At the beginning of March, the average diesel fuel price was $4.849 per gallon. Towards the end of the month, it was $5.139. This is almost $2 more per gallon than a year ago. Some areas experience pricing that’s well over the national average. In California, drivers are paying over $6 per gallon for diesel.
These increases bite into your revenues, and the more trucks you have on the road needed fuel, the worse it seems to be. How can you save money when diesel fuel is nearing all-time highs?
Consider Equipment Upgrades
Have you been looking into upgrading your rigs? If so, don’t overlook electric semis. They do have a higher price tag, but you have to consider government grants that are available in some areas for the purchase of electric vehicles. Plus, you’re no longer paying for fuel or oil changes. That in itself helps save money.
There’s another benefit to electric rigs. A percentage of the braking is regenerated and goes back into the Energy Storage System. You can recoup upwards of 15% through braking energy.
What do drivers have to say about them? The praise has been positive with reports that the ride noise is less noticeable, with less vibration. They also report that the braking, torque, and acceleration are improved. Plus, there’s the benefit of having no diesel fumes. Take a look at some of the available electric semis.
Freightliner’s eCascadia ranges from 360 to 500 horsepower with a range of 250 miles on a full charge and a loaded trailer. Its GVW is 82,000 pounds. How long does it change to charge the semi? It can reach 80% charged in just an hour and a half.
Would a smaller box truck suffice? The eM2 is Freightliner’s electric box truck. It’s a medium-duty option that gets up to 230 miles per charge.
Kenworth’s T680E has one of the slower battery charging estimates at just over three hours. It has an operating range of around 150 miles. That said, it’s one of the more powerful options with more than 1,600 pounds of torque per foot and up to 670 horsepower.
If you need a class 6 or class 7 box truck, they get up to 200 miles on a full battery pack. It takes just one hour to recharge the battery pack. If you make small local deliveries, this truck is a great option.
- Tre Bev
Nikola has a short-haul electric day cab available starting in 2021. It gets up to 350 miles on a charge. It takes two hours to reach an 80% charge in a fully drained battery pack. The GVW is 82,000 pounds.
One concern that trucking company owners may have is finding charge stations. Nikola offers consultations for mobile charging solutions when your drivers are on the road.
Volvo’s VNR is able to go up to 275 miles on a full charge, depending on the truck. Like the others, it takes an hour and a half to bring the six batteries to an 80% charge, the four-battery smaller trucks need just an hour. The GVW ranges from 33,000 (4×2 straight trucks) to 82,000 pounds (6×2 and 6×4 tractors). The VNR is available in a 4×2, 6×2, or 6×4 tractor or 4×2 or 6×4 straight truck. Ranges are:
- 4×2 Straight Truck – Up to 230 miles
- 6×4 Straight Truck – Up to 190 miles
- 4×2 Tractor – Up to 175 miles
- 6×2 Tractor – Up to 275 miles
- 6×4 Tractor – Up to 275 miles
You may not have it in the budget to switch to electric trucks. Even upgrading your older rigs to newer ones can improve efficiency. For example, a 2013 Kenworth W900 is reported to get around 5 mpg. A 2017 Freightliner Columbia is reported to get around 6.5 mpg. That alone can save money on your diesel bills.
Perform Maintenance Checks to Improve Fuel Efficiency
An electric truck may not be in your budget right now. That’s okay, there are several other ways to lower your diesel fuel consumption and lower your fuel expenses. One of the best is to make sure your trucks are maintained.
If you have the tires properly inflated, it reduces your fuel consumption. Before heading out, check tire pressure to ensure none of the tires are losing air. Have the oil changed regularly and make sure air filters are not packed with dust and dirt.
Optimize Fuel Ups
When your drivers need to fill up, they should optimize those stops. You have a driver whose fuel gauge is showing half the fuel is left. The diesel fuel in that area is about $5 a gallon. If the driver waits until closer to the destination the price of diesel there is $6 a gallon. Fuel up earlier for the lower price.
GasBuddy is a popular app that people can use to check local gas prices. Use it to your advantage when trying to find the cheapest diesel fuel in town. Waze, MapQuest, and AAA TripTik Planner may also be useful.
Sign Up for a Fuel Discount Card
Look into fuel discount cards. The amount you save per gallon becomes substantial over time. If you’re saving 10 cents per gallon with your fuel card and have a 300-gallon capacity, you would save $30 per fill-up. You’ve saved $300 over ten fill-ups. The amount you save depends on the fuel card, so shop around to get the best option.
How does a fuel discount card work? Your driver goes to a participating fuel retailer and fills up. The driver shows the cashier the card or swipes it at the pump. The purchase is charged to your account at either the discounted rate or the normal rate. If it’s charged at the normal rate, the discounted amount is credited at the end of the month or sent to you via check in a monthly rebate.
Carefully Plan Routes
Plan routes so that your drivers are able to maintain a steady speed and avoid starts and stops. While you’re planning routes, don’t just go by the shortest route. Look at the speed limits, traffic congestion in those areas, and route quality.
If you have a driver going from Chicago to Boston, Massachusetts, you need to look at the possible routes and make sure you’re not wasting fuel in construction zones where traffic often backs up for half an hour. You could go into Connecticut and save miles, but you’d run into over a dozen construction zones. Add about 80 miles bypassing Connecticut, but you reduce the number of construction zones, thus saving fuel.
While you’re planning routes, make sure you’re not traveling with an empty trailer. You’re wasting money. Suppose you do that Chicago to Boston route and have an empty truck all the way home, you’ve lost the chance to double your profits by picking up a load in Boston to bring to Chicago.
Avoid empty legs by using an app that helps you find loads. Saint John Capital’s app is packed with millions of loads. Access the load board and search the cities you’ll travel through to see if there are loads going to your destination. You end up earning money both ways, which maximizes your profits each week.
Sign up at Saint John Capital now to try the load board app for Android and iOS. Our 60-day free trial gives you plenty of time to discover why so many trucking firms rely on our app to maximize profits.