Squeeze what you can from fuel economy

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Updated Jul 30, 2012

As a calculator will easily tell you, when diesel costs $4, gaining just one mile per gallon in fuel economy (5 mpg to 6) will save you $16,000 each year, assuming a 120,000 mile per year driving schedule.

“And it’s income that basically goes straight into your pocket,” said Mike Bethea, director of independent contractors at Schneider National, for a piece in the May issue of Overdrive. “For the average owner-operator, that’s two months worth of work.”

As that article notes, there are quite a few strategies o-o’s can use to pick up their fuel economy and help keep their billfolds a little fatter. But take a look at the chart below and notice that the bulk of savings comes from making small improvements at the lower end of the scale.

Though averaging 8 mpg would be great, you don’t need to reach that point to make improvements worth the effort—there’s plenty to be gained by doing what you can to get 6 or 6.5 mpg.

MPG Gallons per year Cost per year Gallons saved* Savings per year*
5 24,000 $96,000 —— ——
6 20,000 $80,000 4,000 $16,000
6.5 18,460 $73,840 5,540 $22,160
7 17,140 $68,560 6,860 $27,440
7.5 16,000 $64,000 8,000 $32,000
8 15,000 $60,000 9,000 $36,000

*Compared to 5 mpg