PAIN AT THE PUMP: Thinking outside the box is key in finding creative ways to slash your fuel bills, according to a presentation given at GATS.
DALLAS, Texas – Complaining about fuel prices seems to be as popular a conversation starter these days as talking about the weather.
Fuel costs have become a primary concern for most carriers recently, as the amount of money spent on fuel is usually a carrier’s number one cost of doing business.
There are numerous strategies talked about to reduce fuel consumption, from driving habits to the implementation of new technology.
Even something as simple as the way an operator purchases fuel can make an impact on the bottom line, as Chris Lee explained during the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas in August.
“It is hard to break the tradition in how we purchase fuel, but what I’ve learned over the past few years is the difference in the cost of a tank is make it or break it for a lot of companies,” noted Lee, marketing director with ProMiles Software.
Lee admits to having an ‘old school’ mentality and changing habits is not an easy task; and a good place to start is with spec’ing of the truck.
Instead of using 200-gallon tanks, equip the truck with twin 75 to 90 gallon tanks.
This strategy will increase the frequency of fueling up, but it will also increase the payload capacity of a truck.
For the most part however, Lee noted that a change of mentality on the part of carriers and drivers could go a long way in saving money on fuel costs.
“Instead of purchasing fuel every time you get to a quarter of a tank, or buying 50 gallons every day for a free shower; try buying fuel only to get in and out of the area you need to drive to,” he commented.
A number of different traditional ways of thinking were under attack and Lee provided an alternative to traditional points of view in an effort to save fuel costs.
Traditional Thinking: I get the best price because I buy from ‘X’ gas chain; they give me a four-cent discount.
Progressive Thinking: Fuel cost is the decision maker, not the chain.
Traditional Thinking: The heck with all of them, I’m putting in my own fuel tank at our terminal.
Progressive Thinking: Terminal fuel can be expensive. There are initial installation costs and no volume discounts; as well there is also the possibility of employee theft and lots of record keeping is required.
Traditional Thinking: I can’t get a discount because I’m not a big fleet.
Progressive Thinking: Owner/operators can potentially get a discount, but you have to ask for it. Go to them prepared, know your last 12 months of fuel use and project your use over the next year.
“But, be careful when locking into minimum purchase contracts, especially for you single-truck operations,” Lee warned. “If you fall and break your leg and you’re out for six weeks, it will be tough to meet that minimum.”
Traditional Thinking: My drivers won’t stop where I tell them to stop.
Progressive Thinking: Work with the drivers to implement changes that are acceptable to both sides. Consider truck stop chains, truck stop features, and minimum purchase quantities and share the savings.
“It’s not popular among lots of fleets, I understand, but it helps everyone swallow the changes,” said Lee.
Another area where Lee is a proponent of changing attitudes is in the driver’s seat and he advocates slowing the truck down by a few miles per hour, not only to improve fuel mileage, but also to reduce driver stress.
“Back off the gas for better fuel mileage and for a better way of life,” he added.