A common question among those considering a career in trucking is: do truck drivers pay for their own gas? For many company drivers working for larger carriers, the short answer is no – fuel costs are typically covered by their employer.
But there are exceptions, so let’s take a closer look at how trucking companies handle fuel expenses
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For the majority of company drivers working with large national carriers, fuel costs are covered directly by their employer.
These major transportation firms have negotiated discounted fuel billing agreements with providers nationwide.
Through partnerships with companies like TravelCenters of America and Pilot Flying J, trucks can fill up directly at the pump with the carrier being billed rather than the driver.
Alternatively, some fleets issue employees fuel credit cards linked directly to the company account. This allows seamless fueling without out-of-pocket costs for drivers.
A third approach seen among larger carriers involves providing cash advances to employees specifically for fuel purchases during trips.
Drivers keep careful records and receipts of their fill-ups, then reconcile any surplus or shortage against the advance amount upon returning to base.
Those who choose to operate their own small trucking businesses as independent contractors, known as owner-operators, take on responsibility for fuel costs as part of the entrepreneurial responsibilities.
As sole proprietors, they personally cover the fuel needed to run their operations. However, these small business owners gain some tax advantages in exchange – they can write off all fuel purchases made for commercial driving as deductions that lower their taxable income.
Many owner-operators further bolster their businesses by negotiating fuel surcharges directly into the rates they set for carrier contracts.
By adding a standard cents-per-mile additional cost that increases with the national average fuel price, owner-operators ensure they can continue to cover rising diesel costs without losing money.
They also focus on optimizing fuel efficiency to control expenses, using trip planning tools, driving practices, and routine maintenance and upgrades to extend their mileage per gallon.
At smaller transportation companies that handle unique or regional commodity loads, the logistics of fuel payment may differ from large national carriers.
Drivers transporting specialized equipment or making frequent short-haul runs within tight-knit geographic networks are often asked by their employers to initially cover fuel costs out of pocket.
They’re reimbursed by submitting itemized receipts either monthly or after a few trips.
To ensure accuracy, some mom-and-pop fleets ask drivers to upload photo documentation of each fill-up along with the pump numbers.
They then cross-check the receipts against trucking records like GPS data and times. This scrutiny aims to identify inefficient behaviors that drive up costs, such as excessive idling at stops which can incur fines.
In periods of volatile fuel prices, large carriers have adopted the widespread use of standardized and transparent fuel surcharges as a flexible way to recoup escalating diesel costs without frequently modifying their base freight rates.
Rather than build fuel variability into their standard pricing, surcharges allow costs to be tied directly to measurable fuel indexes.
Most major trucking companies participate in publishing national average fuel price data on a weekly basis.
Carriers precisely tie their surcharge percentages, usually ranging from 1-5%, to movements in this index.
If the national average for diesel rises by a certain amount over the prior week, then the applied surcharge automatically increases accordingly across all freight loads transported that week.
This allows carriers to honor long-term contracts secured at base rates, while still adjusting to changing market conditions fuel introduces.
Fuel Efficiency Training
Leading carriers implement robust fuel efficiency training programs to educate driver personnel on optimizing their techniques.
From onboarding classes to refresher courses, drivers learn science-backed strategies to maximize their miles per gallon.
They practice shifting to higher gears sooner to take advantage of engine torque bands, staying at a steady speed whenever possible instead of accelerating and braking harshly, and using equilibrium modeling software to strategize the most direct and efficient routes.
Some fleets even install telematics systems monitoring driver performance in real-time, with feedback apps that reward eco-conscious behaviors like avoiding excessive idling.
Conserving fuel translates directly to monetary savings for the company as well as owner-operators. It also reduces the environmental impact of emissions over time.
Some lease-purchase drivers transitioning to owner-operator status split fuel bills with carriers. Local drivers on fixed routes may negotiate paying portions as an employment condition. Communication is key to avoiding disputes in non-standard arrangements.
Whether fuel costs are reimbursed or deducted impacts tax filings. Companies issuing reimbursements must provide 1099-Qs, while owners take fuel deductions. Proper record-keeping is essential for compliance.
Choosing an Employer
Fuel payment policies factor into selecting an employer, alongside other priorities like equipment quality, routes, compensation, and support. Drivers consider out-of-pocket risks and potential tax benefits across available opportunities.
Trucking fuels the economy, yet expenditures pose operational challenges. With proper agreements between drivers and employers, costs can be managed agreeably through collaborative strategies maximizing efficiencies for all involved. Transparent communication remains pivotal.