13 tips on ways to save money as an owner-operator

September 08, 2021

A gold International semi-truck hauling an orange Schneider trailer drives down the highway surrounded by cars.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

From truck payments to insurance to fuel and more, there are a lot of costs associated with running a trucking company. Those costs add up fast and cut into the amount of revenue you take home each week.

There are a variety of practices you can implement into your daily routine – some more tedious than others – to potentially reduce your expenses and increase your profit.

Check out our suggestions on ways to save money as an owner-operator and see which ones you could consider starting to do today.

5 ways to save on fuel

As one of the largest expenses related to owning a trucking company, implementing these tips on ways to save money on fuel costs as an owner-operator could help your revenue grow dramatically.

1. Reduce your average speed.

Simply decreasing your speed can reduce your truck’s aerodynamic drag and cut back on fuel consumption.

While it may not always be possible to travel at the sweet spot (for most trucks) of 55 to 60 MPH, keep in mind that decreasing your speed by just a couple miles per hour can increase your MPG tremendously. And with the rising prices of fuel, who doesn’t want to decrease their costs while at the pump?

Furthermore, cutting back on speed can also reduce the wear and tear on your truck’s engine and tires.

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

Leasing on with a carrier may be one of the top ways to cut back on your fuel costs. This is because many carriers, like Schneider, offer great discounts on fuel.

For example, owner-operators who do business with Schneider can take advantage of discounted fuel rates that are competitive with fleet discounts at major truck stop chains.

See what discount major truck stop chains are currently offering to Schneider owner-operators: Current fuel discounts.

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

Whenever safe and possible, consider using cruise control while driving on flat, straight highways. Keeping your truck at a constant speed can reduce the number of hard brakes and excessive accelerations you make.

Using cruise control while driving in the right conditions can help reduce your fuel consumption.

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

While the upfront costs of investing in an APU or climate control system may be significant, cutting back on truck idling may help you save on fuel in the long run.

Here’s why: idling for one hour uses about one gallon of fuel. If you keep your truck idling for the average night’s sleep – eight hours – that is eight wasted gallons of fuel a day or about 56 gallons a week. If a gallon of fuel is about three dollars, that’s $168 per week spent on idling.

5. Take the time to trip plan.

Taking time to trip plan could save you time and wasted money in the future.

Having your route planned out ahead of time can prevent wrong turns and missed exits, which lead to unnecessary time spent driving and wasted fuel.

Before you start your day, tip plan to determine the best route to take, prevent getting stuck in traffic and avoid driving excessive miles. While you’re at it, invest in a high-quality GPS.

Keep up on regular truck maintenance.

2 ways to cut back on maintenance costs

Maintenance costs can add up quickly. Finding ways to cut back on expenses can benefit your business immensely.

6. Never forget to do a pre- or post-trip inspection.

Neglecting to pre-trip before you start driving and post-trip once you turn your truck off can lead to more money spent on maintenance. Small issues that aren’t caught quickly can turn into big problems.

Not only will you be responsible for paying the maintenance costs, but your business will lose out on bringing in revenue if your truck is in the shop for an extended period of time.

7. Lease a truck from a reputable company.

Next time you’re in the market for a new truck, seriously consider leasing a truck from a trustworthy company, like SFI Trucks and Financing.

While the weekly payments for leasing a truck are typically higher than the payments associated with buying a truck, the overall package that comes with leasing a truck is usually far superior, especially when it comes to the maintenance benefits.

A few examples of ways owner-operators who lease a truck from SFI save on maintenance costs include:

  • SFI leases high-quality, brand-new trucks. The chances of experiencing a maintenance issue is far less with a new truck than an older one.
  • SFI’s trucks are backed by warranties. This means fewer out-of-pocket expenses for owner-operators.
  • SFI has a 24/7 maintenance support team. This team is dedicated to finding clients the best prices on parts and labor.

owner operator meal prepping

3 ways to lower food costs

Finding ways to cut back on food costs can be one of the easiest ways to save money as an owner-operator.

8. Invest in cooking equipment to make your life easier.

If you find yourself eating most of your meals out when on the road because you don’t have the means to cook in your truck, it’s time to think again.

There is a lot of low-cost cooking equipment out there that can make cooking in your truck very convenient. Consider starting with an investment in a mini fridge to keep food colder for longer and grow from there by purchasing things like a microwave, portable stove, crockpot and electric skillet.

Just a few simple tools can help you create healthy meals in your truck.

9. Meal prep.

If cooking in your truck just isn’t for you, consider meal prepping your food at home to bring with you on the road.

Having pre-made breakfasts, lunches and dinners will prevent you from stopping at fast food places during your breaks. And all you’ll need is a mini fridge or electric cooler to keep your meals cold, and a microwave to quickly heat them up.

10. Shop for food at grocery stores.

While getting food at your home grocery store before you head out is most practical, if you’re going to be out on the road for a significant period of time, you’ll probably need to stop to buy groceries at some point.

While purchasing groceries at truck stops is convenient, prices usually add up quickly. Instead, while trip planning, find a grocery store that has semi-truck parking along your route and stop in to pick up the groceries you need to get you through the rest of your trip.

And don’t forget to put together a list ahead of time to prevent yourself from overspending on food you don’t need.

3 ways to make other small changes to daily habits

Consider adding other small changes to your daily habits. Remember, small changes can lead to big savings.

11. Write out a budget and stick with it.

If you haven’t done so already, put together a budget that includes both your operating expenses and your personal expenses. This is also the perfect time to put together your trucking expenses spreadsheet to determine your cost per mile.

We suggest keeping track of your receipts and making note of every purchase you make when out on the road. Physically seeing where, when and how you spend your money makes it easier to keep track of it and think of ways to cut back.

12. Prevent unnecessary expenses from happening.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be really easy to forget about the bills sitting at home while you’re out on the road. And when you forget to pay them, you’re often hit with fees that could’ve been easily avoided.

A simple way to prevent this from happening is to set up automatic payments (many are free) for things like internet, water, energy, streaming services, etc.

Otherwise, consider electronically paying bills directly on your phone so you don’t have to wait until you’re back home to take care of them.

13. Take advantage of rewards/points programs.

Many of the major truck stop chains offer rewards programs to truck drivers and owner-operators. Most of the time, these rewards require no additional effort from drivers than fueling their truck.

Earning rewards or points often translates to free showers, drinks and food and discounts on other essentials from truck stops.