How Truckers can Counter High Gas Prices
Gas prices have risen sharply in recent months and in response, trucking companies are revisiting fuel savings practices and trying new ones. Here are some tactics trucking companies and owner operators should consider to keep ahead of the problem and help curb the costs of rising fuel prices.
1. Add a fuel surcharge.
Many owner operators, leased and independent, earn money off spikes in gas prices, using a combination of good surcharges and good fuel-economy. If a carrier’s surcharge is insufficient, compare the surcharges offered by other carriers. If a customer refuses to pay a surcharge, truckers shouldn’t accept the load unless there’s money to be made on it anyway.
2. Shift according to RPM.
Operators should not rely on the sound of the engine. Trucking experts advise fuel-conscious truckers to avoid the upper end of the power curve. Truckers should short-shift at 1,000 to 1,200 rpm in the low-range gears, and when shifting into high range, use 1,500 rpm as a maximum shift point. When it’s time to downshift, truckers should throttle down to 1,150 rpm first.
3. Invest in fuel-saving specs and add-ons.
Roof fairings, side fairings, gap reducers, side skirts for trailers, and aerodynamic mirrors help improve airflow around a truck and reduce gas consumption. Other worthwhile equipment investments include:
• Low-rolling-resistance tires
• Wheel balancers
• Synthetic lubes, oils, and transmission fluids
• Automatic tire inflations systems which keep tire pressure constant
• Any equipment that lowers weight like aluminum wheels and wide single tires
4. “Gear fast, run slow.”
This tip from the Technology and Maintenance Council advises operators to gear a truck not for the desired cruising speed, but for faster than the desired cruising speed. This means that the actual cruising will be in the most fuel-efficient range.
5. Narrow the gap.
Snugging the trailer as close to the tractor as possible reduces wind resistance. The ride may not be as comfortable, but the savings are worth the trade-off.
6. Be rigorous about performing regular maintenance.
Trucks should be checked often enough to spot low oil, a dirty air filter, or an air compressor leak. Cooling engines should also be inspected regularly to ensure they’re working properly.
7. Lower fuel prices by buying through a fuel-network.
Fleets, truck-stop chains, and trucking companies offer gas plans in the form of "fuel cards" that feature myriad discounts and perks. Such networks are often worthwhile; owner-operators can save an average of over six cents per gallon when they are able to participate in major carriers' discount fuel-networks, according to financial services group ATBS.
8. Limit and track truck idling.
Owner-operators should monitor idling in all weathers and all routes, even manually, if their electronic control modules don’t keep track of idling already. Truckers should count both off-duty time and time waiting at loading docks, freight yards and ports, and in traffic jams. They may be surprised at how much they idle, and how much of that idling can be avoided.