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From behind the wheel: Penny pinching tips for truckers

It's not always easy to save money while on the road. Whether you're a company driver or owner/operator, we're constantly bombarded while on the road by businesses that want our hard-earned cash. But ...

Sergei Dratchev

Sergei Dratchev

It’s not always easy to save money while on the road. Whether you’re a company driver or owner/operator, we’re constantly bombarded while on the road by businesses that want our hard-earned cash. But taking a few steps to pinch pennies while travelling will add up and make a noticeable difference on your bottom line.

Start your day with tea instead of coffee. Not only is it good for you, but as I discovered at the TA truck stop in Hudson, Wis. it can be 16 times cheaper.

I paid $1.57 for a pack of Lipton tea with 16 tea bags. Since cups and hot water are free at most truck stops, that’s going to be my entire expense for 16 large cups of tasty Lipton tea in the future.

For comparison, one large cup of tea or coffee at the same TA truck stop costs roughly $1.50.

If you do love coffee, buy it as ‘thermos refills’ as opposed to individual cups.

A clerk at the Flying J truck stop in Black River Falls, Wis. told me they charged $1.04 for a large thermos of coffee. A single 24-ounce cup on the other hand would set you back $1.36. When I asked him about the maximum size of the thermos I can bring, the clerk said, “I don’t think there’s any maximum.” So grab the biggest thermos you can find and start saving.

The same “buy in bulk” principle work great with bottled water.You can pay $1 for a single bottle at a truck stop or you can be smart and pick up a pack of 24 500-ml bottles for only $4.98 at Canadian big box stores.

If you don’t mind short hair, get professional quality hair clippers and cut your hair yourself. I got my clippers for $65 at a Beauty Supply Outlet and I’m now saving $15 each month. Don’t buy cheap models though – they don’t last! To find a supply store, check the listings in your Yellow Pages under ‘Beauty Salons – Equipment & Supplies.’

Many things are cheaper to buy in the US and this is your chance to save. For example: A Cobra 29LTD Classic CB radio sells for $79.99 right now at Pilot truck stops in the US, but some Ontario truck stops have it on display for $199! When you buy stuff in the US – remember the mail-in rebates. You will need a US address for this. I rented a Post Office box from the UPS Store in Chicago, Ill. and the address has a Suite Number instead of a PO Box number on it.

I’m using this mailbox with Verizon Wireless and to claim mail-in rebates in the US. Note: you’re allowed to bring plenty of US merchandise into Canada legally, provided you have stayed “abroad” more than 48 hours. See the rules posted in the Duty Free stores at the border to confirm this.

When you withdraw cash from US ATMs, transaction fees can be as high as US$2.50 per pop. Use credit cards instead of cash. Some Canadian credit cards do not charge any extra fees for US purchases. VISA, however, does add a surcharge of about 2% when converting the price of US purchases into Canadian dollars.

Last but not least – where do you sleep when you’re off? I used to rent a bare room in a house in Cambridge for $400 a month. I spent seven nights a month there, tops. I moved out last November and now live in luxury for three to five days after each trip – at a hotel. Many hotels offer discounts to truck drivers – check with your employer.

For example, I get 50% off the regular rate at Best Western and Travelodge. My hotel room comes with free local phone, free cable TV, free Wi-Fi Internet, free daily cleaning service, free breakfast, free parking, free swimming pool.

So, if you’re single and have no kids – you may want to stop renting! You can sign up for a mailbox at a Canadian UPS Store ( and use it as your mailing address.

– Sergei Dratchev is an over-the-road truck driver and driver-trainer based in Ontario.

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2 Comments » for From behind the wheel: Penny pinching tips for truckers
  1. Ron says:

    Hi Sergei,
    I enjoy your youtube and would like to get into heavy haul. I’ve been driving since 2002 in Canada and US. I live in Winnipeg is Landstar a good choice and do they provide lowboy trailers at the beginning ??
    Thanks Ron

  2. Mongo says:

    This is the last guy on the planet that should be handing out “tips” on saving money.

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