How truck drivers can use fuel surcharge to their advantage

Discover what fuel surcharges are, how they work, and how to benefit more from them.

The number one expense for any truck driver or carrier is fuel. And since most trucks average around six to eight miles a gallon, you know you’ll be paying a hefty price at the pump. The answer to the problem lies in how you handle your fuel surcharge.

In the past, you may have seen the fuel surcharge as just another line on your settlement—but what if that payment could help you reduce the per-gallon cost of fuel out-of-pocket?

Let’s discuss exactly what a fuel surcharge is, how it works, and how you can take advantage of it as a truck driver.

What is a fuel surcharge?

This is the term for the additional fees that truckers and carriers charge in order to address the ever-changing cost of fuel. When a shipper pays a fuel surcharge for diesel, the cost is calculated in three different ways, based on:

  • A base fuel price.
  • The current average price of fuel.
  • The average fuel economy for a specific industry.

The fuel surcharge you’ll receive as a truck driver depends largely on the average fuel price and may be different depending on the industry. Essentially, the purpose is to keep truckers and carriers profitable—even in times of rising fuel costs.

Whether you’re an owner-operator or work with a carrier as a contractor, you should always know the exact surcharge for every load. The majority of carriers provide a surcharge chart so you can determine the specific surcharge payment for every mile. This dollar amount is typically based on average diesel fuel prices—in other words, the surcharges move with the price of fuel.

Important facts about fuel surcharge

Below are some other things you should know.

Carriers can set their own average fuel economy

This means they can be far more competitive by increasing their base mileage to 7 mpg or higher. As a result, they pass savings on to the shippers they partner with and earn more business.

You can set your own fuel price

Just because the government says the price of fuel is one number doesn’t mean you have to use it. Adjust the price accordingly to match the price you actually pay.

Your fuel surcharge cannot cover deadhead miles

No matter what stage of the trucking business you’re in, you have to know that deadhead trucking is a cost of running that business.

Fuel surcharges act as security from short-term fuel price fluctuations

As you may know, some trucking companies offer 100 percent fuel surcharges. That means you as the driver get the entirety of the surcharge!

Benefiting more from fuel surcharge as a truck driver

One of the best ways a truck driver can benefit more from fuel surcharge is by driving more efficiently. Think about it this way: The less you ultimately have to pay for diesel per mile, the more you’ll save on total trip expenses. And since the mileage is the same either way, that’s more money in your pocket. Plus, this means that your truck will continue running smoothly for the foreseeable future.

As you can see, fuel surcharges are a great way for truck drivers to make the most of their many hours spent OTR. Your best bet is to fully understand the surcharge system and keep track of the rates you’ll earn as you drive. That way, you’ll have a firmer grasp of the money you can make every mile and keep a more profitable business.

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