How To Get Better Gas Mileage
If you’re in the trucking business, you likely know first hand just how attractive the benefits of the occupation can be. From the great pay and ever-changing scenery to major benefits and bonuses and a flexible work schedule, being a truck driver is a unique and advantageous career opportunity. Where these benefits fall short, however, is when it comes to fuel stops. With a fuel capacity of anywhere between 160 to 300 gallons, semi trucks are well known for having to make repeated fuel stops during each route.
For drivers, these stops can get monotonous and tiresome, especially if you’re trying to make a deadline or are on the last leg of your trip. Moreover, filling up your truck’s tank time after time isn’t cheap. In fact, with the average price of diesel costing around $3.20 per gallon, each fuel stop can cost you anywhere between $480 to $960.
Several ways key ways to improve the gas mileage in your truck include managing your speed and weight load, maintaining optimal tire pressure in all 18 tires, avoiding over-filling the gas tank, and more. Check out these detailed tips to help you learn how to get better gas mileage during your long-hauls.
Though driving America’s roadways day after day affords remarkable scenery and jaw-dropping landscapes, making several fuel stops to fill up your rig can get expensive, especially if you try to increase your speed in hopes of making better time or earning an additional bonus. By following these three suggestions, you can ensure your truck has the best fuel economy possible
1. Keep your speed in check
As a general rule of thumb, with every mile-per-hour (mph) increase you make, your truck’s fuel efficiency decreases by 0.14 miles-per-gallon (mpg). For example, if you’re traveling 2,500 miles, with your truck getting an average of 5.9 mpg, and you decide to boost your speed by 10 mph, you’ll end up using an extra 132 gallons of fuel. At $3.20 per gallon, that’s an extra $422.40 you’re sacrificing just to get to your location slightly faster.
If you’re eager to get the best gas mileage possible, do not exceed speeds of over 65 miles per hour. Studies have found that trucks traveling at 75 mph burn 27-percent more fuel than those traveling at 65 mph. This means that, by keeping your speed around 65 mph on the highway, you can save around 2.8 billion gallons of gas over 10 years. All in all, as tempting as it might be to step on the gas, make sure you keep your truck at the most economic and efficient speed possible.
2. Manage excess load weight
Your truck is loaded down enough as it is during long-hauls. While adding an extra package or two might not seem like a big deal, when it comes to fuel efficiency, every pound counts. Make sure you keep excess items or unnecessary accessories to a minimum to boost your gas mileage.
3. Pinpoint the perfect tire pressure
As simple as it may seem, tire pressure is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve gas mileage. Although the thought of airing up 18 tires might seem like a tedious waste of time, you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference this small step can make in boosting fuel economy. Similar to the drop from increased speed, semi trucks can experience a 1% drop in gas mileage for every 10 psi a single tire is underinflated.
As a general rule, you should set your steer tire pressure at 110 psi for a 12,000-pound front axle. Legally, your drive and trailer tire pressures cannot be under 60 psi, for both your safety, the safety of other motorists, and optimal fuel economy. In dry, ideal driving conditions, most drivers shoot for a 95 as the common psi.
In addition to these three key tips, you can also improve the gas mileage of your truck by regularly checking for leaks in the air system, keeping the engine’s fan in prime shape, and ensuring the vehicle’s alignment is as straight and conditioned as possible. Furthermore, by investing in top-of-the-line fuel saving devices for semi trucks, like trailer skirts and air tabs, you can go above and beyond to ensure your truck is getting the best gas mileage possible.
While knowing how to improve your gas mileage is one thing, it’s critical that you know exactly how much fuel your truck can hold and how far you can travel on a single tank.
As you probably know, semi trucks aren’t known for remarkable fuel efficiency. Considered as speeding, lumbering giants by passing motorists, semi trucks are notorious for their abysmal gas mileage—an average 5.6 miles per gallon of diesel fuel.
What’s even more shocking, perhaps, is the fact that today’s trucks are getting the same mpg as rigs from the early 1970s. Worse still, is that this already poor mpg drops to a meager 2.9 when going up steep hills and climbing mountain passes. And while trucks can get around 23 mpg going down the same hills and passes, it hardly makes a difference during long, strenuous hauls.
In order to truly master the tricks of improving fuel efficiency, you must first know how to calculate the exact gas mileage your truck is getting on each route you drive and in order to do that, it’s helpful to know how much gas your rig’s fuel tanks hold. You can find this either in the truck’s owners manual, by asking your fleet manager, or by noting the gallon total upon your first fill-up.
No matter if your truck is fresh off the lot or has been running that nation’s highways for years, you can use the following algorithm to help you determine your truck’s fuel efficiency:
1. First, completely fill up your truck’s fuel tank. On a tracking sheet, write down the number of gallons your tank holds and how many miles are on the odometer. For example, say your truck, with 70,000 miles, takes 200 gallons of diesel fuel.
2. The next time you stop for fuel on your route, note on your tracking sheet how many gallons it took to fill the tank completely and be sure to write down the new odometer reading. Say you filled your tank with 190 gallons of fuel and your odometer now reads 71,083 miles.
3. Determine how many miles your fuel got you on the most recent leg of your journey by subtracting the first odometer reading from the current reading: 71,083 - 70,000 = 1,083.
4. Calculate your truck’s actual fuel efficiency by dividing the number of miles you drove by the number of gallons you needed to fill up: 1,083/190 = 5.7. Therefore, your truck received 5.7 mpg on the most recent stretch of your route.
