Trucking can be an expensive ordeal. This is especially true when you own or lease your own semi instead of driving a company-owned truck. Not only is the upfront cost expensive (hovering around $150,000), but the maintenance and annual expenses also pile up, usually costing around $180,000 to keep a commercial truck in a fleet every year. While many of these costs are unavoidable, there are several things you can be doing to minimize your operating costs to be as low as possible. Here are a few of our suggestions.
Slashing Fuel Costs
Fuel is one of the most expensive parts of semi-truck ownership, making up to 39% of operating costs. Depending on the area of operation, diesel can easily add up to over $70,000 a year alone. If you’re new to the industry, you might be unaware of the extent of this usage. To put it in perspective, the average car uses 500 gallons of fuel per year. In contrast, the average semi-truck uses 20,500 gallons annually, a staggering difference.
To help keep this lofty cost to a minimum, one thing you can do is to maximize your fuel efficiency. Every truck has a “sweet spot” where you’re going fast enough to make all of your appointments on time, but slow enough that you’re not burning unnecessary, excess fuel. To find your sweet spot, try monitoring your current fuel efficiency, and adjust your average speed accordingly.
Another way to cut down on fuel costs is to shop smarter when filling up the tank. As it does with normal automobile gas, diesel prices fluctuate drastically depending on the area. The U.S. national average cost per gallon of diesel hovers around $3.17. This changes by a few cents depending on the exact station and area, but there are a few ways to avoid overpaying. In general, diesel is more expensive on the West Coast. This is mostly due to the famously overpriced California. If you can, try to plan out your route so that you can avoid filling up in this expensive area. Additionally, if you have the resources to do so, alternatives to diesel fuel could potentially help you save on this massive expense.
Getting Affordable Insurance
Insurance is another sizable cost of operating a semi-truck, as there are over 9 different policies to buy and consider. The costs of these policies are usually around 4% of overall operating expenses, which may seem like a small fraction but is really thousands of dollars. While you don’t have a choice in whether or not you purchase these insurance policies, there are a few things that you can do to lower your rates and get the cheapest possible insurance deals.
One of the most important things you can do to lower your insurance rates is to keep your driving record as clean as possible. Drivers without any major infractions are considered less of a financial liability for insurance providers, and this trust translates into lower rates. While adhering to safe and orderly driving practices is important for the wellbeing of the public, it’s also essential for the wellbeing of your pockets.
Avoiding Unnecessary Repairs
Truck repairs can really add up, adding thousands to your annual bill. While it may sound counterintuitive, one of the best things you can do to minimize these costs is to pay more upfront. Being diligent about regular maintenance can actually lower your overall costs by preventing emergency repairs or paying for an accident resulting from faulty equipment. Waiting until equipment malfunctions or breaks down results in having to replace it all together rather than just taking proper care of it to preserve it.
Breakdowns due to poor maintenance can also lead to bigger issues affecting other tuck parts, or they can even leave you vulnerable to accidents that endanger you, the public, and your entire rig. Schedule regular maintenance to keep your semi in pristine working condition.
Schedule Your Routes Carefully
Since most truck drivers are paid by the mile, one of the best ways to optimize your pay per hour is to reduce idling time or time spent sitting in traffic. Any time where the truck isn’t moving is money right out of your pocket. While the conditions might not always be in your control, you can always make your best effort to avoid it.
Try to plan out your routes to avoid heavily congested areas during busy times such as the morning or evening rush. If you have the freedom to do so, take less popular roads during these times to try to skirt around traffic jams. While you might take a slightly longer route mile-wise, it will improve efficiency by allowing you to complete routes faster. Additionally, this can result in safer traveling due to clearer conditions, as traffic jams are often risky in terms of fender benders.
When it comes down to it, driving a semi-truck is your career, and we all want to make a living wage. Keeping operating costs low is the best way to squeeze the most out of your salary. There are several invisible strains on your operation that you might not even realize. For example, truck stops sell more coffee than convenience stores, and the majority of these sales are to big rig drivers. Something as simple as streamlining daily purchases can make a difference in your daily profit margin. While you won’t necessarily be saving thousands by skipping that second cup of joe, making small changes can add up into healthy financial habits that save you big money later on.
For more information about how to get the most out of the trucking industry, check out Mission Financial!