It sounds like an old vinyl record with a scratch, but the one area you can make the greatest impact improving your bottom line is how your operation controls fuel costs. It is by far your highest operating cost but it can be controlled. In this and the next post I’m going to cover ideas; some I’m sure you’ve heard before, but it never hurts to review them from time to time. And I might just have something you’ve not thought of previously.
The future of their trucking operations is the concern of small motor carriers today as fuel prices continue to bounce around like an over-inflated basketball. However, with a bit of effort, fortitude and an ounce or two of tenacity, each trucking company owner 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 the fuel consumption as quickly as possible. An argument can be brought 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, in real-world application it doesn’t fly. All it will do is put you into the hammer lane to eventual financial failure. This is critical mass, when the energy expended exceeds the energy required to accomplish a particular task.
In trucker-speak, this means when the cost per gallon of fuel reaches a certain plateau and above, the fuel required to attain a greater truck speed exceeds the usual costs in making a profit. In other words, “Speed Kills Profits.” Having your drivers reduce their cruising speeds to between 55-60mph will save you thousands of dollars each year. Note: 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 which uses the least amount of fuel. It’s possible that a particular truck will get better fuel mileage at 63mph than it would at 58mph. 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: everything from greasing at proper intervals, correctly scheduled oil changes, overhead service; to correct tire pressure and alignment; and rear axles, transmission, frame, and suspension maintenance. As I stated in ‘Driven 4 Profits An Owner/Operator’s Guide to Keeping More of the Money You Earn’ (Tim Brady and Esta Klatzkin, E.A. Write Up The Road Publishing, 2003):
“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 P.M. Schedule Program. The person responsible for ignoring those maintenance requirements is responsible for any subsequent and catastrophic failures that result and the financial consequences.”
This statement is truer today than at any other time in my trucking career.
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