Surviving on a trucker’s wages in the 1970s, our family had to make the most out of what we had. It was sometimes very little. As a teenager, I learned to stretch gas mileage in an old 1973 Ford pickup my dad and I pieced together. Some of the frugal habits I practiced during the lean times still carry over today, often to the chagrin of my family and friends.
With the price of diesel fuel soaring recently, I know it’s easy to debate the causes and point fingers at all those who are responsible. We can cuss everyone from the current administration to the oil cartels, but in the end, we’ll just be out of breath.
But drivers can be a part of the solution by taking responsible action and conserving fuel whenever possible. This is true whether you are an owner-operator, whose bottom line is taking a direct hit, or a company driver, who is the steward of an employer’s money. Conservative practices will always pay off down the road.
To help save fuel, begin with the basics of your job. First and foremost, watch your speed. Each mile per hour you go over the legal speed not only puts you at the risk of a ticket, but will also cost you fuel mileage. If you work for a fleet that governs its engines, you probably don’t have a problem with either.
Use your cruise control when possible. Many drivers prefer to switch on the cruise and allow it to do the work. But watch your turbo boost because when it rises, you are using excess fuel. On certain grades, it sometimes pays to get out of cruise control and match your turbo boost with rpm to get the maximum fuel efficiency. If you have a miles-per-gallon readout on your dash you can see what works best for you.
Shifting smoothly and properly is an important tool in saving fuel. Running your engine above 1,500 rpm burns more fuel. If you are used to shifting by sound, make sure you are in sync with your engine’s optimal range.
Jackrabbit starts burn more fuel. Start and stop slowly. Revving your engine unnecessarily is another waste.
But one of the worst culprits of fuel mismanagement is idling. No one is expected to freeze to death in the winter or roast inside the cab on a hot day, but almost everyone has the opportunity to cut their idling time, especially when they exit their trucks. If you are going to be out of your tractor for more than a couple of minutes, shut if off. You will save more fuel by reducing idling than almost anything else you can do.
Another good practice is to keep a check on your tire pressure. Even a small pressure loss can cut into your fuel mileage by as much as 10 percent.
If the fleet you work for tracks your fuel consumption, you are probably already conscious of many of these practices. Companies that give fuel bonuses offer that extra incentive to conserve.
If you have no idea what your average fuel consumption is, then it’s time to start tracking it. Fuel is money, and just as with your personal finances, you need to know how much is being used.
Everyone is a businessperson, no matter who is floating the operating capital. How good a businessperson you are depends a lot on attitude. Learning to run your truck the most efficient way possible can spill over into the way you approach other aspects of your life.
Like most of you, I’ve worked on advances or expense accounts most of my career. I once had a boss, for whom I pulled cars to dealer auto auctions, who always gave me just enough expense money to barely make it to where I was going. When we settled up at the end of the week, I usually was down to a few coins. But I took pride in being able to make it work with what she gave me.
When her fledging business finally took off, she rewarded my thriftiness with a promotion. Most employers will notice when you exercise practices that help them become more successful.
Being frugal doesn’t always get you somewhere the fastest, but it will get you there with something to spare – and most of the time, the reward is worth the effort.