Did you know that the average passenger vehicle can get as much as 30 miles per gallon?  For commercial truck drivers, the fuel economy isn’t anywhere close to that, with many trucks averaging 6 to 8 miles per gallon. Fuel costs for owner-operators and trucking companies have in recent years, represented up to 20% of operating costs, which was already a significant financial burden that may also be contributing to smaller profit margins, and by proxy fewer Americans interested in truck driving as a business opportunity.

Right at the time, when the American economy is rebounding and the supply versus demand gap for CDL drivers has never been wider.  And it’s about to get worse for the trucking industry.

New standards are being imposed inside the global oil market, in an effort to reduce sulfur emissions.  However, the new production restrictions have industry experts predicting a spike in diesel costs, that may see a 20% to 30% further increase at the pumps, according to the International Energy Agency.

The MARPOL Convention and Reducing Sulfur Emissions from Cargo Ships

New standards are being imposed inside the global oil market, in an effort to reduce sulfur emissions.  However, the new production restrictions have industry experts predicting a spike in diesel costs, that may see a 20% to 30% further increase at the pumps, according to the International Energy Agency.

The MARPOL Convention was established in 2005, and every year since then under the Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, the sulphur limits on fuel oil used by freight ships has been reduced.   In January 2020, the emission controls are required to reduce to 0.50% mass by mass, which is also meant to improve the health of communities located around major shipping ports.

An average truck can burn more than 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year, and since 2014 we have enjoyed a brief reduction in fuel prices, but they are starting to climb again.   If you take an average of $3.23 cents per gallon (which was the August 2018 average reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, that means an annual fuel cost of $64,600.00.

Increased Diesel Prices Will Increase Commercial Cartage and Consumer Goods Costs

When you consider that the profit margins for owner-operators and cartage companies are already restricted, industries that rely on trucking are going to be impacted first with fuel surcharge increases.  As the cost of diesel fuel increases, these costs are shared and passed down to equalize and maintain profitability.

What this means is that trucking companies will have to start charging more; manufacturers of consumer products and agricultural products including produce and beef, will have to increase wholesale prices which impacts the retail price of virtually every good and service provided to consumers.  The trucking industry is responsible for up to 80% of all manufactured goods and delivery through supply chains.

What Can Owner-Operators and Fleets Do to Maximize Fuel Efficiency?

If you are wondering why there are so many commercial truck manufacturers rushing to test and implement hybrid and fuel-efficient tractors for our industry, it is with an eye on these rising fuel costs and the impact on both independent owners and cartage companies.

Rolling resistance is one key area where drivers can optimize their fuel efficiency.  That is addressing the amount of drag that your tires create on the road.    When tires are in good condition, the rubber rebounds after impacting the road to return to the optimal round shape.  However older tires, or excessively retreaded tires or those that are poorly inflated.

Keeping tires properly inflated and balanced, can save owner-operators and fleets about 1% to 3% in terms of fuel economy.  Reducing speed, and unnecessary weight in the truck (including excess tools) can also help make an impact and save costs at the pump.

Other tips to help drivers maximize fuel economy include:

  • Avoiding long idling times.
  • Maintain regulated speeds and avoid patterns of irregular speed variances which burn more fuel. Use cruise control where possible in light traffic.
  • Improve aerodynamics and reduce drag, by installing new trailer and tractor side skirts.
  • Install round edge mirrors to reduce wind resistance.
  • Investigate new fuel additives to improve engine efficiency.
  • Plan your route to avoid rush hour traffic and excessive fuel consumption while idling on the highway.
  • Accelerate and brake smoothly.
  • Drive at the lowest RPM possible per gear.
  • Consider switching oil to higher performance synthetic blends (check your maintenance requirements for details).
  • Investigate trailer nose cones to further reduce drag.
  • Invest in quality wheel covers.

While all industries are bracing for increased costs of truck delivery, one benefit is that technology is innovating to create better and more fuel-efficient commercial vehicles. With this increased pressure from virtually every manufacturing, commercial and retail sector, we may start to see better and more aerodynamic tractor and trailer designs that are made more affordable for owner-operators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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