14 Ways to save money as an owner-operator

March 11, 2020

Figuring out how to save money as an owner-operator can take some effort, but is worth it when your profits increase.

Whether you are a 20-year veteran, brand-new or somewhere in between, keeping expenses low and revenue high is the goal of every owner-operator.

Because the costs associated with being an owner-operator cuts into your earnings potential, every step that can be taken to lower those costs, no matter how big or small, can add up to have a huge impact.

Here are 14 ways to save money as an owner-operator:

Cut back on fuel consumption:

1. Reduce your speed.

Your truck’s MPG decreases once it surpasses its optimal speed. Decreasing your speed by just a couple miles per hour can increase your MPG tremendously, meaning you will spend less on fuel each year.

2. Use cruise control on straight stretches, if safe for conditions.

Reducing the number of hard brakes and excessive accelerations when you are driving on flat, straight stretches of highway can decrease your fuel consumption.

3. Invest in an APU or engine-off climate control system. 

Idling for one hour uses about one gallon of fuel. If you keep your truck idling for the entire duration of eight hours of sleep, that is eight wasted gallons of fuel a day or about 56 a week. APUs allow owner-operators to reduce unnecessary idling.

4. Keep up on regular truck maintenance. 

Keep up on regular truck maintenance.

Always perform your pre-and post-trip inspections to confirm your truck has no defects that are leading to higher fuel costs. Spec your truck with high-quality equipment, like tires with good rolling resistance, to lower your fuel costs.

5. Trip plan/invest in a good GPS.

Knowing exactly where you are going will prevent wrong turns and missed exits, which just equal more time spent driving and wasting fuel. Trip planning and a high-quality GPS prevent making wrong turns, being stuck in traffic and driving excessive miles.

6. Lease-on with a company that offers fuel discounts.

Lease with a carrier that offers discounts on fuel to owner-operators. Schneider, for example, offers a fuel surcharge program, fuel discounts at most major truck stops, a Schneider-issued fuel card and a free fuel optimizer program.

Pay less for maintenance: 

7. Do not ignore problems.

If you notice something is wrong with your truck while doing your pre- or post-trip inspection, do not ignore it. Minor issues can turn into costly problems quickly, so get problems fixed as soon as you discover them.

8. Lease-on with a company that offers maintenance discounts. 

Many companies offer maintenance discounts to owner-operators who lease-on with them. Owner-operators who lease-on with Schneider can take advantage of Schneider’s Purchase Power Program and save money on truck repairs.

Lower your food costs:

9. Invest in a refrigerator, microwave and lunch box cooker.

Having things like a refrigerator, microwave and lunch box cooker allow you to store and cook food in your truck instead of relying on eating at restaurants.

10. Meal prep.

owner operator meal prepping

Preparing healthy meals on the road can be tricky. Instead of being tempted to save time and effort by just purchasing your dinner from a fast food restaurant, prep and pack meals before you head out for a long trip. All you will need to do is heat them up in a microwave or lunch box cooker.

11. Shop for food at grocery stores.

Find a grocery store that allows semi-truck parking to pick up groceries at lower prices than convenience stores.

Make other small changes to your daily habits:

12. Write out a budget and stick with it.

Keep track of your receipts. Make note of every purchase you make. Physically seeing where and when you spend your money makes it easier to keep track of how you are spending it. When writing out your expenses, think about how you could make slight adjustments to maximize your savings.

13. Pay your bills on time.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to forget about the bills sitting at home while you’re out on the road. Consider setting up an automatic bill pay (many are free) or electronically paying bills directly on your phone. This way you will avoid late charges and fees.

14. Take advantage of rewards/points programs.

Many truck stop chains offer rewards programs to truck drivers. Racking up points on your rewards card can translate to free showers, discounts, etc.