Fuel Price Concerns

Trucking companies have always struggled to adapt to the ever-changing industry. However, in the past few years, a number of factors have contributed to the inability of many companies to keep up.

FTR Associates, the leader in freight transportation forecasting, says the trucking industry should have a positive outlook in 2012 as long as there is not significant economic downturn. However, actual drivers and owners/operators feel differently; and even FTR acknowledges the low Trucking Conditions Index, which they say is due to unstable fuel prices caused by tensions in the Middle East.

Why the difference in feelings? In February, fuel and truck tire prices increased. Tire manufacturers increased their prices between 3.5 and 6%. Small carriers operate on a reduced scale, meaning they have less wiggle room for added expenses, such as increases in tire prices, oil, repairs, etc. Since the stock market crash in 2008, small operators have been struggling to deal with increases in expenses.

Plus, while operating costs are continually on the rise for transporters, freight rates have not increased to accommodate the soaring prices that are causing operators to tighten their budget even more. Essentially, carriers are forced to make ends meet with more expenses, but not more income.

Fuel prices are the main concern for carriers, large and small. Unfortunately, owners and operators can’t do anything about the price of fuel. However, there are many modifications that can be made to increase fuel mileage.

  • Install GPS fleet tracking systems to reduce fuel costs by monitoring speed, idle time, unauthorized use, and providing optimized routes for the driver
  • Install a governor to regulate the speed of a truck, therefore increasing fuel mileage
  • Maintain proper tire pressure to improve fuel mileage
  • Add roof and trailer fairings and chassis/fuel skirts to decrease wind resistance

Owner/operator Henry Albert makes little improvements to his rig that can make a big difference. A few things Albert suggests doing to increase fuel mileage include:

  • Driving a single-drive axle with a tag axle, which saves about half a mile per gallon
  • Trimming the inside edge of the mud flaps to fit the tire and cutting 2-inch diagonal chunks from the bottom corners to increase air flow
  • Avoiding idle times
  • Using stainless steel wheel covers to smooth out the outer side of the wheels
  • Moving the trailer license plate out of the air stream. Instead of sitting in the traditional spot, his license plate is bolted to the lower part of the trailer body

Along with a few other adjustments, Albert achieves an average of about nine miles per gallon by implementing these small modifications.

Trucking companies may have a harsh outlook on their future if operating costs continue to increase, but being proactive about adapting to the environment can save a company from going under. Making the necessary modifications to a truck and trailer may be an expense, but chances are it will pay for itself.