Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Going Au Naturel

It's amusing to me when I hear non-truck drivers complaining about fuel prices.  If you're driving a regular car, on average, it gets 28-30 mpg and can go about 300-500 miles on a tank of gas.  Which, at $4.00 per gallon, would set a car driver back about $80.00.  For us, a tank of diesel fuel allows us to drive approximately 1,400 miles but sets us back around $1,200.00.  BIG difference.  And we only get 7 miles to the gallon.  Yes, I know, pitiful.
We purchase most of our fuel at major truck stop chains, and on occassion, smaller truck plazas.  In a pinch, we've even been known to pull our rig into teeny tiny gas stations in the middle of nowhere, as long as they sell diesel.

There are approximately 180,000 gas stations in the United States, and about half of them offer diesel fuel.  Which when compared to the number of fueling sites available in the UK for example, gives you an idea about how big each country is and how the fuel needs for their citizens compare.  In the UK though, they have a neat little fuel card program called, which allows cardholders to choose the card that best fits their needs.

Although we may have seventy-five times as many filling stations as they do, we don't have as many fuel card choices.  We use the Comdata card, which is what the majority of truckers seem to use.  There are probably a few others, but mostly it's just a payment card, as there has to be money in the Comdata account to pay for the purchase, no matter where you choose to use it (as long as they are part of the program, of course).

We spend about $90,000.00 a year on fuel and do everything we can to reduce our consumption in an effort to combat the fluctuating fuel prices.  Ed has been doing a lot of research lately into the use of
natural gas.  It would mean modifying the truck, or buying another truck, or....hell, I don't know what it means, but it's a big change, requiring special equipment or tanks or something.  The most attractive aspect of using natural gas is that it will save us tens of thousands of dollars a year.  Personally, I see a new truck in our future. 

It's still a fairly new concept and not something that's been rolled out in enough locations across the country yet, but we have seen several truck stop locations under construction, adding natural gas pumps to their fuel offerings.  Its widespread use is right around the corner.  Right now finding a station that dispenses natural gas would be challenging (but would reduce the number of fuel stops we'd have to make!), because they're 
few and far between, but someday it's going to be an attractive money saving reality.

Until then, trip planning is going to be a real bitch.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: A Great Idea
2010: The Real Deal
2009: This Should Keep You Buy For A While
2008: Plenty Of Room For The Ladies
2007: It All Began With The Cheese
2006: Zig Zag Wisconsin Color
2005: Made In China


Gil said...

Norwich, CT, where you went to the copper plant, has one or two. Norwich has its own utilities. They run their own natural gas business along with water and sewer like many other municipalities. This being the case the City bought some natural gas trucks. I think that they even have the big dump trucks they use for snowplowing operating on natural gas. Therefore, they have one probably two natural gas refueling stations. One might even be big enough for a rig like yours to get in and out with now problems. Natural gas is cheap right now due to the finding of a larger domestic supply and a couple of other things I missed what the guy said on the news the other night.

ELH said...

Hey Salena, great many miles do you guys have on your tractor? And how much longer do you plan on keeping it? Reason I'm asking is the new Cascadias are boasting 11 mpg or better when paired with the new auto-trans set ups..would that be a alternative you guys might consider sometime in the future? I've read that rebuild over to Nat-gas or liq-gas can be pretty pricey and wondered if the cost/expense for a tractor with a lot of miles would be beneficial cost wise as opposed to waiting to trade for a newer with the auto-trans set up? Also, would you guys stay with freightliner, or consider a different line?

The Daily Rant said...

ELH: I don't like the idea of driving an automatic - I don't feel like you're a "real" truck driver with one of those. LOL As for changing trucks - I love Freightliners, might consider a Volvo or a Western Star. I don't like Peterbilts - not enough room in the cab. But I guess I could get used to anything. :)

Ed said...

Right now no one makes a reliable class 8 natgas engine. It looks like it will be another ten years or so until it really catches on, if at all. The existing natgas engines that do well are low HP and low torque range.

Gil - Thanks, there are more and more stations opening up everyday with NatGas.

ELH - Freightliner makes a decent truck and I know many people with Cascadias. They are getting about 7 MPG on average. The 11 MPG figure might be the sales pitch MPG. The Bullet Truck that was designed up in Connecticut ( is a Kenworth, but Peterbilt makes a similar design and that truck is seeing 13 to 14 MPG. Freightliner warranty service leaves a lot to be desired, but the parts are cheap and plentiful. We only picked Freightliner because of the cab layout and a few other things. All in all, until these EPA regulations are sorted out with CARB (California Air Resources Board) in California, there really is no need to push for a new truck just yet. No one builds anything like they used to. Everything is plastic or cheap metals that rust easily. Its unfortunate.

ELH said...

Thanks. Guys...

Belledog said...

This was a highly educational post. Thank you, Salena and Eddie.