Saving Money as an Owner Operator
Earning revenue is top of mind for every owner-operator. After all, money is the lifeblood of any business.
Equally as important as earning revenue is keeping as much of it as you can. Operating efficiently and controlling your costs will make or break your business.
Here are some tips to save money as an owner-operator.
Save on Fuel
Speed – Faster is not better. I know trucks are governed to limit speeds to 60 – 70 mph but that doesn’t mean you need to be up against the governor all the time. Setting a lower cruising speed will improve fuel mileage.
Shifting – This is less of an issue since automatic transmissions have become the norm. Auto-shift became popular because they do a great job, in most situations, of keeping the truck in its power range. Plus, they don’t miss shifts. Automatic transmissions do allow you to select the gear but it’s best to let it do its thing in most situations. Downshifting and taking a run at a mountain grade will use far more fuel than letting the truck operate efficiently.
Traffic Flow and Congestion – We all know there are bad times to drive in an area. Rush hour through a major city, for example, can often be avoided with some planning. Reducing the amount of stop-and-go traffic will save you fuel, money, and frustration.
Reduce Idling – Idling can be thought of as short idle and long idle. Short idle is when you idle for 10 minutes or less. Every driver can eliminate short idling. Turn your truck off when you fuel or go into a shipper/receiver. The short idles quickly add up and add a surprising amount of idle time on your truck. That’s money blowing out of the stack.
Longer idling, such as overnight, can be reduced if you try. Using your bunk heater will reduce long idle time. You’ll still have some long idle time but reduce it whenever you will add up quickly.
Preventive Maintenance – Keeping up with preventive maintenance will help keep your truck running efficiently. Clean oil, fuel filters, air filters, and quality tires all keep your truck in tip-top shape. Taking care of air leaks and checking your tire air pressure consistently will add to your bottom line with fuel savings.
It’s easy to cut corners and try to be more profitable, but poor maintenance will come back to bite you hard with avoidable breakdowns, which means more downtime and much higher repair costs. A poorly maintained truck will have a lower resale value.
Speaking of resale, document your maintenance and repair. A full history of the truck will increase its value when it’s time to sell it. Buyers want to see a solid history of PM and repairs.
Pre and Post-Trip Inspections – Neglecting to pre-trip before you start driving and post-trip, once you shut down, will lead to more money spent on maintenance. Small issues that aren’t caught will quickly turn into big problems.
Not only will you still have the maintenance costs, but your business will lose out on revenue when your truck is in the shop needlessly for an extended period.
Lower Food & Personal Costs
Eating Out – Grabbing food to go from fast-food chains and truck stops is something we’re all guilty of doing. Doing this occasionally isn’t bad and can even be a nice little treat for yourself. However, eating out three times a day will burn a hole in your pockets. Not to mention, it isn’t the healthiest of options.
If the average driver spends $30 a day on meals and is over the road an average of 25 days a month, that’s $750 a month in meals or approximately $9,000 per year. By investing in some tools for over-the-road cooking and hitting the grocery stores for your meals, drivers can save around 75% of their meal expenses, or $6,750 a year!
Doing some planning, you can save your cash and enjoy delicious homemade meals. Making a meal plan for your trip, cooking your meals while you’re home, and then packing them for the road, you can save scads of cash.
Or invest in some kitchen appliances for the truck. With an electric grill or frying pan, slow cooker, or even a lunch box stove, you can prep and cook your meals right in your truck.
Buying on Impulse – At first, impulse buying doesn’t seem like it eats up too much of your budget. But when you really think about it, it eats up a lot of cash.
You fuel, go in to pay and come walking out with a coffee and snack. We all do it – usually daily. What’s the harm in spending a couple of bucks? Well, ask yourself; is it really only a couple of bucks? Be honest. If you’re buying items on impulse just once a day, let’s say at $4.00, it adds up to $1000 per year. In talking with drivers and getting their confessions on impulse buying, we’ve noticed that impulse buying is done more than once, and drivers are spending closer to $12.00, even $18.00 a day. Add those figures up, and you’re spending between $3000 and $4500 per year.
We’re not saying that you must cut down on coffee and snacks (the two biggest culprits) but doing some planning will help save your money while still enjoying these pick-me-ups.
Purchasing a single-serve coffee maker would be beneficial for multiple reasons. It helps save your money, and you can enjoy a good cup of coffee instead of the water-downed stuff at truck stops.
Also, packing your snacks along with your meals means that you’ll be able to save money and eat healthier too!
Stop Paying for Showers – No, we are not saying that you should stop caring about hygiene! But you don’t have to pay for showers on the road because you can get them for free. All you need to do is sign up for a points reward program with any major truck stop chains. When you purchase fuel, which will be almost daily, you get a free shower added to your card. Pilot/Flying J is our preferred fuel stop for our fleet. They have an extensive network in both Canada and the US.