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Do Truckers Pay For Their Own Fuel
July 21, 2022
Do truckers pay for their own fuel? With fuel prices increasing, people who are interested in trucking are naturally concerned. The diesel fuel required by trucks is one of the biggest expenses for truckers, so any change in the cost of fuel is big news.
The answer to this question really depends on what kind of trucker we’re talking about. Some truckers pay for their own fuel, and some don’t.
How Much Fuel Do Truckers Buy?
To understand why this is such a big deal, you need to realize that trucks use a lot more fuel than the cars you drive at home. That may seem obvious- trucks are clearly much bigger than your car- but you might not realize just how much fuel we’re talking about.
The fuel tanks on a big semi truck can hold up to 300 gallons of diesel fuel. At the time of this writing the nationwide average cost of diesel fuel is $5.55 per gallon. That means it costs $1,665 on average to fill up the tanks on a semi truck. With an average efficiency of about 7 miles per gallon, that means trucks can travel about 2100 miles on a full tank of diesel.
It’s common for truckers to drive around 3,000 miles every week. So, that’s at least one full tank of fuel every week. $1665 per week is a lot of money. It’s only natural to wonder if the driver is on the hook for such a huge expense.
Do Truckers Pay For Their Own Fuel? Company Drivers
Many truckers are company drivers. That means they work for a trucking company- the company owns and maintains the truck, and the drivers are employees. There are a lot of advantages to that arrangement, and one of the biggest is that company drivers do not have to pay for their own fuel.
Fleet Cards/Fuel Cards
Most company drivers are issued a fuel card or a fleet card. These are special credit cards issued by the company, for company use. Most often, the company gets them through a contract with specific fuel companies, and drivers can only purchase their fuel from that provider.
The benefit of these fuel cards is that the company is effectively buying it’s fuel in bulk, and so it’s given a discount. That can often mean big savings on the overall fuel costs. So, it’s a win for the company, because it keeps fuel costs down. It’s a win for the drivers, who don’t have to pay for their own fuel, and it’s a win for fuel providers who have guaranteed sales.
What Happens When The Card Doesn’t Work?
Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for a company to be late in paying it’s fuel card bills. When that happens and the card is in delinquency, the drivers may find themselves stuck out on the road unless they can pay for the gas themselves.
The company should be reimbursing it’s drivers when that happens, but it’s still a very frustrating (and expensive!) situation for a driver to find themselves in. Fortunately, the trucking companies are usually very diligent in paying off their fuel card bills.
Can Drivers Use Their Credit Cards?
A lot of drivers might prefer to simply use their personal credit cards to pay for fuel, and then get reimbursed. The obvious benefit is that they would rack up reward points at an incredible rate, since they would be spending $1665 per week, or $6660 per month.
While that would be great for drivers, most trucking companies won’t support that. If each driver is using his or her own personal credit card, the company won’t get the discounts they enjoy by using fuel cards. So, they would end up spending much more on their fuel costs.
However, it is possible that you’d find yourself in need of fuel somewhere you can’t use your fuel card. Since those cards are specific to certain providers, they won’t work everywhere. Trucking companies are careful to ensure that their driver’s are on routes where their fuel cards will work, but they can’t always guarantee it. So, there are times when a company river will have to pay for their own fuel and be reimbursed.
Do Truckers Pay For Their Own Fuel? Owner Operators
Owner operators own their own trucks, and unlike a company driver they are responsible for all of the expenses associated with operating a truck. As a result, they do have to pay for their own fuel. But they may not be as bad as it sounds.
Company Drivers Still Pay
Company drivers still have to pay for their fuel, in a way. While they aren’t technically paying for the fuel with their own money, it does affect their pay. After all, the company that pays them has to pay for the fuel.
When an owner operator is paid for a haul, all of the money from that haul is theirs. Of course they have to use some of it to pay for fuel, and some of it to pay for maintenance expenses, etc. The same thing is true for company drivers, except in that case they aren’t the ones handling the budget.
So, in a sense, it’s sort of an illusion that independent drivers have to pay for fuel and company drivers don’t. Both types of drivers pay for their fuel from the proceeds of their work, the only real difference is who handles the bookkeeping.
Independent Drivers Can Have Fuel Cards
The real advantage that company drivers have is the discount associated with a fuel card. In addition to getting a bulk discount, they also get discounts from signing a contract to purchase their fuel with a particular supplier. Most people assume that only the big trucking companies can access these fuel cards, but that’s not true.
In fact, smaller fleets and even independent owner operators can apply for fuel cards. You probably won’t enjoy quite as much of a bulk discount, but you’ll still get some benefits from it. Smaller volume discounts will apply, and you’ll get a good deal for agreeing to buy all your fuel from a particular company. Some cards even come with reward points.
Many fuel providers even have special fuel card programs just for owner operators, to help them save money at the pump. Taking advantage of these programs is a great idea, and with fuel prices rising, it can be the difference between turning a profit and racking up debt.
