5 Fuel-Saving Tips for Owner-Operators
by Mario Tarradell | November 8, 2022
With recent changes in fuel prices, filling up at the pump is more intimidating than ever and that’s only one of the tasks on your plate. As an owner-operator, you juggle various other expenses like insurance, taxes, and maintenance.
Thankfully, there are simple things you can do to reduce fuel costs and protect your bottom line.
How To Save on Fuel as an Owner-Operator
At TCS, we want to help owner-operators like you save money. That’s why we created this list of easy-to-implement tips you can use to save on fuel right away.
1. Perform Routine Maintenance
Following a preventive maintenance schedule is important for maximizing fuel efficiency and keeping your fuel costs low. Here are some key areas for truck maintenance:
- Engine oil
- Air filters
- Braking systems
- Transmission fluid
- Tires, wheels, and rims
- Fuel system
Daily walkaround inspections are a great way to begin a preventive maintenance routine. Before setting out for the day, walk around your truck and check for anything abnormal. If you find any problems, repair them as soon as possible.
Refer to your owner’s manual for maintenance recommendations specific to your truck.
2. Drive Smarter
Efficient driving reduces fuel consumption, significantly improving your miles per gallon (MPG). Here are some tips for smarter driving:
- Reduce your average speed: Driving a little slower reduces your truck’s aerodynamic drag, which improves mileage. It also reduces wear and tear on your engine and tires, saving you money on maintenance and repair costs.
- Use cruise control: Switch to cruise control whenever possible. Maintaining a constant speed helps you minimize hard braking and acceleration, which increases fuel efficiency.
- Shift efficiently: Shifting gears burns fuel, so it’s important to shift gears efficiently. Use progressive shifting techniques and stay in the highest gear possible to minimize wasted fuel.
- Improve braking: Sudden, excessive braking uses more fuel. Maintain a good pace and leave a safe distance between your truck and the car in front of you to reduce hard braking.
- Find the RPM sweet spot: Every engine has a specific RPM at which it operates most efficiently. You may need to drive slower than you prefer, but you’ll use less fuel by staying in the sweet spot. Your owner’s manual can help you find the sweet spot for your engine.
- Minimize load: Carrying less weight whenever possible reduces strain on your truck and saves fuel.
3. Invest in an APU
An auxiliary power unit (APU) may be a significant upfront investment, but it’s a great way to save on fuel in the long run.
As a driver, you know how much time you spend in your truck. Whether you’re sleeping, taking a lunch break, or watching TV, keeping your truck comfortable requires power. Most of the time, that power comes from your engine. But when your truck idles for long periods, you use a lot of fuel. On average, an idling heavy-duty truck burns almost a full gallon of fuel every hour. Even when the price of diesel is low, letting your engine idle can come at a high cost.
Here’s an example. If diesel costs $2.50 per gallon and your truck idles for 8 hours every night, that adds up to almost $20 a night. At the end of the week, you’ll have spent nearly $140 on fuel without moving your truck at all.
What’s more, idling for long periods also damages your engine. Because the engine is below optimal temperature while idling, the fuel does not completely burn. Instead, it builds up in the engine, decreasing vehicle performance and fuel efficiency over time.
An APU provides energy for creature comforts without using your engine, so you can get a good night’s sleep without wasting fuel.
4. Plan Trips in Advance
We’ve all been there. You’re making great time when a wrong turn throws you off course and the unexpected detour eats up the time you’ve saved. Missed exits, wrong turns, traffic jams, and detours can cost you time and fuel in getting back on track.
Planning out your routes in advance can help you minimize the time and fuel you spend stuck in traffic or driving excessive distances to get back on course.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a high-quality GPS. A satellite-powered GPS can quickly reroute you, so you don’t lose time trying to reorient yourself.
5. Use a Fuel Card
As an owner-operator, you juggle a lot of tasks in your day-to-day operations. From sourcing jobs to hauling goods, you’ve got a lot to manage. Signing up for a cash-secured fuel card gives you a discount on fuel and other value-added services like:
- Preventive maintenance services.
- Oil changes.
- Tire changes.
A fuel card is easy to use — just load it up before your next trip and swipe at the pump when you need to make a stop. It’s that easy! However, some fuel card programs are more cost-effective than others.
Look for a fuel card that has a nationwide network of locations so you’ll be able to get a discount anywhere on your route. Additionally, look into the associated fees — some companies charge activation and ongoing membership fees, which can add up quickly. A fuel card with no attached fees will be the most cost-effective.
The TCS Owner-Operator Fuel Card
Most fuel cards are for owners with large fleets, but we designed the TransConnect Services (TCS) Owner-Operator Fuel Card specifically to help owner-operators save on fuel costs.
TCS clients pay zero transaction fees at all our 1,500 in-network locations. All you have to do is swipe your card at the pump, enter your identification information, fill your tank, and get back on the road. Plus, with no annual membership or card activation fees, you can rest assured you’re getting a great deal.
Additionally, the TCS Fuel Card means that the days of holding on to old fuel receipts are over. Our online fuel management system lets you easily track all your fuel spending through our mobile app or a web browser. You can also use the system to:
- Set custom controls that match your specific needs.
- Find in-network fueling sites near you.
- Understand diesel costs in your area.
- Access 24/7 customer service.
- Reload your card through various reloading options.
Our fuel cards are secure, tax-ready, and easy to load and use, giving you the peace of mind you need to launch your trucking business toward success.