Monday, September 29, 2014

Fuel Planning

Before you ever turn the key and hit the road, you need to know where you will be going to buy fuel along your route.  There are a couple of websites out there that simplify this process:

Promiles

Fuel Advice

These are the two I've used so far.  Promiles is the more expensive one, yet more meaty and more decked out with all the bells and whistles.  FuelAdvice is simpler, less expensive, and a bit flawed, but it yields similar results to Promiles if not identical when it comes to where to stop to get fuel.

There are a few factors when buying fuel such as fuel tax, fuel price, amount of fuel purchased, and what fuel stops lie ahead.  The best way to do this is to run the fuel route every day because prices change.  You need to know your fuel tank capacity, fuel mileage, and your projected fuel mileage which is different from your standard fuel mileage.  I'm saying projected fuel mileage, but there are a few factors that will change your actual mileage.  Are you driving empty or loaded?  Will you be going through mountains or flat lands?  Will you be going uphill into the wind or downhill with the wind?  Will there be a side wind the entire trip?  Will your load be oversized therefor allowing less stops to maximize driving time during daylight?

Will you have enough time for multiple stops or do you need to stop once and top off the tank so as not to be wasting time at truck stops? 

Your fuel tank capacity is written on the fuel tank, however even though I have 2-140 gallon tanks, I can never get more than 240 gallons, because of how the tank holds the fuel.  I've never had a truck that could fill the amount of fuel that the tank's rated capacity said it could.

Fuel tax and fuel prices are compared in real time on these websites and they have access to the last purchase made with one of the major fuel card companies out there.  So when I swipe my Comdata card in the fuel pump, that price is sent to Comdata and from there it is made available to everyone.  You can do this yourself through Comdata here:
www.Gocomchek.com

It wont tell you that I personally bought fuel somewhere, but it will record that someone using a Comdata card bought fuel and for what price they bought it for.

There are a few strategies to fuel planning that I use commonly.  Since Salena and I are a team operation, we have loads that require less stopping because of time constraints.  Typically I will have a topped off fuel tank on arrival, but that can depend on the weight of the load.  If it is a very light load, I will top off the tank at the cheapest place I can find along the route, but if I think that I might be near my maximum load weight, which is about 40,000 lbs., I will only show up to the shipper with about 1/4 of a tank of fuel just in case the load puts too much weight on my drive axles and causes me to have less fuel carrying ability.

There are many strategies used to save fuel.  From taking the shortest routes through small towns with local police and stoplights everywhere, to running slow on the interstate and minimizing shifting while revving the engine.  You have to run the numbers and see what works for you.  Sometimes saving fuel isn't worth the hassle.  And sometimes it is.

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