Operational Costs – Reducing Fuel Use Is Being Green

  • Class 8 Operational Costs
  • Reducing Fuel saves you $$$
  • How Fuel Costs Vary With Operations – Using a Typical Class 8 Over-the-Road Tractor-Trailer
  • Simply Remember: One Gallon Diesel = 20 Pounds Carbon
  • Think about all of the things you can do to save fuel – and you are being GREEN!



As a successful truck operator in today’s environment, it is important to understand the effect of your operations on profitability. Additionally, there is considerable discussion from shippers and receivers about “greening” the supply chain. One should begin doing some basic planning regarding documenting fuel reduction programs. For every gallon fuel saved, it equals 20 pounds of carbon.

In the following, we wanted to show an example of typical equipment in an operation and go through some of the variables. Saving a half mile per gallon on a 1,000 mile trip reduces about 300 pounds of carbon emissions.

The best way to think about this is: BEING GREEN CAN MAKE YOU GREEN / $$$$! But we knew that anyway.

One also needs to clearly understand ones operational issues and costs to properly address the critical issue of fuel surcharge on the revenue side. Once the fuel cost basis (i.e. fuel mileage) is agreed to, then you can adjust operations to attain those numbers.

We based this example on an aerodynamic 18-wheel truck with a smooth side van trailer, operating at 60 miles per hour (MPH) with 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

This results in a truck getting about 6 miles per gallon (MPG).

We then varied each parameter to show the relative effect (MPG and cost) from this baseline.

For comparative purposes, we showed first the effect of what you do in every day operations. We followed that with what happens when outside parameters (wind, etc.) affect operations. Basic specing issues are addressed under “Industry Services – Equipment Specifications.

Note: This information was compiled from various industry sources and actual operations. It was averaged for discussion and planning purposes. It may vary slightly when compared to individual representations from operators, manufacturers and suppliers. Annual costs are calculated for operations averaging 2,500 miles / week.



- Speed has the largest effect on your operational cost. Every 5 MPH costs about 0.5 MPG or over $0.06 per mile in fuel. If you are running 75 MPH and slow to 65 MPH, that is 1 MPG or $0.14 per mile or over $16,000 per year savings.

- Speed also has wear costs. That same 10 MPH saves about 10% in tire life (tires running cooler); 10-20% in engine life (depending on engine size), 20% in brake life (not slowing for others) and stress / wear on you.

- Idle time also has a notable effect on costs. With an average idle time of 10 hours per day (heater, air conditioning, TV / VCR…), this costs about 0.6 MPG or $0.07 per mile or about $8,000 per year. Minimizing idle helps!

- Running your engine fan all of the time costs from 10 to 40 HP. This can cost up to 0.3 MPG or about $0.04 per mile or $4,000 per year.

- There are many new parasitic engine accessories coming out, such as clutched aor compressors that can save a little over 100 gallons fuel per year for a 100,000 mile operation. This is about $400 per year or 2/3 of a tenth MPG.

- Alignment doesn’t affect fuel mileage much (0.1 MPG), but it reduces tire life up to 50%.

- Tire pressure also doesn’t affect fuel mileage as much as other things (0.1 MPG), but it also can reduce tire life up to 30%.



- Wind seems always to be going a different direction than you are. It can cost you up to 1.5 MPG, over $0.20 per mile or over $24,000 per year. The rule is to just slow down.

- Extreme temperatures (hot or cold) can cost up to 1.0 MPG, over $0.14 per mile or over $16,000 per year. The rule again is to just slow down.

- Running mountains versus the flats can cost up to 1.0 MPG, over $0.14 per mile or over $16,000 per year. The key here is to take it easy both up and down the hills.

- If roads are rough or soft, your mileage can be affected up to 0.6 MPG, about $0.07 per mile or about $8,000 per year. Again, slowing down is the key thing to do.

- Blended fuel can cost up to 0.5 MPG, over $0.05 per mile or about $6,000 per year. That is just one reason why we see mileage drop in the winter.

- As you find in our Fuel Surcharge Page, the rule of thumb for both shopping fuel prices and assessing surcharge is “Nickel = Penny.” In other words, a nickel ($0.05) per gallon diesel fuel price change equals a penny ($0.01) per mile change in your cost per mile. That means that a swing of $0.40 per gallon fuel cost was about $0.08 per mile or over $10,000 per year.

- If you are running light loads or a significant amount of deadhead, you should experience a notable increase in fuel mileage. The same truck noted in the beginning of this example with a gross vehicle weight of 40,000 pounds (almost empty) should see an increase of about 1.5 MPG or over $0.20 per mile in fuel savings.
Note: You can use this to adjust to your actual operation.


Some helpful tips again

Slowing down a little saves a lot — 5 MPH = $0.06 per mile
Minimize your idling — 10 hours per day = $0.07 per mile
Keep an eye on your alignment and tire pressure (tire life)
Shop for your best fuel value — $0.05 per gallon = $0.02 per mile
Spec the right equipment for your operation
Get help from industry suppliers


When looking at straight truck (e.g. 8 MPG) or delivery van-type (e.g. 11 MPG) operations, adjust these calculations to your equipment fuel mileage – and you can assess the effect on your costs and operations.