There’s no way around it; semi-trucks use enormous amounts of fuel. When fully loaded, you’re pulling upwards of 80,000 pounds of cargo, requiring a substantial amount of energy. Fuel costs vary wildly throughout the year, especially during global conflicts that disrupt oil supply, leaving owner-operators in a lurch whenever prices skyrocket.
Everyone’s looking for a way to cut costs, and while you can’t control the price of fuel, you have some control over how much fuel your rig uses. These tips will help you get better gas mileage in a truck, saving you money at the pump and hopefully cutting out a fuel stop or two on your route.
How To Get Better Gas Mileage in a Truck
Fuel costs are the biggest expense for most owner-operators, which means getting better gas mileage translates into more money in your pocket at the end of the day. Everyone in the industry is wondering how to get better gas mileage in a truck. These are some of the best strategies for achieving it.
Turn Off Your Air Conditioner
If you’re wondering how to get better fuel mileage in a semi-truck, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll get is “turn off the air conditioner.” This is actually only true sometimes; if you’re on the highway, the air conditioner is putting a relatively small load on the engine, and rolling down the windows will increase drag to the point that it’s more inefficient than the AC. When you’re driving through town, though, roll them down for some extra fuel savings.
Lower Your Speed
The difference between driving 70 mph and 60 mph is roughly a mile and a half per gallon lower fuel efficiency. When you’re only getting six or seven miles per gallon, that’s a tremendous amount of waste. Obviously, owner-operators are under pressure to meet deadlines, but if you can cut your speed by just a few miles per hour, you can reap some immense cost savings.
Use In-Cab Apps
Every vehicle, whether it’s a passenger car or big rig, is loaded with computers capable of outputting all kinds of data about our driving habits. The problem is that most of us don’t have access to that data or a way to use it to improve our driving. Fortunately for truckers, there are apps like Issac Coach, True Fuel, and Pedal Coach, which tap into the truck’s ECM port to receive data about how efficiently the engine is performing. The apps then use audible signals to notify the driver when the engine is operating sub-optimally so they can make corrections that improve mpg.
Don’t Top Up Your Tank
More fuel stops mean more stopping and starting, so conventional wisdom says you want to get as much gas in the tank as possible. Wrong. Tanks are designed with some extra volume to account for the expansion of the fuel on hot days. Topping them up might cause an overflow, damaging your rig and wasting even more fuel.
Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated
Having your tires fully inflated reduces rolling resistance, which translates into better fuel efficiency. Tires that are underinflated by 10% cause a 1% drop in mpg. While inflating your tires above the recommended pressure could result in better fuel efficiency, it’s also asking for a blowout.
Plug In at Truck Stops
In the past, running your heater or air-conditioner at a truck stop meant idling all night long, which wastes over four gallons of fuel during an eight-hour stop. That might not sound like a lot, but over a year, that’s nearly a thousand gallons of fuel for many truck drivers. Fortunately, many truck stops have implemented shore power –– 120v electrical connections that can run all of your truck’s appliances more efficiently than an idling engine.
Plan Your Route Carefully
Route planning is an art; it’s not just getting from Point A to Point B in the fewest miles or the shortest time. You need to look at all kinds of variables like elevation changes, truck stop availability, or traffic patterns. There are dozens of apps out there to help with route planning, like Paragon, Route4Me, and Fleet Up, that’ll help you figure out how to get better mpg in a diesel truck.
How To Improve Fuel Efficiency with Aerodynamics
A full 50% of trucking fuel efficiency can be attributed to aerodynamics. The cab of a modern semi-truck is actually fairly aerodynamic, but a boxy trailer capable of carrying 80,000 pounds, not so much. While your truck will never have the aerodynamic efficiency of a 4,000-pound passenger car, a few additions will improve your mpg.
Add Chassis Skirts and Vortex Stakes
The boxy frame of a trailer produces about 75% of the drag experienced by a semi-truck. 25% of that drag comes from the space beneath the trailer and between the wheels. Adding a chassis skirt keeps air from flowing into this area and creates a pressure differential. Another 25% of the drag comes from the rear of the trailer, where a pocket of low-pressure forms as fast-moving air abruptly falls off the rig. Vortex stakes form a more aerodynamic rear end and can cut drag by up to 6%.
Cover Your Wheels
Air flowing through your wheels will reduce your fuel efficiency by about 1%. Adding wheel covers will save you a few dollars at every fuel stop, which can translate to a few hundred dollars every year.
Minimize Your Trailer Gap
The space between your cab and trailer is a major source of aerodynamic drag. Maintain a gap of less than 36” if you can, just enough to accommodate the trailer’s swing. Adding side extenders to the trailer’s front end will help keep air out of this gap; be sure there’s enough space to prevent them from swinging into the cab.
Owner-Operator Insurance from Insura
Becoming an owner-operator is a challenging but highly rewarding experience. There are numerous expenses to keep track of, and fuel costs are almost certainly the most substantial. However, driving your own rig means being your own boss and having the freedom to take on work as you choose.
Being your own boss also means covering yourself in the event of an accident, which can cost you your livelihood if you’re not properly insured. Insura can help you obtain reliable owner-operator insurance that’s tailored to your specific needs. Insura has years of experience working with owner-operators and can answer any questions you might have about the insurance process. Contact us today to see how we can make your dream of owning your business a reality.