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Maximize Your Semi-Truck’s Fuel Economy

As fuel prices rise, maximizing fuel economy in your truck is essential to keeping businesses running. Renowned gas-guzzlers, semi-trucks are also essential to virtually every aspect of keeping our communities operating. In this article, we lay out five quick tips for you to get the best fuel economy possible in your semi-truck.

1. Plan ahead.

Your semi-truck’s fuel economy starts before you pull off the lot. Planning your route, stops, and time it will take to get there is essential in maximizing your efficiency.

A semi-truck has a higher mpg when it is empty.

Your miles per gallon are greatly impacted by the weight of your truck. This means if you’re hauling an empty trailer or lighter freight, you can factor the weight difference into your mile per gallon calculations. Let this also serve as a reminder to limit the amount of fuel you put in your tank to get from stop A to stop B, so you’re not overloading your truck with unnecessary fuel weight.

Semi-trucks get better mpg going downhill.

Assess the grade of your route before driving to estimate how far your tank of fuel will last. Going through mountain country? Expect to take a hit on fuel efficiency. But while you can’t change the geography, using natural momentum from a downhill stretch can make an incremental difference that adds up over hundreds of miles!

Map the shortest route.

It seems obvious, but there are a lot of logistics to consider when planning your route, including deadlines, road closures, fuel stops, sleep … the list goes on. Simply put: Don’t drive miles you don’t have to. Take time to think through limitations and parameters to ensure you’re stopping smart and driving straight.

2. Stay motivated.

Ask any truck driver how they maximize their fuel efficiency, and they’ll tell you it takes diligence, making constant adjustments, and staying motivated. From constant awareness of your semi-truck’s speed to regular maintenance, it’s the small details that make the difference.

Paying attention to the road pays off with higher mpg.

Changes in terrain can have an immediate impact on your miles per gallon, so pay attention to shifts in grade or elevation. Remember, the higher your engine’s rpms, the more fuel you’re using. Stay in the lowest gear possible for the terrain you’re navigating at the required speed.

Being committed to small simple changes and adjustments month over month adds up.

Tire pressure is another detail to pay attention to. It’s easy to adjust and can significantly alter your semi’s mpgs. Changes in weather and temperature, as well as the weight of the haul, will affect the pressure in your tires.

See the difference in your paycheck with our Fuel Economy Incentive Program.

At Midwest, our drivers are motivated to better manage fuel economy through our incentive program. Every month, all Midwest drivers who achieve 7.25mpg or higher receive a per mile bonus. The greater your fuel economy, the greater your earnings per mile. Some drivers have seen an additional $750/mo added to their paycheck just by maximizing their trucks’ fuel economy.

3. Slow down.

Everyone in the trucking industry knows the best way to conserve fuel is to slow down as much as is possible and safe. It can seem like a time waster and it’s easy to want to get to the drop-off fast. But if fuel economy is a goal for you or your employer, the number one thing you can do is cut the speed and hit the cruise.

The optimal speed of a semi-truck for maximum fuel economy is well under 65mpg.

Experts and experienced drivers debate the optimal speed for fuel savings, but the reality is there are many variables effecting the situation. Most agree, however, that by being soft with the pedal, slow to accelerate and capping highway speed under 65mpg, you will save money and fuel. So, stay in the right lane, don’t get impatient, and settle in to save big!

Going faster doesn’t get you there much quicker.

The truth of the matter is the return isn’t worth the fuel spend. Getting to the final destination faster doesn’t justify fuel costs over 65mpg. It requires substantial changes in speed to drastically affect arrival time.

Using cruise control can increase your semi-truck’s mpg.

It can be tempting to become less gentle with the pedal, accelerating incrementally the longer you’ve been on the road and the closer you are to the destination. Using cruise control can help avoid the “lead foot,” keeping your speed optimum and consistent.

4. Turn it off.

Historically, many in the industry idled their trucks en route. This was costly and wasteful from a fuel perspective, but before battery-operated alternatives to keep the cabin comfortable, it was the standard operating procedure. However, the easiest way to save substantial amounts of fuel is by turning off the truck every time.

Semi-trucks burn a gallon of fuel every hour of idle time.

The fuel savings is undeniable – roughly a gallon of fuel per hour is saved simply turning off your truck. Calculate your current idle time and see your potential savings add up.

Roll down the windows and catch the breeze.

Most idle time is spent sleeping or waiting at the dock. We encourage drivers to prioritize comfort, but also allow nature to lend a hand. As the evening cools down, open the windows and let the fresh breeze in while you sleep.

Use your battery-operated utilities when you’re parked to stay comfortable.

Most of the utilities in your cabin will operate off a battery or generator, and we encourage our drivers to take advantage of those while they’re idling. In winter, consider using a heater in place of the central heat fueled by the truck’s engine. Good sleep is imperative on the road, so if you have to run the truck to stay comfortable, do so, but use other options as you can!

5. Think aerodynamically.

Taking the steps to make your semi-truck more aerodynamic will translate to direct fuel savings and greater mpg.

Reduce drag.

The natural shape of a semi-truck is not the most aerodynamic, but you can create a more streamlined shape by using tire covers, flaps, and scoops. These change the way air moves around the truck and reduces drag on the highway. Reducing resistance translates directly to fuel economy.

Use momentum.

As we referenced above, paying attention to the grade of the road and leveraging momentum where possible (read: staying off the pedal) is using aerodynamics. It is important to note that you should be in control of your truck the entire time you’re on the road, so make sure you’re practicing safe, controlled driving any time you’re on a route.

Tighten the trailer.

One of the fastest ways to lose the aerodynamic shape of your truck is by allowing a gap between the truck and trailer. If possible, tighten your trailer to be as close as possible to your truck to minimize wind. Wind force acts like a brake, stymieing your efforts for a sleeker shape. However, any adjustments you make to your trailer require you to rescale the load to make ensure optimal axel weight.