Managing Your Trucks’ Fuel
15 Tips to Decrease Usage and Save Money
You don't have to own a vehicle to be aware of the
basic and undeniable fact that fuel is expensive.
There is a direct link between fuel usage and the bottom
line, and nobody knows that better than the people managing big trucks. Fuel comprises a huge part of the expenses in any company that
involves transport. Ultra-competitive business climates, along with
increasingly stringent regulations, force you to pay attention to
fuel usage to achieve the highest possible level of efficiency.
New rules took effect in 2015 that demanded an
overall 20 percent increase in the fuel efficiency of
trucks. The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration issue the standards, which call for more efficiency
increases in future years.
Fuel and the Different Truck Classifications
Fuel economy among the many different classifications
varies widely depending on loads, roads and condition of the trucks. Each one
has an uncountable number of moving and critical parts such as the engine,
axles, transmission, battery, tires and computer and electrical systems, yet
none of them affects the cost of operation as significantly and consistently as
fuel. As experts in the trucking industry, we at Empire Truck & Trailer see the need for more information about how
to save fuel.
15 Tips for Conserving Fuel
It’s the everyday factors of fuel consumption you can
exert some small measures of control over, with the idea that if you hit all or
most of the goals, the collective result will be more gas in the tank and
dollars in the bank.
You can't expect the price of fuel to drop by much or
for long, so it is only logical to implement all the savings methods possible. Here
are 15 tips you can use to keep more fuel in your trucks’ tanks for longer:
1. Regular Maintenance Saves Money and Fuel
Regular maintenance minimizes the cost of operation and
maximizes fuel efficiency. Besides saving fuel, good maintenance practices
prevent expensive repairs and down time as well as prolong the life of a truck
and keep it performing most efficiently. The use of low-friction lubricants has
become widespread since fuel gets wasted during the friction process. It is
important to schedule and do basic maintenance at regular intervals — for
example, changing fluids, greasing axles and replacing worn parts.
Another important thing regular maintenance does for
trucks is ensure their compliance with the many applicable regulations. A
well-kept truck and fleet also helps to maintain a clean safety record and
makes DOT inspections go smoothly.
The best option is to partner with a trusted,
full-service professional on a maintenance plan. Empire Truck & Trailer
provides scheduled maintenance at designated intervals, preventative service
and programs under which we manage and schedule all the maintenance and/or
monitor fleet condition. However, drivers, owners and managers can also help
prevent unnecessary repairs and find small issues before they become problems
by doing basic tasks regularly, such as clean the trucks, look at fluid levels,
check tire pressure and do a general, visual inspection.
2. Even Speeds Consumes Less Gas
Many big trucks have a state- or company-imposed maximum
speed limit, which varies in a range of 55-80
miles per hour. The lower and more constant a speed the
truck can maintain, the better and more consistent fuel economy a driver will
get, and cruise control helps that happen.
Acceleration and varying speeds use excess fuel.
Generally, an increase in speed of one
mile per hour reduces fuel efficiency by 0.10 mpg.
To run a truck at 75 mph uses 27 percent more fuel than when it is operated at
the almost-universal highway speed for trucks, which is 65 mph. All those
statistics proven industrywide can be applied to your own business to
extrapolate an estimate of what you stand to save through the various
fuel-conservation measures. This is especially
important since most tractor-trailer trucks yielding an average of just six
miles per gallon.
3. Idling Is the Enemy
When a big truck is left to idle it can quickly erodes
fuel efficiency. Some companies instill a limit on how long its drivers may
leave a truck running because it helps them to more accurately predict fuel
usage. It is recommended that the engine should idle no more than five
minutes when a driver either
starts or finishes a trip.
It is estimated that discretionary idling in the United
States collectively wastes
1.1 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year. Research is
underway to find new ways to keep sleeper cabs comfortable without having to
run a truck. There is also technology available to monitor, limit and stop
idling, and many companies and drivers use all available resources to avoid
traffic congestion whenever humanly and technologically possible.
4. Rubber Hits the Road — and the Tank
The basic principle that proper tire inflation
contributes to overall fuel efficiency applies universally to all rubber-tired
vehicles, but especially big trucks since they can have up to 18 tires or more
depending on the rig. Many drivers already take it upon themselves to do a quick
walk-around inspection of the tires before leaving, but many wonder if it is
worth the time and trouble to check each one with a gauge or to invest in a
tire-monitoring system. Most experts agree from a fuel-economy and safety
perspective, the answer in both cases is a definitive yes. Tires inflated to as few as 10 psi
under the recommended level will affect fuel economy by as much as one percent.
The temperature at which the tires operate makes a
difference in how much fuel is used as well. Cooler-running tires save money
over the long run. As far as tire types go, ribbed on the drive axles has been
proven to provide better fuel economy than lugged tires. Relative to the tires,
alignment also contributes to better fuel economy because a truck or trailer
out of alignment will create drag that slows the truck and crushes fuel
5. Weight Matters
The more a truck weighs, the harder its engine will work
to carry it up hills, accelerate and do other maneuvers that use excess gas.
Manufacturers and owners do their best to make the trucks lighter as to spend
the weight on paying load rather than heavy-duty components. Some of the common
techniques used include:
- Aluminum versus steel or iron wheels and axle hubs
- Composite versus steel axle leaf springs
- Aluminum versus iron clutch housing
- Aluminum versus steel cab frame
6. Have a Good Load-Distribution Strategy
Several aspects of how the load is situated in or on the
truck affect not only fuel efficiency, but also safety. Stack the uneven parts
of a load toward the front of the truck box/bed or trailer neck to improve
stability as well as aerodynamics, if applicable.
