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3 Proven Ways to Save on Fuel as an Owner-Operator





As an owner-operator, managing expenses is crucial to maintaining a profitable trucking business. Among these expenses, fuel costs stand out as a major contributor to the overall operational expenditure. In this blog post, we'll explore three proven strategies that can help owner-operators save significantly on fuel, enhancing their bottom line and driving success in the competitive world of trucking.

1. Secure Your Own Fuel Card


One of the most effective ways to cut down on fuel costs is to obtain your own fuel card. While carrier companies may offer fuel card discounts, they often pale in comparison to the savings you can access by obtaining your own card. A quick online search for semi-truck fuel card discounts will reveal a plethora of offers that are far more appealing than what you might currently receive with your company card.


Benefits of having your own fuel card include:

  • Access to a wider network of fuel stations with competitive pricing.

  • Special discounts and rewards tailored to your unique driving patterns.

  • The freedom to choose the fuel stations that offer the best rates along your route.


2. Invest in APU (Auxiliary Power Unit)


Idle reduction is a critical factor in curbing fuel consumption. Trucks often idle during pick-ups, deliveries, rest stops, and sleeper berth periods. This idle time can lead to significant fuel wastage, as trucks burn approximately 0.6 to 1.0 gallons of fuel per hour while idling. With today's fuel costs, that can easily cost well over $50 per night or $350 per week! By installing Auxiliary Power Units (APUs), you can minimize idle time and save substantially on fuel costs.


Advantages of using APUs:

  • Reduced fuel consumption during idle periods, translating to substantial daily savings.

  • Extended engine life due to decreased wear and tear caused by constant idling.

  • A quieter and more comfortable resting environment for drivers during breaks.


3. Choose Your Loads Wisely


While it's tempting to accept every load offer that comes your way, carefully evaluating load details can lead to significant fuel savings. Loads that involve navigating hilly terrain or hauling heavy cargo might offer higher pay rates, but when factoring in the additional fuel consumption, the overall profitability can be compromised.


Here's an example to illustrate the point:

  1. Light load riding Midwest: $2.4 per mile, average fuel consumption 7.0 miles per gallon.

  2. Heavy load heading northeast: $2.6 per mile, average fuel consumption 5.0 miles per gallon.


For a 500-mile trip:

  1. Light load fuel cost: 500 miles / 7.0 mpg = 71.43 gallons x $4/gallon = $285.72

  2. Heavy load fuel cost: 500 miles / 5.0 mpg = 100 gallons x $4/gallon = $400.00


By choosing the lighter load, you save: $400.00 - $285.72 = $114.28 for a single trip.

Over a year, assuming 250 such loads, your savings would be: $114.28 x 250 = $28,570.00


Despite the higher pay rate for the heavy load, the increased fuel consumption can offset the earnings. Over the course of a year and numerous loads, this can accumulate to thousands of dollars in savings.


Not to mention maintenance expenses will be significantly lower if you decide to adopt this practice, potentially saving thousands of dollars.



As an owner-operator, maximizing profits is essential to sustaining a successful trucking business. Fuel costs, being a significant expense, can be effectively managed through a combination of strategic decisions. By obtaining your own fuel card, investing in APUs, and carefully selecting loads to avoid steep terrain and heavy cargo, you can substantially reduce fuel consumption and increase your bottom line. These proven strategies not only contribute to financial savings but also promote efficient operations and reduced maintenance expenses, fostering a thriving owner-operator business in the competitive trucking industry.


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