Do Truck Drivers Pay for Their Own Gas?

semi-trucks lined up at gas pumps

Last Updated on January 29, 2024

It comes as no surprise that fuel is one of the most relevant and routine expenses in the trucking industry. Fuel prices directly impact the profitability and operational efficiency of trucking businesses, so it’s crucial to do your research on fuel-related topics to find answers to important questions such as, “Do truck drivers pay for their own gas?”

It’s a big question. As you can imagine, given the nature of the business, the average cost of fuel for truck drivers is quite high. But who actually pays for truck fueling? When you pull your truck into a gas station, what is the payment process like? Understanding how fuel costs are managed is key for anyone starting their own trucking business, whether you’re an independent owner-operator or part of a larger fleet.

In this article, we explore various aspects of fuel expenses, including payment methods, average costs, and strategies to manage these costs effectively. Whether you have just one truck or a whole fleet, you can utilize these insights not just for fuel management, but to improve the overall financial health of your trucking operations.

Do Truck Drivers Pay for Their Own Fuel?

The question of whether truck drivers pay for their own gas largely depends on their employment status and the nature of their contracts.

For company drivers, fuel costs are typically covered by the trucking company as part of operational expenses.

In contrast, owner-operators are almost always responsible for their fuel costs. Fuel expenses make up a significant portion of their budget and directly affect net income.

This brings up another relevant topic: understanding the difference between an owner-operator and a company driver. Their responsibilities regarding fuel costs and many other expenses differ, and this is crucial to know for anyone thinking of entering the trucking industry.

How Do Truckers Pay for Gas?

There are numerous methods that truckers use to pay for gas. From fuel cards to freight factoring, it’s important to understand the options so you can find the one that is right for you.

Fuel Cards

If you’re new to trucking, you might be wondering, “What are fuel cards?”

Fuel cards are a popular payment method for both small trucking companies and owner-operators. These cards often offer benefits like fuel discounts and simplified expense tracking, making them a preferred choice for managing fuel expenses efficiently. The best fuel card for truckers will depend on your exact needs, but some of the most common fuel cards you’ll find include:

  • Love’s Express
  • Pilot Flying J Axle Fuel Card
  • BP Fuel Card
  • ExxonMobil Business Pro
  • Apex Fuel Card
  • Shell Fleet Navigator Card
  • RTS Financial
  • TransConnect Services
  • DAT One Fuel Card

The Truckers Advantage Fuel Card is a card restricted to owner-operators who are members of the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association. This card includes cost-plus discounts at independent fuel stops and a 10% discount at all Pilot Flying J locations.

Fuel Surcharges

Fuel surcharges are additional fees that trucking companies calculate and charge customers to cover the fluctuating costs of fuel. Implementing a reasonable fuel surcharge helps trucking businesses offset the volatility in fuel prices and ensure profitability.

Related: Fuel Surcharge Calculator

Freight Factoring

Freight factoring involves selling outstanding customer invoices to a third-party factoring company in exchange for an immediate cash advance against each invoice (up to 95% of the invoice value). The factoring company, or “factor,” then assumes responsibility for collecting customer payment. Once your customer pays the factor, the remaining value of each invoice is released to your business, minus a small factoring fee.

Freight factoring can assist truckers by providing an immediate cash flow boost. The increase in working capital enables trucking businesses to cover fuel costs without delay, make payroll, take on more clients, and expand business operations. This is especially useful for owner-operators who need help with managing their finances effectively.

Fuel Contract

Some truckers enter into fuel contracts with wholesale providers, locking in fuel prices for a set period. A fuel contract can help in budgeting and protect your business against sudden spikes in fuel prices.

Out-of-Pocket

In some scenarios, especially for independent owner-operators, fuel costs are paid out-of-pocket and then accounted for in business expenses. With this option, you must plan carefully to ensure profitability and keep track of expenses with accuracy.

How Much Does It Cost to Fill a Truck Tank?

