A recent article on Overdrive.com revealed that the top concern for truck carriers is rising diesel prices, especially as the demand for commercial trucks continues to grow.
Using a survey and other social media channels, Overdrive quizzed commercial truck owner-operators about what they felt was the No. 1 problem for owner-operators. Overdrive reported that fuel prices were named the No. 1 issue.
The commercial truck industry is experiencing rapid growth and thousands of new drivers are needed every year, but rising fuel prices are challenging some carriers who are trying to keep up with demand.
Diesel prices first topped $4 a gallon in 2008, concurrent with that year’s dramatic freight downturn, Overdrive reported. Some owner-operators closed for business during the recession, but for those that remained they have now entered a time of great growth for the industry. While fuel surcharge programs are more entrenched in today’s industry, owner-operators still rank fuel pricing as their number one problem.
Fuel prices look like they may continue to be a problem for a while, but this is still a very good industry for job seekers as carriers have many jobs open for professionally trained driver. Students of the Truck Driver Institute often graduate with multiple job offers because, no matter how high diesel prices climb, there is still a great need for thousands of more drivers.
In an effort to help carriers struggling with rising fuel prices, Overdrive offered several tips for conserving fuel.
Tip No. 1: Avoid brokers and carriers whose rates don’t adequately compensate for fuel. If you’re independent and lack a fair surcharge, explain the situation to your shippers and negotiate a program. Fuel surcharges should increase or decrease proportionally with diesel prices, either on a cents-per-mile basis or as a percentage of the rate the customer pays the carrier for the load.
Tip No. 2: Smart owner-operators should be mindful of developments with natural gas engines. The technology is proven to be efficient in many urban and regional haul applications and is becoming increasingly viable for over-the-road. All truck makers have or are making available natural gas-powered versions of their trucks, and the fueling infrastructure is rapidly expanding.
Tip No. 3: Cost analysis is crucial to establishing or evaluating the efficacy of any fuel-surcharge or rate-adjustment program. Know what it takes per mile of revenue to meet your fixed costs, and track your fuel mileage, tire-life cycle and maintenance expenditures over time to determine variable cost per mile. Spec the most appropriate truck for your operation and get the best fuel mileage.
Tip No. 4: Discount fuel programs are available to those running under their own authority via card programs like Wright Express’ OTR Pro Card and the long-running Trucker’s Advantage card. Cost-plus fuel buying is available to National Association of Small Trucking Companies members as well as owner-operators leased to fleets with such programs.