The engine works harder to haul a tall, narrow load than
it does for a short, wide one. The shorter stack will also be less top heavy
and less prone to a tip-over. It is crucial to secure any tarps or other covers
as tightly as possible to the truck body and load because any flapping material
will create drag and can give way under the pressure of invading air.
7. Work with the Wind
Wind has long been the enemy of fuel efficiency, but the
industry continues to develop new technology and solutions that reduce wind
resistance and increase fuel efficiency. For example, trailer skirts, load
covers and special attachments for the rear process air flow for less overall
Manufacturers are already experimenting with general
suggestions such as smaller mirrors and using cameras instead, lower front ends
and smaller gaps to reduce the amount of wind that passes over or through the
truck. For every two
percent reduction in aerodynamic drag, you can achieve a one
percent improvement in fuel efficiency.
8. Know Your Fuel’s Characteristics
When you fill the tank, leave a little breathing room
for the fuel because it will expand as it heats. Heat transfer from the sun or
the engine increases the fuel temperature, and if there is not ample room
within the tank to account for the expansion, fuel can overflow and spill. It
is not necessary to leave a lot of room. It is just a matter of not filling the
tank to the very top. Topping off also adds a bit of extra weight that affects
overall fuel economy.
It gains a little fuel in your favor to gas up in the
early morning hours because the fuel is cooler and denser, and there is
literally more gas in a gallon early than in the afternoon or evening after it
has expanded. Each gas-pump nozzle usually has a notched setting for high,
medium and low flow. The most gas-saving setting is low because the less speed
the fuel achieves, the less of it vaporizes during the delivery process.
9. Drivers are Deciders
Driver training and
education make a big difference because an experienced, confident, trained and
motivated driver can make as much as a 35 percent difference in the miles per
They are a company’s biggest expense, but they can also be the biggest asset,
Many entities study and research this factor, and the
results show that even a one-day training session for drivers can increase fuel
economy by a collective five percent. Nearly any expert resource you can
consult points to the importance of drivers to achieving fuel economy or any
10. It’s All in the Attitude
Some companies purposefully create a culture that emphasizes
rewards and incentivizes fuel efficiency. It can pay off in savings to deliver
the message that saving gas is a priority mission.
Cash, accumulated time off or smaller prizes can motivate
drivers, as well as games, fun spiffs and general recognition, appreciation or
light competition. Other businesses may take a harder-edged approach and dole
out penalties or discipline if the desired efficiency is not achieved.
11.Break the Braking Habit
Another commonly known fact about gas and diesel-powered
vehicles is that the more you stop and start the more fuel the motor uses.
Using forward momentum to propel the truck up and down
hills, and then slowing well before a stop to allow momentum to decrease
naturally before using the brakes can make a significant difference in fuel
consumption — as well as the wear and tear on the brakes.
12. Road Surfaces Play a Role
Drivers of experience know that some surfaces can drain
fuel economy — for example, when tires spin or slip on gravel or on a wet or
The answer, of course, is a slow approach to avoid
slippage and make sure every little drop of fuel during the acceleration
process gets used to move the truck forward.
13. Upgrades Boost Efficiency
New trucks and their improved technology, such as
motors, transmissions and aerodynamic design, save fuel and money over older
Finance and lease options put new equipment within
reach, and strategic replacements or rebuilds on old equipment yield better
performance and fuel economy. Lease deals can be a way to use the latest
equipment since some of them include or can include automatic upgrades to new
14. Technology Creates Improvements
New developments also hold promise to increase big-truck
efficiency even more. The kinetic-energy recapture system (KERS) available on
new trucks and as a retrofit is an example. It harnesses the energy trucks lose
as they coast down hills or to a stop and has the potential to save about 15-25 percent in fuel costs, depending
Regenerative braking is another emerging technology that
seeks to capture and store the energy trucks lose. Other promising research
includes dual-clutch transmissions and waste-heat recovery systems.
15. Small Steps Lead to Big Savings
A little goes a long way, especially when it comes to
gears generally save more fuel than lower gears. An incremental
speed-up-and-slow-down process uses the high gears more than a start-stop
method, so keeping the mindset to use higher gears whenever possible can shave
dollars off the fuel cost.
off the air conditioning at any opportunities when the driver can be
comfortable by opening the windows, especially during stop-start driving.
and account for better fuel economy in warmer months than in cold ones. Colder
air is denser air, so the truck will work a little harder to cut through it
than it does warmer air. The difference in fuel cost can run
eight to 15 percent.
economy on new trucks will improve by a few percentage points after the machine
has gone through its break-in period, usually about 10,000 miles.
Expert Partners, Broad Resources Nearby
Empire Truck & Trailer offers decades of experience
with all sizes, types and brands of on-highway trucks as well as trailers. We
have new and used class 3-8 trucks, parts and service, repair, preventative
maintenance plans and a deep inventory featuring many brands. For added
convenience and emergencies, we also have 24/7 emergency road service and
We have locations and professionals throughout Arizona
and California to find new and better solutions for our clients. We have become
an industry leader because we partner with clients and help them achieve their
goals through excellent service, knowledge and skills.
For more information and to find the right equipment for
your operation, contact