Diesel fuel costs have been rising steadily for some time. However, the crisis in Ukraine had an immediate impact at the pump. Overnight, the cost of fuel per barrel went from the low $90s to $104. The price was holding at $103 per barrel as of this writing.
While there is currently much uncertainty, there are ways to alleviate the impact of rising fuel costs on your bottom line. And the good news is that many of them are pretty straightforward and should become regular habits regardless of the price at the pump.
Manage Fuel Quality
Know your diesel fuel provider and your fuel. Dirty diesel fuel is fuel that has built up sludge, slime, and grime and is likely not fit for use. Diesel fuel sitting in storage tanks for long periods without proper testing or treatment starts to go bad. This is the stuff you don’t want to run in your truck.
Dirty diesel often results in clogged filters and deposits in fuel injectors. Eventually, these become a catalyst to reduced vehicle performance.
Know your “cetane number.” The cetane number for diesel is like the octane rating for gasoline; however, opposite in meaning. A high cetane number means the fuel ignites faster, producing a more extended, cleaner fuel burn than diesel with a lower cetane number.
Research shows that a cetane number of 50 or over is best for OTR trucks.
Plan Your Route
The route you plan should maximize the fuel economy of your truck. This means that the route you design needs to have favorable conditions and won’t place too many demands on the driver and truck. For example, if you can avoid traffic, inclines, or road construction, it can help you cruise along your route at a steady RPM rather than a starting, stopping, or unpredictable pace. Mapping can also help you maximize your savings by planning your fuel stops at stations that provide discounts.
Aerodynamic drag is the leading cause of decreased fuel efficiency over 50 MPH. Add side skirts and mud flaps explicitly designed to improve the aerodynamics of your truck. It’s been reported that some specially designed mud flaps can now improve fuel efficiency up to 3.5%. If your trailer is taller than your tractor, use cab deflectors or other solutions designed to deflect air over the top of the trailer.
Perform Regular Maintenance
Regular truck maintenance can go a long way toward fuel savings and should not only be a priority but a habit. Rolling resistance is the second-largest consumer of power on a truck. Properly selecting and maintaining tires is one of the easiest ways to impact fuel costs.
Check your tire pressure regularly. For every 1 PSI your tire is under-inflated, you can lose .3% fuel efficiency. That can add up quickly in fuel costs.
Ensure proper trailer and axle alignment to avoid additional fuel expenditures resulting from tire drag. Regularly replace fuel injectors as well.
If you find regular maintenance is challenging to schedule among all the many responsibilities you have as a driver, there are options. Maximize your time by allowing a vendor to locate and organize truck maintenance along your route.
Seek Out Fuel Discounts
Look for fuel programs that can save you money with low transaction fees and discounts on fuel. Choose a provider with an extensive network to ensure you are covered at truck stops nationwide. Be sure they provide options for online access to balances and reports, and the ability to load your card 24/7 at no cost.
Embrace Smart Habits
Driver habits matter. Developing positive behaviors with fuel consumption in mind can save substantial money. Staying within the speed limit is an easy way to save on fuel consumption —every 1 MPH increase in speed results in a .14 MPG decrease in fuel efficiency.
Managing speed is also an easy but impactful approach. Find the most efficient RPM for your engine and use your cruise control to eliminate fluctuations in speed. Also, be sure to minimize unnecessary idling. It can save you nearly a gallon of fuel per hour.
The numbers prove that pursuing greater fuel efficiency can save you time and money. Luckily there are simple ways to improve it.
The England Carrier Services (ECS) division offers various services for carriers ranging from maintenance to support. As ECS members, carriers have access to nationwide discounts on fuel and tires from dedicated team members committed to finding the best price. ECS also provides factoring services with benefits such as same-day funding to a bank account or fuel card. These options allow carriers the freedom to focus on growing their business while saving time and money.