Sandhill Cranes and fuel price discounts

| March 05, 2012

I learned today that Sandhill Cranes frequent the community in which our Florida vacation house is located. Learned by seeing two of them close up and listening to a neighbor tell us all about them. I also learned how to better use the fuel price discount we get through our carrier. Learned by reviewing our 2012 numbers.

Diane and I woke up this morning in our Florida vacation house where we have been since early January. The vacation ended today. The house is secure and we are back in the truck. We will wake up tomorrow at a freeway rest area.

The Sandhill Cranes were spotted as we took our farewell walk around the neighborhood. This is a gated community with 750 manufactured homes situated close together. It is on Florida’s East Coast on the Intracoastal Waterway, also known as the Indian River. We took our walk at the ideal time, a little before sunset when the sun lights up everything east as you look over the water toward the barrier islands that form the waterway. The Atlantic Ocean is on the other side of the islands.

Those birds are big, nearly as tall as us. They were standing in someone’s riverfront yard when we came upon them. We were thrilled to see these exotic birds for the first time; exotic to us, that is.

The homeowner stepped out of her garage just then. Wide eyed and excited, I pointed to the birds and said to the homeowner, “Look at those!” She was less excited and explained that they show up in her yard almost every day. The birds did not seem to mind the company but they would only let us get about 25 yards close. If we moved closer they would move away. The bird sighting was a great way to cap off the wonderful vacation stay we had in this community.

The fuel price review happened earlier in the day. When working on our spreadsheet, I got to wondering how the fuel discount program with our present carrier compared to that of our former carrier. Our sense was that the two programs were identical or nearly so. That was confirmed when I wrote a spreadsheet formula that compared the size of price discounts given when we were with each carrier.

When reviewing the numbers we discovered that the discount percentages vary at  the same fuel stops. For example, we bought fuel three times in Janesville Wisc. in 2011, and got three different price discounts; 5.39%, 0.73% and 2.94%. The best discount of the year was 12.65% at a TA in New Jersey. Dollar-wise, the program reduced our fuel costs by 6.7% over the full year.

While this discount program is very good, we learned today that it can be even better if we are more diligent in making fuel price checks when planning our trips. We cannot simply assume that if we got a good discount at a truck stop the last time we were there, we will get a good one next time. Next time, it may be better to buy fuel at the truck stop down the road.

Sandhill cranes and fuel prices made the day more interesting but the big event was getting back on the road. We are dispatched to pick up a load tomorrow morning. As is our custom, we headed toward the pick up and found a place to spend the night nearby.

We could have spent the night in the house and left early in the morning but that is not a good practice. Most good expediters close the distance between them and the pick up when they have time to spare. That gives you time to react and maybe save the load if something goes wrong on the way.

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