Owner-operator success in improving energy efficiency

How do you cope with rising fuel prices? There are many strategies to improve fuel efficiency, but given that leased landlords like David Nihart (leased from Landstar) have recently highlighted the enormous value of carrier partnerships when it comes to deep discounts at the pump, freelancers can feel paralyzed when it comes to the potential of volume purchases that offer such discounts. As John Henderson noted in this linked report, however, buying fuel in bulk is not out of the question for a single-truck operator. Henderson pointed to its bulk contract with MFA Oil in its Midwest region — a quantity-linked fuel contract that does not depend on bulk delivery to a central location.

[Related: A path toward bulk fuel buying could be under your nose]

The National Association of Small Trucking Companies fuel program is well known for its significant in-network pump rebates for association members, given the volume it can promise at fuel stops. For single-truck haulers, attendance at one of NASTC’s monthly New Entrant Survival Training seminars at company headquarters opens up the opportunity to participate in and become a member of the program.

Independent operator Joey Terra also pointed to an avenue I was unaware of when we spoke last week. Regular readers might remember the Texas-based independent from my story about his hot trucking business, when we last covered hot trucking in depth via close looks at three different owners.

If that doesn’t jog your memory…

Pictured is Terra’s 2015 Ram, equipped with a 7-foot bed, which it primarily used at the time, paired with the Pull Rite 40-foot gooseneck trailer shown – both the small The Ram’s tray itself proved useful for smaller, lighter loads.

Terra has since suffered setbacks when it comes to the hotshot, with a mechanical problem in the engine, a decision to rebuild, and a repair accident that left the rig out of order for over a year. After several different moves, it’s now in what you might call an upgrade, certainly in size, so to speak.

Cascadia Freightliner 2014Terra currently pilots this 2014 Freightliner Cascadia and hauls under its authority in partnership with the owner of the truck, who also specializes in buying, upgrading and selling used equipment.

Joey Terra tractor on truckTerra leases the 48-foot running board from a trailer builder who fitted it with a custom dovetail to ride (or crawling, as the case may be) charges such as this.

Joey Terra's tractor loadedTerra is still knocking on doors, so to speak, with its longtime oilfield service customers, he noted during our chat last week.

How is Joey Terra coping with the sharp rise in fuel prices of the past two months?

Earlier this year, he changed his fuel buying routine with a new fuel card from the company AtoB which he says offers a general discount of 5 cents per gallon on fuel purchases charged to a business account. (it notes that you need an Employer ID number to set up with the company). He then linked that card to another service – the company’s smartphone app Mudflap for operators that offers negotiated discounts at independent diesel stops across the country.

“A fill up in early March,” he noted, when the price at the pump was “$5 and some change,” he paid $4.30 a gallon with both the Mudflap discount and the 5 cent fuel debit card discount. Mudflap’s coverage isn’t universally great – searching Nashville, TN when we spoke last week found only a 20 cent discount off the pump price of 4.80 $ one stop on Centennial Boulevard near the large Western Express terminal on SR 155 North, exit 26A.

“I could bounce near Franklin, Kentucky,” however, he noted, at a Keystop where diesel was available for a much better price of $4.16 through the app service.

Learn more about the Mudflap service via this link, and if you use them or something else for discounts, share tips/thoughts here in the comments. What works? What is not?

Save what you can, when you can, no doubt. Diesel prices added a few cents per gallon last week on average nationwide, according to the Energy Information Administration’s weekly report, after some recent drops. Average prices remain a penny above $5 at retail.

[Related: Consider your pump price minus the state’s per-gallon fuel tax to determine the real fuel cost]

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