Buy Right

Max Kvidera | January 03, 2011

That scenario effectively reduces your fuel cost from 50 cents a mile to 21 cents a mile. If, however, your mpg is 8, at $3 a gallon your real fuel cost per mile is 37.5 cents. The spread between 37.5 cents and 29 cents is about 8 cents – the gain you make in a surcharge due to your reduced cost per mile when running at 8 mpg.

Leased operators should be aware of how their carrier’s program compares with others. Independents have more to keep up with, since fuel surcharges vary widely from carrier to carrier and from shipper to shipper.

“I don’t necessarily look for a surcharge,” says Albert, an independent. “You have to look at the rate per mile compared with another load that may or may not have a fuel surcharge. The bottom line is the amount per mile. Figure the end number.”

Three major truck stop programs

Petro/TA Travel Centers’ UltraOne. Discount varies.



50 gallons or more: Get shower credit; good for 10 days. With Platinum status of 20,000 points (one point per gallon), shower credit doesn’t expire.



Pilot/Flying J’s Pilot or FleetOne. 6 cents/gallon discount.50 gallons or more: Free shower; penny per gallon goes to driver loyalty program; points go toward purchases in retail store or restaurant; no transaction fee

More tips on fuel buying

WATCH CASH FLOW. David Wolff of ATBS advises owner-operators not to tie up money needlessly in their fuel tanks when downtime of a few days or more is expected. If you know a low-price area is on your route, don’t fill up at a more expensive stop but limit your purchase based on your mpg.

EXPLOIT ELEVATION. Independent Henry Albert tries to fuel at stops situated so that he will be traveling downhill as he leaves, allowing for quick acceleration and minimal fuel use. Climbing out of a truck stop means the opposite.

BUY THE RIGHT FUEL. If you’re in areas where farm vehicles are prevalent, it may be hard to find ultra-low sulfur diesel. Check labeling if you buy from any outlet that’s not clearly a truck stop. With 2010 engine technology, low-sulfur diesel would interfere with proper operation of the DPF and the SCR system, and could cause permanent damage.

BE CAUTIOUS WITH BIOFUEL. Biofuels tend to be expensive and produce lower fuel mileage, Wolff says. Know the level of biofuel (B20, for example, is 20 percent biofuel) allowed under your engine maker’s warranty, and use only approved fuels. Carry extra fuel filters as biofuel can cause clogging. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.