Fleet Ops: Fuel Efficiency
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Out-of-route miles costing trucker big time: fleet execs

PRINCETON, N.J. -- American freight volumes have bottomed out and begun to rise.

Not only that, John White, the executive vice president of operations for U.S. Xpress Enterprises, told an executive forum held here last week, the surplus of trucking capacity has eased.

"Soon, carriers will have more rate leverage with shippers," he said. "We're approaching equilibrium in the market."

The event was sponsored by the mapping experts ALK Technologies -- the brains behind PC Miler.

Despite White's mild optimism, the theme of the conference proved that truckers are still not out of the woods. In fact, far too many of them are simply lost -- or at least running out-of-route miles. And that's costing tons of money.

"If fuel is going to be so expensive, then we have to be more efficient," said ALK founder and Princeton University Professor Dr. Alain Kornhauser as he welcomed the group.

And U.S. Xpress' White agreed. Fuel surcharges have never been adequate and are now far exceeded by recent price hikes. "Moreover, hub miles -- the actual distance a truck travels -- are significantly higher than the shortest miles shippers most often pay for."

Hub miles can be significantly higher than the
shortest miles shippers most often pay for, carrier says.

One carrier noted that actual mileage can be as much as 18-percent higher than billed miles, particularly where hazmat or load parameters limit the truck routes available.

Ernie Betancourt, president of Innovative Computing Corporation, of Brentwood, Tenn., described auto-dispatch as a way to increase fleet utilization by automatically dispatching trucks even during non-business hours, while also warning fleets to implement fuel optimization routing with care.

The technology integrates route selection with real-time fuel prices and creates a money-saving plan for fueling on a long-haul trip.

"Some drivers do not like the very detailed instructions," Betancourt said. "The prices on which routes are based may not always be the same as the actual prices paid at the pump."

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