Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year: A New Incentive

As you may (or may not) be aware, many trucking companies look for ways to decrease fuel expenses, and two of the primary ways are through idling and accurate/efficient routing. With a company as large as ours, with as many trucks as there are, reduction of just one hour per day per truck in idling would save the company hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars each quarter. That's a lot of savings!

Idling one's truck for just one hour uses one gallon of fuel. For the company to heat/cool all of its trucks simultaneously for one hour, the company spends roughly $30,000 in fuel.

Many states have passed anti-idling laws, permitting truckers to idle for a maximum of 5 minutes (or 3 minutes, if you're in the wretched state of New Jersey). This is, of course, being done for emission purposes. However, by our estimation, 75% of truckers still idle their trucks, even in states where you could be fined thousands of dollars for doing so.

It's not hard to understand why a trucker would want to idle: non-truckers are not asked to turn off their heater or electricity when they're not in their homes. Being on the road, the truck is our home. But it comes down to common sense--there is no reason a trucker needs to idle his/her truck when the temperatures are between 40-70. Above 70, yes: if it gets too hot in the truck, the trucker cannot get adequate rest and therefore will not be able to perform to his/her duties in full capacity when his/her shift to drive comes up. Below 40, yes: for the same reasons.

The idling laws, however, are ridiculous in a sense that they are not enforced. We truckers have all been informed of them, however we have never seen an officer write a ticket to a trucker for having his truck on. We've seen some crazy instances of idling though--truckers idling their rigs between the temperatures of 40-70, or idling their truck with their windows open, or idling their truck and then leaving it idle as they head inside a truck stop for a bite to eat or a shower. Can you say wasteful?

Ben and I, since the beginning of this adventure of life on the road, have been very conscious of our idling practices. Thankfully, by being a team operation, most of our time on the road is spent as just that: on the road, moving loads from city to city. Keeping moving is one great way to keep idling costs down. But--when we are shut-down for a period of time due to poor weather or we are working on a restart of hours, we try to idle as little as possible. With our former company, CRST, unless the temperature dropped below 20 degrees, we didn't turn the truck on for the heater warmth. And generally, unless the heat outside was 75 degrees or above, we didn't turn the truck on for air conditioning cool.

Many of our present company's trucks are equipped with bunk heaters; these pull fuel directly out of your fuel tank through a pump and burns it through an ignitor. Both the pump and a fan are operated by the truck battery. Using the bunk heater continuously for 10 hours uses up only one gallon of fuel yet provides more than enough heat--enough that we often don't even need our blankets!

To the incentive portion of this post: our company is sponsoring a contest, if you will, to entice drivers to reduce their idling time. For the first quarter of 2011, the top 150 trucks with a bunk heater and the top 150 trucks without a bunk heater who have the lowest percentage of idle time will be entered into a drawing to win cash prizes, and the top prize winner will receive a company truck with 300,000-400,000 miles on it (most trucks are good at least to a million miles, sometimes more), and be enrolled in the lease-option program of the company. Typically this program entails that the driver/leaser pays the truck payment, upwards of $500/week, but can make an average of 89 cents per mile (of course, this 89cpm has to cover a range of expenses a company driver is not responsible for, like fuel, maintenance, permits, etc.). However, with the perks of this contest, the grand-prize-winner will get the truck and the company will pay the truck payment! That means that the driver/leaser has *only* to pay fuel, maintenance, permits, etc. costs. Considering that fuel and truck payments are your largest cost in owning your own truck, this is a significant savings! Furthermore, if you complete the lease-option program for two years after receiving the truck, the company will hand you the title for free. That is a whole lotta moolah to be made! Even if one were not to truck any longer after the two year lease-option program, reselling the truck could bring between $25-50,000.

Can you say "incentive"??? While Ben and I are not interested in trucking any longer than we have to to pay off our debt, the grand prize option sure is enticing! If the winner of that grand prize opts out of the truck option, they can instead receive $5000 cash. More money is certainly to be made with the lease-option, but it's nice that the $5000 is also offered.

We have lots of heavy blankets in our truck (and we like to cuddle for warmth anyhow ;-) )and plan to continue keeping our idling down, and hopefully in early April we'll find that we're in the top 150 drivers for the lowest idling percentage!

Present location: Santa Nella, CA (sitting out a winter storm that closed down a 40 mile section of the Grapevine)
Miles this week: 3700
Fun loads as of late: giant rolls of paper for newsprint

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