You can also use this calculation to determine how far your truck can go on a single tank of gas. If you’re interested in learning the average of both how many miles your truck can travel and your average mpg, simply follow this sequence:
It’s important to keep in mind, too, that depending on the various routes you travel, your gas mileage and the amount of miles you can go on a single tank of gas can vary. For example, if you’re running a route through the dry, open planes of the Midwest, chances are you’ll be able to go farther and get better fuel efficiency with each tank. But if you’re traveling up and down steep, snowy mountain passes or battling routes notorious for traffic jams, you’ll likely notice a significant change in these averages. Factors to consider when calculating your totals include:
While calculating the fuel efficiency of your semi truck is helpful in determining ways to improve gas mileage, it can also be incredibly beneficial when it comes to saving at the pump.
As this article mentioned in the beginning, fueling a semi truck comes at no small price. Semi trucks can come in a variety of different sizes, all of which can be custom fit with their own unique fuel tanks depending on need. Big-rig brand Peterbilt, for example, sells a variety of custom-made diesel fuel tanks ranging anywhere from old style 80-gallon tanks to early style 150-gallon tanks. With common trucks boasting a “saddle tank” design (or one tank on either side of the cab) a single truck could hold anywhere from 160 gallons to 300 gallons of diesel fuel.
Depending on the tank load of your truck, you can expect to spend anywhere between $480 and $960 in diesel fuel per stop. Therefore, if you’re making an average of five stops during your routes, you’re looking at $2,400 to $4,800 in fuel costs per trip. For decades, fuel has consistently been the biggest expense for trucking companies, regardless of the fact that diesel prices can fluctuate significantly. This alone should be enough of an incentive to get the best gas mileage possible.
In addition to costing a substantial cost involved in fueling a semi-truck, there’s also a timing factor you must consider. With the fueling process itself lasting anywhere from 15- to 20-minutes and bathroom breaks, food runs, leg-stretches adding even more time, what you intend to be quick stops can easily turn into half-hour (or longer) gaps in your daily routes. Add up multiple stops in one day and you’re looking at over an hour of off-road time; time that, with maximum fuel efficiency, could be spent making money.
Unlike traditional cars and trucks, which weigh between roughly 3,000 pounds and 10,000 pounds, a semi truck pulling a full trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, the engine alone accounting for 2,880 pounds. Because these already heavy trucks are charged with the task of hauling even heavier trailers, they require a more heavy-duty form of fuel than the average car or truck. By burning diesel, semi trucks are able to burn fuel more efficiently than they would if they used traditional gasoline.
Because of its efficiency, diesel is also much cheaper for semi trucks to use than gasoline. There’s a lot of science behind semi truck fuel economy comparison; in general, however, diesel fuel produces around 147,000 British thermal units (BTUs) of energy. Gasoline, on the other hand, only produces about 125,000 BTUs of energy, meaning trucks would need much more gasoline than diesel to carry the same heavy load. While there are just two main types of fuel—diesel and gasoline—there are dozens of different types of trucks, all of which can be fitted with unique fuel tanks.
From automobile transports and logging trucks to mail carriers and distribution trucks, there are dozens of different uses for semi-trucks. Many truck manufacturing companies and aftermarket auto body shops can design custom fuel tanks to meet the wants and needs of the trucking company and its uses.
In addition to some of the tips mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are several more key ways you can save diesel fuel in your semi truck - regardless of how much fuel your tanks take. By following all the tips and tricks mention here, you’ll find yourself going further with each gallon of gas.
Regardless of how old or new your semi truck is, by following these guidelines, not only can you rest assured you’re getting the best gas mileage possible, but you can also take the necessary precautions to keep you and other motorists safe on each and every leg of your journey.
In an effort to improve fuel efficiency for today’s semi trucks, manufacturers have created several unique fuel-saving technologies that help boost gas mileage. Some of the top technologies include:
Despite ongoing efforts and continual research to make rigs as gas-friendly as possible, semi trucks will likely never reach the fuel efficiency of a Toyota Prius. However, manufacturers are doing everything in their power to design aerodynamic, comfortable, and fuel-efficient rigs that break the decades-long mold.
For example, the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, 2018’s most fuel efficient-truck of the year, is saddled with a redesigned DD15 engine that delivers up to 500 horsepower and averages between 9 and 10 mpg - nearly twice of the common mileage. Keep reading about the Future of Semi Trucks to learn more.
Unlike the leaps and bounds of advancements in the automobile industry, like electric and self-driving cars, semi trucks haven’t seen many changes over the past 50 years. Fortunately, that’s soon to change. In addition to cabs that look like transformers, new and soon-to-be semi trucks are both aerodynamic and efficient, allowing them to get up to almost 13 miles per gallon - a stark contrast to the average 5.6 most trucks get today. Because these large, cumbersome trucks get sufficiently better gas mileage with a manual transmission (80-percent of semi-trucks currently on the road are manual) it’s unclear at this time if the future of trucking will see an influx of automatic or even self-driving semi trucks.
If you’re like many of today’s truck drivers, however, you likely don’t have the time or luxury to wait around for the semi truck manufacturing companies to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles. Thankfully, with the help of this article, you can understand how to properly calculate your truck’s average gas mileage and make the necessary changes to ensure your truck is as fuel efficient as possible.
With a bright future and endless job opportunities, the trucking industry might be the perfect fit for you. If you’re interested in becoming a truck driver, learn more about how CDL can help you get the training you need and start your career today.