Do Truckers Pay For Their Own Fuel? Leased Owner Operators
Leased owner operators are an odd category. And the term might mean different things depending on how it’s used. Sometimes owner operators lease their trucks rather than buying them. Others own their trucks and then lease them (along with their services as a driver) to a carrier. In either case, the answer to “do truckers pay for their own fuel” is: it depends.
Carriers That Hire Owner Operators
Some carriers prefer to hire only owner operators, with no true company drivers. There are a few reasons for that. Owner operators are considered independent contractors, so the carrier can save a lot of money by hiring them. Since the drivers own their trucks, the carrier doesn’t have to foot the bill for maintenance or insurance.
They also don’t have to provide benefits. They do need to pay their drivers enough to cover the cost of those benefits, but they still save money compared to providing them themselves. But what about fuel? Do truckers pay for their own fuel when they work for these carriers?
Generally, yes. But not always. One of the ways these carriers can attract drivers is by offering a fuel card just like trucking companies do. The money for that fuel will still have to come out of each driver’s gross earnings, but they’ll enjoy a better bulk discount than they could otherwise get.
Independent Drivers With a Leased Truck
Some owner operators lease a truck instead of buying it. While this often means their monthly truck payment is higher, it can save a lot of money upfront. They won’t need to make a downpayment- and for a truck those downpayments can be as much as $50,000. They can also lease to own, meaning that after a certain amount of time they can buy the trucking they’re leasing at a lower price.
So, since they don’t actually own the truck, do truckers pay for their own fuel when they lease? Yep. When they enter their lease agreement, they agree to pay for all the operating costs of the truck, and that includes fuel.
Do Truckers Pay For Their Own Fuel: Trainees
Getting your Commercial Driver’s License takes a lot of training and practice. Trucks are a bit more complicated to drive than your car, and when you’re operating such a massive vehicle your technique needs to be flawless.
The only way to properly train is to drive a truck, and that uses fuel. Of course, while you’re training, you aren’t earning any money from driving. So how does that work? Do truckers pay for their own fuel while they’re in training?
Not really. If you’re training to be a trucker, you’re either at a trucking school or attending the training provided by the company you’re going to work for when you’re done. In either case, you won’t be expected to pay for the fuel.
Most of the company training programs are free- you pay the company back for the expense of your training by working for them. Independent trucking schools do cost money, and the tuition you pay includes the cost of the fuel you’re going to use.
Do Truckers Pay For Their Own Fuel: Why Can’t I Use My Credit Card and Get Reimbursed?
A lot of drivers would love to pay for their own fuel on their personal credit cards and get reimbursed. The rewards points they could rack up on that kind of massive expense would be incredible. But it’s probably not going to happen for you.
The fuel cards your company uses get two kinds of discounts: they get a bulk discount, because they’re whole fleet is buying massive amounts of fuel on the same account. And they get what’s basically a loyalty discount. Fuel cards are part of a contract agreement. The company negotiates for better fuel prices and in return agrees to only buy their fuel from one provided (except in circumstances where there’s no choice but to buy from someone else).
If each driver was using their personal credit card, there’s be no bulk discount because it would be hundreds of individual purchases instead of one enormous purchase. And there’d be no guarantee for the fuel provider that the drivers would buy from them.
Still, there are some companies that allow their drivers to do this. It’s rare but it does happen. Often, it’s with companies that have to send their drivers on routes where they simply wouldn’t be able to buy their fuel from only one supplier.
Do Truckers Pay For Their Own Fuel: Is Fuel A Tax Deduction?
Since fuel is such a massive business expense, drivers want to find ways to save money on it any way they can. After asking “do truckers pay for their own fuel?” the next question is usually “can they deduct their fuel costs?”
Company drivers can’t. Since they’re either using their fuel card or getting reimbursed, fuel isn’t a deductible expense for them. Which makes sense, as it actually isn’t an expense for them at all- it’s an expense for their employer.
Owner operators, however, can deduct their fuel expenses. It’s an unreimbursed business expense, which means they get a big tax break for it. It’s one of the best ways to offset the cost of fuel for truckers. Make sure to keep all of your fuel receipts for the year so that you’ll have an accurate amount when you file your taxes.
Do Truckers Pay For Their Own Fuel?
The answer is that some truckers do, and some truckers don’t. In one sense, none of them do. Owner operators technically pay for their fuel out of pocket but it’s a business expense and it’s not quite the same thing as paying for it with their salary.
About Booker Transportation
Booker Trans is 100% Owner Operator. It is our belief that an Independent Owner is the best way to get a customers freight delivered timely and safely. Booker is a leading Refrigerated Carrier providing the best lease options in the industry for today’s Owner Operators. Monthly and Yearly Awards, Longevity Bonuses, and the Free tires for Life of Lease Program, are just a few examples of what Booker Trans offers the Owner Operator. Booker Trans has built it’s success upon working partnerships with Customers, as well as Agency Relationships built over the last 20 years. Those same relationships are what makes consistent year round freight possible.
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