Filling a semi-truck’s gas tank is a considerable expense. The cost depends on the tank’s capacity, which can range significantly, and the current price of fuel.

Given that current diesel prices hover around $3.00 per gallon, it would cost about $360 to fill up a truck with one 120-gallon tank. Longer-haul trucks with multiple tanks could cost up to $900 to fill up.

How Much Do Truck Drivers Spend on Gas?

The amount truck drivers spend on gas varies widely. It’s influenced by factors such as the routes they take, the efficiency of their trucks, and the fluctuating prices of fuel.

On average, truck drivers spend $50,000 to $70,000 per year filling up their truck with gas. Regardless of exact costs, fuel costs usually constitute one of the largest expenses in trucking. For owner-operators, this means constantly monitoring fuel prices and managing routes to maximize fuel efficiency. Keeping track of fuel costs per mile for semi-trucks is crucial for budgeting and determining the profitability of each haul.

What Are Some Other Common Owner-Operator Expenses?

Beyond fuel, owner-operators face several other expenses that are critical to their business’s success. Understanding and managing these expenses effectively is key to the financial health of an owner-operator’s trucking business. They include the following:

  • Vehicle Maintenance and Repairs
  • Insurance
  • Permits and Licenses
  • Business Taxes
  • Lodging
  • Meals on the Road
  • Administrative Expenses

Read More: 12 Owner-Operator Expenses for Truck Drivers

Need Funding to Pay for Owner-Operator Expenses? Try Freight Factoring

For many owner-operators in the trucking industry, managing and improving cash flow is a constant challenge–especially when it comes to significant expenses like fuel, maintenance, and insurance. Freight factoring offers a practical solution to this challenge. This financial service allows truckers to sell their invoices to a factoring company at a discount, providing immediate access to cash that would otherwise be tied up for 30, 60, or even 90 days.

The process is straightforward. Once you complete a load, instead of waiting for the customer to pay, you submit the invoice to the factoring company. They advance you a significant portion of the invoice’s value, often within 24 hours. The factoring company later collects the full amount directly from your customer and pays you the remaining balance, deducting a small fee for their service.

Freight factoring benefits owner-operators in several ways. First, it improves cash flow for their trucking companies, enabling them to cover fuel costs and other expenses without delay. Second, it reduces the burden of managing accounts receivables and chasing down payments, allowing truckers to focus more on their core business. Additionally, some factoring services offer more benefits like fuel discount programs, which can further help reduce operational costs.

It’s important, however, to choose the right factoring partner. You’ll want to consider the factor’s fee structure, any hidden costs, the level of customer service provided, and any additional perks that may benefit your specific situation. The right factoring service can significantly ease the financial pressures of owner-operators, ensuring smooth operations and improved financial stability.

Truck Fueling FAQs

Here are some of the common questions around truck fueling.

How many miles does a semi-truck get per tank?

The mileage per tank for a semi-truck varies based on the truck’s make, model, and load. But on average, a semi can travel 900 to 2,000 miles on a single tank. Understanding your truck’s fuel efficiency is vital for route planning and budgeting.

What is the going fuel cost per mile for semi-trucks?

The fuel cost per mile for semi-trucks can vary, depending on factors like fuel price fluctuations and truck efficiency. However, the latest data shows that the average cost per mile for private fleets is $2.90. Tracking this metric helps in calculating trip costs and setting freight rates.

What is a fuel surcharge?

A fuel surcharge is an additional charge trucking companies apply to compensate for variations in fuel prices. It’s often calculated as a percentage of the freight charge and adjusts according to pre-established fuel price thresholds.

Do truck drivers have to pay for food?

In 2023, truck drivers received $69 per day and $51.75 per partial day to cover meal expenses. This per diem rate ultimately becomes one of the most significant tax deductions for truckers when tax season rolls around.

It’s important to stay on top of the IRS’ changes to per diem rates, as they can vary slightly each year. However, rates have remained flat throughout 2023 and will continue to do so into 2024.