a myth because speeds that exceed 60 mph make your fuel economy loss greater than the time saved. When you drive faster you use more horsepower which will always cost you more in fuel. You reduce your fuel economy by one-tenth of a gallon-per-mile for every mile-per-hour you drive over 60. Driving faster will increase tire, engine and brake wear which in return will increase your maintenance costs, repair bills and downtime. Engine manufacturers estimate 10-15% higher maintenance costs at 75 mph verses 55 mph. By maintaining a constant legal speed on the highway you will substantially increase your profits and also contribute to a safer driving environment.
3) Fuel Economy.
The biggest expense of all the variable costs for an owner-operator is fuel, but it's also the most controllable. To get your best fuel economy means overcoming four things: air resistance, rolling resistance, gravity and habits. You can address these and lower your fuel costs with the helpful advice listed below.
Use your fleet’s recommended fuel network. This will help the quality and bottom-line cost of fuel. If you don’t already have a fuel network, Team Run Smart recently introduced the Fuel Discount Card which can save owner-operators $.06 cents per gallon.
Preventative Maintenance. When done on a regular basis, this can cut your maintenance costs in half. By reducing equipment failures on the road and spending less time in the shop on those repairs, you will save both time and money. It can also lower fuel cost through better miles per gallon by simply checking your tires, filters, cooling system and clutch. Keep up on your oil changes and also keep a good record of all maintenance on your tuck, as this will be beneficial to you and the resale value for your vehicle.
Limit idle time. Reducing your idle time will save you fuel and money, be easier on the environment, reduce engine wear, and decrease maintenance costs. A great accessory that can save you around $80 a week is a remote starter with a temperature sensor that will start your truck at a specified temperature. This would be very beneficial since about a gallon of fuel is used per hour of idle time, and there are some city regulations that prevent trucks idling for more than 15 minutes at a time. Having an electric blanket for cold weather and window screens for warm weather will help reduce idling time as well.
Reduce road resistance. At minimum of once a week, check the air pressure on your rigs 18 tires and fill them up to the manufacturer's specifications. Even though the trailer tires may belong to your carrier, the added cost to pull a trailer with underinflated tires is not worth it.
Aerodynamics. You use horsepower to overcome all of the forces that are trying to hold back the truck, and you burn fuel to make horsepower. So, a truck that rolls down the road with minimum drag will use less horsepower and consume less fuel. Try to find an aerodynamic efficient truck if you’re in the market, or focus on what you can do to improve your current truck. Snug the van or reefer trailer close to the tractor or use aeroskirts to smooth the airflow. For flatbeds, build your load in the most aerodynamic shape that you can. Consider the following before purchasing a truck: round corners, a sloped hood curved windshield, flush headlights, recessed door hinges and grab handles, an aerodynamic bumper and under-hood air cleaners. If you already own a truck avoid add-ons such as lights, bug screens and horns. Also consider cab extenders, tractor side skirts, full roof fairings and an air dam front bumper.
Acceleration. Gradually accelerating instead of “putting the pedal to the metal” is less stress on the mechanics of your equipment. Patience is a must in these situations especially on steep inclines like mountains and hills. When you accelerate rapidly you may arrive at your destination a minute or so sooner, but the wear on your vehicles driveline, engine and tires will end up costing you more.
Deceleration. Using the throttle to slow down and coasting instead of braking is highly recommended. Much of the fuel you used to get up to speed is wasted when the brakes are applied. Follow at a safe distance to prevent from frequent braking. To avoid sudden reactions it is recommended by safety experts to keep a safe distance (around 12 seconds) behind the vehicle in front of you. Look ahead and anticipate changes in traffic to keep your momentum up.
4) Controlling costs on the road.
People waste millions of dollars everyday on unnecessary purchases. here are some helpful tips:
Expenses on the road. To cut costs on purchasing food at truck stops and fast food places you can equip your truck with a refrigerator and microwave. This can save you from $3,000 to $4,000 per year and this will allow you to eat healthier too. You will still receive the per diem tax deductions whether you spend $5 per day or $40 per day. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of spending the lowest amount possible, claim the maximum per diem deduction, and eat healthier at the same time?
Entertainment. Consider less expensive entertainment during your downtime. Try renting a movie, playing hand-held games (there are plenty of free game apps for smart phones to download), reading a book, listening to audio books or exercising. By purchasing a gaming system you can spend $20 a month for games instead of $10 a day. Public library books and movies are also a cost-effective form of entertainment. You can deduct a TV and DVD player provided they are also used for business related purposes.
Before every purchase, ask yourself if this is necessary for your business and if you absolutely need it. It’s important to focus on your load, but owner-operators who make continuous TruckSmart adjustments in their business can enjoy long-term profitability.