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Money-saving tips for the professional driver

 While sitting down to eat may seem like a good idea, the reality is that doing so multiple times a day can cost a truck driver $100 or more a week. ( Photo: Shutterstock )
While sitting down to eat may seem like a good idea, the reality is that doing so multiple times a day can cost a truck driver $100 or more a week. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

Life on the road can be lonely for truck drivers, but it can also be expensive. That $2 bottle of juice in your local convenience store can be as much as $4 or more a truck stop. And that is just one example. The reality is, businesses that have captive audiences such as truckers often boost prices. The driver’s choice is to pay it or go without.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are numerous tips available on how truck drivers can save money on the road, and while not all will work for everyone, chances are you can benefit from something on this list. We’ve collected some of best we’ve found.

Buy your own food. If you have a microwave in the cab, or an inverter that allows you to use an electric hotplate, small grille or even a coffee pot, making your own meals can save plenty of money. Just making your own coffee each day can be a savings of several dollars a day. Instead of $45 per day for meals, you could eat healthier meals for half that cost. There are also plenty of cookbooks available that include hotplate or microwave recipes.

Use fuel cards/seek out discounts/rewards programs. It used to be that smaller fleets and owner-operators didn’t have access fuel discounts or discounts on parts and service, but that is changing. Several organizations, including J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT) and Uber Freight, are now offering programs that open up discounts to smaller operators. Even the major truck stop chains now offer programs. Even a 5 cent a gallon for fuel discount adds up over time.

Don’t buy a cheap GPS. The initial price can be attractive, but not all GPS are the same. To start with, lower-priced GPS often are designed for four-wheelers and do not take into consideration truck-specific routing. Also, a GPS offering real-time navigation around traffic can be a life-saver. It only takes one late load and penalty to offset the cost of that GPS.

Can you get a professional driver discount? According to Cardinal Logistics, some restaurants and hotels offer discounts to drivers with a CDL, so ask. It can’t hurt.

Use free WiFi. You may pay for unlimited data on your phone or tablet, but consider how you use it. Do you really need all that data, or can you get by with a smaller data package? Track your data usage for a couple of months and take advantage of locations with free WiFi when possible. If you find you can utilize free WiFi often enough, consider lowering your data plan.

Use reusable water bottles. If you drink water (and let’s face it, it’s a healthier option than soda), try to use a reusable bottle and fill it up at locations with fountains. If you don’t like public fountains, the reusable bottle will allow you to buy water in gallon jugs, which still offers a savings over individual bottles of water.

Use cruise control. Make using cruise control when possible part of your driving habits. Cruise maintains a consistent speed of the truck and allows the truck’s powertrain – especially on newer models with automated transmissions that offer intelligent cruise – to maximize the efficiency of the engine. The difference between 8 mpg and 7 mpg can be thousands of dollars a year.

Pay insurance in lump sums. Most insurers offer discounts when paying insurance in a lump sum – either six months or a year at a time. It can add up to several thousand dollars in savings over a monthly payment plan.

Use paperless billing for your personal bills. This may not seem like a significant savings, but if you pay your household bills through paper statements you run the risk of late charges as a bill arrives when you are on the road. To avoid late payments, you may choose to pay bills earlier than normal, which can throw off your budget and result in increased use of a credit card. Switch to paperless billing and electronic payments to ensure you make payments on time.

There are plenty of additional money-saving tips available, including proactive maintenance programs, maintaining tire pressure, building budgets, avoiding tolls, etc. One of the keys, according to Cardinal Logistics, is keeping track of all your receipts. Doing so will help keep track of what you are actually spending each month and allow you to identify areas you can cut or limit.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.