As diesel fuel prices have continued to rise since the start of the year, fleets of all sizes are grappling with the combined pressure of increased operations costs and the challenges of the current market volatility.
“Across the board, transportation professionals are facing tougher markets and more difficult cash flow. That’s a reality of modern trucking that isn’t going away anytime soon,” Tyler Raugh, head of business development and strategic sales at trucking payments platform AtoB, said.
Market volatility is something trucking industry veterans have come to expect and prep to endure, but the recent, unprecedented fuel prices have been an added blow to margins.
Retail diesel costs reached a stress-inducing average of $5.62 per gallon during the week of May 9, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As of Monday, average prices have come down slightly to $5.54 per gallon, but this is still nearly $2.28 more than the per-gallon cost at the same time last year.
While prices remain elevated, finding solutions to combat increasing fuel expenses is front of mind for owner-operators, small and midsize fleets especially, which bear the brunt of the ballooning fuel prices.
Even though owner-operators can’t control prices at the pump, saving money is still possible by increasing fuel economy and maximizing discounts. That’s where AtoB’s savings tools come in.
FreightWaves sat down with Raugh for recommendations on how drivers and carriers can reduce fuel waste and save on fuel costs today.
Wasteful idling is not only harmful to the environment and a truck’s engine, but it also quickly depletes a fleet’s revenue.
The average long-haul truck idles 1,800 hours per year, burning through 1,500 gallons of fuel, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To keep numbers modest, assuming a price of $3.61 per gallon — which is the lowest weekly diesel average so far in 2022 — 1,500 gallons spent idling would amount to $5,415 in unnecessary expenses in one year.
“Finding ways to reduce idling and to limit air conditioning use while idling can significantly increase fuel economy. If the engine isn’t needed, turn it off,” Raugh said.
Follow the speed limit
While it’s tempting to increase your speed in order to drop off or pick up a load quicker, speeding is both a safety risk and burns more fuel than driving under the posted limit.
“Obeying the speed limit, accelerating and braking gently and gradually, and reading the road ahead can improve the fuel economy of your vehicle by 15%-30% at highway speeds and 10%-40% in stop-and-go traffic,” the U.S. Department of Energy suggested.
It pays to slow down.
Choose the most optimal routes
Strategizing optimal routes to reduce unnecessary miles and preplan fueling stops can help maximize fuel savings. Plenty of route-optimization tools exist to do the work for you.
“One of our customers said something that stuck with me: ‘The most expensive mile is the mile that you didn’t have to drive in the first place.’ Factor in the cost of driving a mile before charting off-route to a lower-priced truck stop,” Raugh said.
Arm your fleet with a universal fuel card
Perhaps one of the most powerful ways to save on fuel expenses is by using a universal fuel card.
Legacy fuel cards provide built-in discounts at the major truck stops and fuel stations, but their high fees and limited out-of-network options can be very costly. When the tank is running low without a nearby in-network fuel stop, drivers may be forced to pay full price. With AtoB’s universal fuel card powered by Visa, this problem is eliminated.
AtoB offers fuel discounts at over 99% of fuel trucks and gas stations, with no limit on the number of discounted gallons drivers can purchase.
While legacy fuel cards may help reduce fuel expenses, high add-on fees can cut into this margin. AtoB maximizes savings for its cardholders by never charging hidden fees. There are no setup fees, monthly fees, per-transaction fees, additional card or replacement fees, ACH payment fees, or over-limit fees.
“AtoB’s card gives operators and drivers savings control. The AtoB card has none of the fees you see with legacy cards, and our partnerships with truck stops and gas stations give discounts that were once reserved for larger fleets. Small and medium-size businesses can save up to 25 cents per gallon by using the AtoB fuel card,” Raugh said.
For some, especially newer businesses, one of the biggest hurdles to saving on fuel expenses is finding a fuel card that will accept them with their current credit background.
“Creditors keep one-third of operators from obtaining a fuel card. That’s a huge burden for any business owner. AtoB’s modern underwriting practices provide credit to eligible operators who may not have had access before,” Raugh said.
AtoB is more than just a fuel card. AtoB also helps businesses save money on other business expenses. As drivers continue to use AtoB, they unlock discounts on other operations costs, including maintenance, road tolls, insurance and more. And, it gives fleet managers powerful tools to monitor unauthorized fuel card use.
“Many fleet managers tell us fuel card misuse is on the rise and they’re seeing a 5-10% increase in fuel consumption due to internal and external sources of fuel slippage,” Raugh said.
AtoB protects against unauthorized use through telematics targeting, which requires a fuel card and the truck to be co-located to fuel by linking it with a driver’s ELD. The card’s SMS unlock uses a driver’s phone to unlock the card via text, adding another layer of protection.
“These two features protect drivers and carriers from outside parties using their card or from someone using a card for non-fuel purchases,” Raugh said.
Prices may be turbulent, but implementing measures to take charge of fuel spend can help businesses keep a grip on their margins.
To learn more about the benefits of AtoB’s fuel card, visit its website.