by Tim Brady
Optimizing your operation will reduce fuel costs
As we look at what’s happening across the globe, particularly in the Middle East and specifically Egypt, it reinforces how global our economy really is. Egypt controls the Suez Canal and a number of important pipelines in the area. Approximately 4 billion barrels of oil travel though the Suez Canal daily.
In 2006, 70% of our oil came from foreign sources; today, we are getting around 25% and the U.S. actually exports more than it imports. So while the U.S. has significantly reduced its dependency on Middle East oil, there is still a ripple effect being felt here in terms of fuel prices anytime there is a disruption in oil flow anywhere in the world.
Fuel cost is the main concern of many trucking operations today. But with a bit of effort, fortitude and an ounce or two of tenacity, each trucking company owner and his/her truckers can turn this plight into an opportunity for more revenue and greater profits.
To begin the process, you must have the determination to look at the way you’re currently operating your trucks. It is imperative that you decrease fuel consumption as quickly as possible. An argument can be made that ‘time is money and miles driven takes time, so the faster my trucks travel the more money I can generate.’ While this sounds good in theory, it doesn’t fly in real-world application. All it will do is put you into the hammer lane to eventual financial failure.
Critical mass is when the energy expended exceeds the energy required to accomplish a particular task. In trucker-speak, this is reached when the cost per gallon of fuel reaches the point where the fuel required to attain a greater truck speed exceeds the cost limits needed to turn a profit. In other words, “speed kills profits.” Having your drivers reduce their cruising speeds to between 55 and 65 mph will save you thousands of dollars each year.
FINDING THAT SWEET SPOT
It is very important for each driver and you, as the company owner, to know the “sweet spot” on each truck in your operation. The sweet spot is the gear, engine speed (rpms) and road speed that uses the least amount of fuel. It’s possible that a particular truck will get better fuel mileage at 63 mph than it would at 58 mph. Any good mechanic with a dyno and the specific truck’s specs should be able to tell you the best rpm and gear to minimize your fuel consumption.
Add to this a diligent maintenance program with emphasis on cutting resistance and friction—greasing at proper intervals, correctly scheduled oil changes, correct tire pressure and alignment, and rear axles, transmission, frame, suspension maintenance.
This machine (your truck), like all machines, has maintenance requirements that will not be denied. If they are ignored, there will be a significant price to pay for that arrogance. The owner of the truck is the one who is ultimately accountable for the results of the [preventive maintenance] program. The person responsible for ignoring those maintenance requirements is responsible for any subsequent and catastrophic failures that result and the financial consequences. Now is also the time to look into low rolling resistant tires and aerodynamics for each truck.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- q Have your drivers reduce their idling. If the driver’s not in his truck, then turn off the engine. Ask drivers not to idle trucks when the outside temperature is between 50 deg. F and 75 deg. F. Install APUs in each tractor unit, or install shore power connections in each truck, which significantly costs less.
- Investigate fuel-saving technology. Be careful not to be fooled by those attempting to take advantage of unsuspecting truckers and companies with bogus pills and items that connect to fuel lines.
- Shop for your fuel way before you need it. If possible, check major truck stop Internet sites each day before your trucks roll. Check the price of fuel along your route and plan accordingly. Because of the wild up and down fluctuations in fuel prices, you may need to adjust your plan each day.
- Optimize the routes your trucks take on each load. This is not necessarily the shortest path, but rather the path of least resistance. It is the path with the fewest obstacles along the way (i.e., traffic lights, turns, mountains, construction, large cities with near-gridlock, rush hours, etc.).
- Lead by example. The more people who conserve fuel, the lower the price will be; it’s the basic law of supply and demand. And even if the price doesn’t go down, conserving fuel should at least help stabilize fuel prices.
This is the best time to increase your freight rates. With the extreme increase in fuel prices and the publicity this has generated, shippers know that rate increases will follow.
If you don’t have a handle on your fixed, operational and fuel costs, now is the time to know these numbers. You can’t control what you don’t know and not knowing the costs of doing business is a quicker route to failure than raising fuel prices. We can’t control the price of oil on the world market, but we can control and monitor our own cost of doing business. It’s not just about reducing one’s carbon footprint anymore; it’s about saving money to increase profits.
Contact Tim Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 731-749-8567. Join Brady in the Trucking Business Community at www.truckersu.com.