Truck drivers focus on ways to lower fuel prices

| 5/3/2011

Professional truck drivers aren’t just talking about the rising cost of fuel these days. They’re taking steps to do something about it.

OOIDA leadership along with Washington, DC, staff and the Association’s Board of Directors recently drafted a set of driver-focused principles to address high diesel prices. It’s a commonsense approach that members can use when they talk to their lawmakers or policymakers about the issues.

“That goes to the core of our organization and why members join,” said Ryan Bowley, OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs.

OOIDA’s 21-member Board of Directors met in late April, and fuel prices were on everyone’s mind. Most Board members are truck owners and drivers.

“The top one on the list is eliminating unnecessary and duplicative government barriers to increased oil and gas production,” Bowley said.

In addition to incentives to increase domestic production, truckers want assurances that those buying the fuel are the ones receiving the fuel surcharges. OOIDA also stresses the role of driver training in fuel consumption, and offers that as an alternative to costly add-on technology.

Transparency for oil market speculators made the list, as did addressing unnecessary detention time at the docks.

“Bringing the entire supply chain into the discussion is obviously important in terms of detention time,” Bowley said.

Truckers have much to gain, and much to lose, based on how they manage their cost of operations.

Commercial trucks consume 54 billion gallons of fuel each year, according to the OOIDA Foundation. At $4 per gallon these days, that’s a lot of coin.

The average owner-operator spends more than $50,000 on fuel annually while averaging 107,500 miles. Approximately 16,000 of those miles are logged as empty or unloaded. Add in detention time, mandatory rest periods, idling, down time and personal conveyance and it’s easy to see that fuel consumption is not just about highway driving.

Bowley says there’s no single solution to fix the issue of high fuel costs, but having a list of principles serves an important purpose.

“It’s something we can take to lawmakers’ offices, it’s something that we can use to draft letters, and it’s something we can use to evaluate individual pieces of legislation as they move through the pipeline,” Bowley said.

Truckers see the big picture and that includes the future, Bowley added.

“We’re dependent upon diesel fuel right now, and we’re going to be for the foreseeable future, but there are certainly going to be options down the road that aren’t there yet in terms of being able to meet the needs of the trucking industry,” he said, “especially OOIDA members who predominantly work in the long-haul side of the industry.”

“Whether it’s natural gas and a new fueling infrastructure, or other options out there, we need to make sure that’s going to be available not just for the trucking industry, but for everyone down the road.”