High five for fuel

| December 12, 2008

DON’T FORGET THESE, TOO
Other ways to cut fuel costs might not amount to a lot – 1 percent to 2 percent in these cases – but every little bit helps:

· AERODYNAMICS. Next time you buy a truck, go sleek. For now, avoid add-ons such as horns that catch air.
· MAINTENANCE. Check often to catch low oil, a dirty air filter or an air compressor leak.
· SHIFTING. Don’t drive by engine sound but
by rpm. If you’re not absolutely sure about your engine’s sweet spot, ask the manufacturer.
· FUEL BUYING. Use your carrier’s fuel network whenever possible. Also use a fuel optimizer, online or through your carrier, to cut through the clutter of varied state fuel taxes and ensure that you buy the cheapest fuel.

If fuel prices haven’t got you thinking about ways to stretch your diesel dollars, you must be hopelessly stubborn, brain-dead or independently wealthy. You’ve heard of the ways to improve fuel economy. But which practices save the most? Richard DeForest, a vice president with owner-operator financial service firm American Truck Business Services, has ranked these five as most effective. He’s also estimated the percentage you can cut from your fuel bill, based on the experience of thousands of ATBS clients.

SPEED, 6%. Every mile per hour above 60 mph knocks off a tenth of a mile per gallon. Average 70 mph instead of 60 mph and you’re sacrificing 1 mpg. Sure, you have to build in extra time to make up those 10 miles you lose for every hour on the road, but you can save $10 to $30 daily for that 10 mph reduction.

IDLING, 5%. If you’re among those with 40 percent or 50 percent idling times, you have plenty to save. Is every hour idling really worth a gallon of diesel – $2.50 to $3 – not to mention the cost of engine wear? Turn off the engine when it’s not necessary. If you haul in northern states, get an auxiliary heater. It can pay for itself in a year or less.

TIRES, 3%. Inflation that’s too low or high means tires miss their optimal performance. Your engine compensates. Not only do you waste fuel, but the tires wear faster. Maintaining proper alignment also pays off by minimizing friction with the road.

ACCELERATION AND BRAKING, 3%. If you’re driving safely, staying alert to the surrounding traffic and what’s upcoming, you’re already thinking of your next stop or turn. Turn that knowledge into savings. Use the throttle to stop or slow as much as possible. Accelerate easily. You’ll also save money by extending brake and powertrain life.

OUT-OF-ROUTE MILES, 3%. If you’re like many owner-operators, with 6 percent to 10 percent of your miles out of route (not counting practical miles vs. shortest miles), you could possibly cut them 3 percent. Doing so would save an extra 3 percent on fuel, as well as all other variable costs, such as tires and maintenance.

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